Climate Neutrality Through Energy Efficiency
Joining the ACUPCC is a serious commitment that requires a detailed planShon Anderson vice president of sales, TAC by Schneider Electric
Since its creation in 2006, the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) has amassed signatories that represent more than 645 schools—comprising close to one- third of all students in higher education in the U.S. What makes this level of participation striking is that the ACUPCC is not just a document, it is a commitment to responsible energy use that involves significant dollars. Indeed, participation in the ACUPCC involves a paradigm shift in the way institutions perceive and use energy, and requires concrete action and serious investments in energy efficiency. The ACUPCC has as it's goals the development of climate neutrality for member campuses, as well as the training of students to achieve the same for society at large. The ACUPCC sets specific benchmarks that include:An annual greenhouse gas audit Two or more short term ‘tangible actions' that demonstrate commitment to results Specific targets and timelines to achieve climate neutrality Sharing plans and progress reports to facilitate and accelerate progress for their fellow institutions and society
There is no doubt that the member schools are committed to the initiatives, as joining the ACUPCC requires the signatures of presidents and chancellors. The benefits to the institution for participating are significant, and include educating future environmentally conscious citizens and experts, making a positive difference in the community, and strengthening enrollment through improved public image.
However, the question facing higher education leaders today is, How can we undertake major facility upgrades and initiatives at a time when the economy is struggling and our budgets are tightening?
To solve this dilemma, many institutions are using an approach called performance contracting.
Performance contracting is a guaranteed approach to energy savings provided by qualified energy services companies. Performance contracting allows a college or university to pay for some or all of its energy upgrades out of its existing budget, using the energy savings that are generated by the upgrades to pay for the initiatives.
The key point of such a program is that the savings from energy improvements are guaranteed by the energy services company. If the projected savings are not realized, the energy services company writes a check to the school for the difference.
Performance contracting is designed to be a win-win approach. The energy services company takes on the responsibility because it knows that savings can be realized, and it has the expertise to guide and implement energy neutral measures and still achieve a profit. The school benefits from having a guaranteed path to funding its ACUPCC commitments, not to mention improving facility systems for little or no additional bottom line costs.
Performance contracting provides other advantages as well. Having a guarantee of how facilities will perform now and over the long term makes for better planning and budgeting, with fewer surprises. Also, since the energy services company takes responsibility for design-throughinstallation and beyond, schools gain a single point of accountability, a partner with energy expertise who has a vested interest in the outcome.
This is a simple illustration of how performance contracting can self-fund green energy initiatives. A contract with an energy services company guarantees a specific reduction in an institution's energy bill; if that savings is not realized, the energy services company writes a check to the school for the difference. The guaranteed energy savings, which can be budgeted with certainty, are then used to fund the comprehensive projects.
Performance contracting is not new, having been offered to city governments and public institutions for several years. With the growing public awareness of global warming, and initiatives such as ACUPCC, performance contracting is becoming increasingly popular in higher education.
Performance Contracting and the ACUPCC Objectives
A key requirement of the ACUPCC is to have a comprehensive plan for achieving climate neutrality. This plan needs to include conducting a complete audit of current greenhouse emissions, as well as ongoing quarterly reports to track actual energy performance.
The energy services company that is providing the performance contract will help the institution develop an effective plan based on these data. Ideally, the plan will first address upgrades and changes that have the most immediate impact on energy savings, providing rapid savings and ROI for the institution.
This is a community college district's sample energy plan with projected savings. To reach this point, the energy services company will have conducted a full audit of an institution's current state. Based on the predicted savings, the energy services company is able to guarantee specific savings.
In addition, the energy services company will be able to develop a comprehensive solution that takes into account all the available conservation strategies and how they interact to conserve energy. Instead of taking care of one-off lowhanging- fruit measures at separate times, a performance contract can integrate the synergy of energy conservation measures for the highest value, allowing institutions to capitalize on maximum savings opportunities. Performance contracting makes one company accountable for looking holistically at an institution's energy use and balancing these complex factors across various buildings and campuses.
Tracking Energy Performance
As noted, the ACUPCC requires quarterly reporting to verify an institution's progress toward climate neutrality. Just as importantly, the insti tution needs the quarterly reports to verify that its performance contract is being fulfilled by the energy services company—and if not, how much money the energy services company owes the institution. Thus, ongoing reporting is one of the most critical elements of the entire process.Continued on Page 2 >