How LaGrange College Tracks Energy Usage for Greater Sustainability and Dramatic Cost-Savings

 

Picturesque LaGrange College is a private, four-year liberal arts and sciences college located in LaGrange, Georgia. Founded in 1831 as a female educational institution, it became co-educational in 1934 and is the oldest private college in Georgia.

One of the many things that’s unique about the college is its innovative yet practical approach to saving money through sustainability. But before you start thinking it’s just another energy system upgrade that’s financially out of reach for your campus, what LaGrange has done actually requires little investment. Its energy management program has achieved great success by tackling two important issues:

  • The first involves how utility companies set rates, and
  • The second relates to changing actual human behavior around energy consumption.

A little background: Power companies set rates based on the amount of energy consumed—the more power you use, the more you pay per kilowatt-hour. When you exceed a certain threshold, your rates increase and that increase remains in effect for a period of time. So, if your campus experiences even a single spike in energy use, it could push you to a higher rate and you’ll pay more for the same energy that yesterday you bought at a lower rate.

LaGrange controls energy usage and effectively avoids these spikes to keep their rates at a minimum. You may be wondering how they do this. Is it an automated system that shuts down lights or lowers the air conditioning levels in buildings? Nope. Their solution is a simpler one that involves the second half of the equation—human behavior.

In the early days of the program, real-time monitoring of energy use meant that whenever consumption started to peak, a text went out to every student, faculty and staff member on campus. These texts would advise the community to reduce their energy usage by turning off power hungry space heaters, lowering thermostats and turning off unneeded lights. Much initial effort was put into this education phase, until the entire campus community was instilled with an awareness of energy conservation and collective personal behaviors changed. Now in the maintenance phase of the program, there’s no longer a need for regular text alerts, since energy conservation practices are part of daily life. Instead, quarterly communications are sent out to everyone on campus, refreshing them on the program’s goals and giving reminders on energy-saving tips.

In other words, the combined efforts of the LaGrange campus community prevent energy usage from spiking. National acts as the driving force behind the program, managing energy usage by setting and monitoring thermostat set points, and also through common-sense approaches like having on-campus personnel ensure lights are off when public areas aren’t in use and blinds are closed to keep buildings cool.

>> With National’s assistance, LaGrange College has benefited from over a half-million dollars in savings in the five years the program has operated.

If you’re looking for ways to cost-effectively improve your school’s sustainability, contact us today. We’re happy to discuss implementation of a similar program—and other great ideas—for your campus.

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