News and Tribune

February 3, 2013

Greater Clark energy program saves big bucks

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Turning off the lights and lowering the thermostat not only gave Greater Clark County Schools a savings on their energy costs, but a little extra money from energy providers.

Gus Luckert, energy manager for the district, said the corporation got a $50,000 incentive from the Vectren’s Energizing Indiana program, which he said he’ll use to make the district even more energy efficient.

He said the money they received will go toward new lighting systems in four schools — Northaven Elementary, Bridgepoint Elementary, Jonathan Jennings Elementary and Wilson Elementary.

But he said as more ideas for saving energy come about, he tries to implement everything he can with available money.

“We’re still out there trying to work as hard as we can to save money for education,” Luckert said. “The money we save doesn’t really go out for other reasons.”

So far in the 2012-2013 school year, the district’s Energy Management Program has saved nearly $500,000 in utility costs.

Since the program began in 2008, the district has shaved about $4,503,000 off its utility costs.

Luckert said part of that comes from the simple actions someone might do in their own home to bring down their bills.

“It’s a people program,” Luckert said. “It’s a buy-in between administrators, teachers, mechanics and custodians. Everyone is on board. We do everything we can to implement it by doing the basic things you might do at your house, like turning off the lights.”

He said each of the schools turn off their heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems at about 4 p.m. then turn them back on a couple of hours before they come back into class.

Luckert said so far this year, some of the continued savings have been helped by Tom Dykiel, the district’s new chief financial officer. Luckert said with the money he brings in, Dykiel allows him to use for more energy projects in the district.

Dykiel said it just makes sense to give departments the revenue they generate.

“Anything Gus does, I’m happy with if he can save me money,” Dykiel said. “He aggressively watches our utility costs and is responsible for buying propane for the two schools that use it in New Washington.”

Dykiel said he and Luckert are on the lookout for other ways the district can save money on energy, such as retrofitting equipment with propane instead of gasoline and looking at partnerships with other government entities to generate some revenue.

Dykiel said he’s thrilled with the cost-avoidance measures the program has taken and hopes to see more in the future.

“Whatever he can bring back as a rebate or grant coming back to the school corporation, we hope to spend on energy saving measures to further reduce our gas and electrical consumption,” Dykiel said. “Anything he can do to reduce the impact on our budget to increase the efficiency in our energy consumption is a good thing.”