Report: Energy approaches could save schools billions
Illustration by USGBC
Some $2 billion could be saved every year if K–12 schools implemented energy-efficient technologies and strategies, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Knowing how tight district budgets are, and how much schools could use these savings for classroom programming, the Center for Green Schools at U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has published a white papercomparing state legislation that incentivizes energy efficiency.
The center wanted to better understand the benefits and drawbacks of various state-based EEP funding models and to document best practices. State-level Legislation to Support Energy Efficiency: Dedicated Funding for Existing K–12 Schools is the culmination of months of research analyzing legislation, collecting data and interviewing stakeholders across six states.
Several states have created funding for energy efficiency projects (EEPs) in K–12 schools. Tennessee, for instance, has implemented EEPs in 93 percent of the state’s school districts, an investment totaling $90 million. California’s Proposition 39, Washington’s Energy Operational Savings Project grants, and Maine’s Schools Revolving Renovation Fund have invested more than $900 million in upgrading schools.
• Successful programs establish clear criteria for project selection, but are also willing to make adjustments. Common considerations included the financial need of the district applying and the potential cost savings, as documented from an energy audit.
• Programs should take into account the overall financial health of school districts in a state and address the particular mechanisms that will work best. State legislation we studied used combinations of several funding models successfully: grants, loans, revolving loans and reimbursements.
• Designing programs that are easily navigated from application to implementation and that present little financial risk to a school district will result in larger uptake and greater impact.
The report offers a side-by-side comparison of of each state’s legislation and program features, including dollars invested, type of allocation, purpose and intent of each, and percentage of schools impacted. To read a short summary of the key considerations, view the executive summary.
Finding the capital to finance energy efficiency upgrades at our nation’s schools can be a significant challenge. These investments, however, have the potential to reduce district utility bills year after year, improve the indoor environment of buildings and create refreshed and inspiring spaces in schools that are often outdated.
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