[Editor's Note: The Environmental Defense Fund [EDF] is our guest writer for this column. In it Jill Logeman, program coordinator for EDF’s Climate Corps Public Sector, talks about the innovative program which pairs graduate students with public organizations to enhance energy efficiency.]
If improving energy efficiency in buildings and saving money were as simple as flipping a switch, it would be easy for the public sector – universities, government, places of worship – to cash in on the cost savings and emissions reductions. Unfortunately, limited resources, information gaps and organizational barriers often prevent the public sector, with its tremendous energy use, from taking advantage of smart energy investments.
Climate Corps Public Sector is a summer fellowship program that places talented graduate students from top universities in public organizations. Their mission: develop practical, actionable energy efficiency investment plans. Working with their host’s facilities managers or sustainability staff, fellows analyze energy use and model the financial and environmental impact of upgrades to building lighting, office equipment and heating and cooling systems.
Then they map out a business case for energy efficiency investments for their hosts’ key decision-makers. Since 2009, fellows have identified projects at host organizations that can:
- Reduce energy use by 46%
- Save over $15 million in energy costs in 5 years
- Cut over 54 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year – enough to power 5,000 homes
- Reduce over 30,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the equivalent of taking more than 5,000 SUVs off the road
The news gets better. These efficiency opportunities usually pay for themselves in just a few years, but some actually cost nothing to implement. At one state university, fellows found improvements to heating and cooling settings that could save $1.4 million per year with no upfront costs. Fellows studying the 27 fire stations in a Southern city concluded that firefighters could save local government $15,000 in tax dollars per year by adjusting thermostats in sleeping quarters.
In an African American church whose building is a historic landmark, a fellow documented how to cut energy costs by nearly two-thirds. The money that once paid utility bills can now fund service projects.
This year, EDF is expanding Climate Corps Public Sector and will place 35 fellows at organizations in Georgia, New Jersey, New York City, North Carolina, Texas and Washington, D.C. Learn more about the opportunities at edfclimatecorps.org/public.