6 Programs to Help Schools Save Money & Energy

February 15, 2012

By Donna Drewes
Sustainable Jersey

Each March, New Jersey school districts have to present an itemized budget. It’s a stressful time when hard decisions are made regarding shrinking resources. Energy is often one of the top expenditures in a school district budget. More money is spent on energy than on books and computers.

Although energy costs continue to rise, this line item is a controllable element in a school’s annual budget when energy conservation and efficiency projects are implemented. And for finding savings, energy costs are the first place a school district should look.

One of the best ways to determine whether a school is using energy efficiently is to compare its performance to that of similar buildings—a process known as benchmarking. But school districts struggle with finding the staff time, data and expertise to do an energy analysis.

Image: A Franklin Township School student turns out the lights – everyone gets involved!


Sustainable Jersey is helping schools bridge this gap by providing free workshops that are open to school administrators and the general public. Two upcoming events include: the School Energy Conservation Tools for Schools workshop on February 22, 2012 and the Your School as a Learning Opportunity for Energy Conservation workshop on March 23, 2012 at the Garden State GreenFest.

Find out how your school can get the resources it needs to benchmark its current energy use, reduce its energy consumption, upgrade its lighting or facilities, or set up an Energy Savings Improvement Plan. Participation in the workshops will provide clear information on the many different resources and funding options for schools.


Two of the programs that the workshops will cover include:

Schools for Energy Efficiency (SEE) Program

The Franklin Township Public Schools in New Jersey implemented the Schools for Energy Efficiency (SEE) program. The program engaged everyone in the district to become more energy efficient. The ten school buildings plus the administration participate in utility tracking and learned how to run their buildings more efficiently to rack up an 11% reduction in energy use and cost-avoidance of over $270,000 in the first year alone. The district is also an Energy Star Partner, and has enrolled all of its buildings into Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager Tool to determine how Franklin schools’ efficiency compares to other schools around the country. During the second year of the SEE program, students form SEE Squads to monitor and reduce energy waste in the buildings. Learn more about Franklin Townships’s Public Schools Energy Conservation Program.

Image: Cold Lunch Day at Franklin Township School to Save Energy

Montclair’s Mayor Jerry Fried and Environmental Coordinator Gray Russell hosted several assemblies and morning announcements at seven elementary schools in January 2012, asking the students to become Energy Ambassadors by speaking with their families about turning off lights and appliances and pledging to save energy. At Nishuane School, Mayor Fried entered the auditorium by riding his bicycle down the aisle to the stage, capturing their attention, to remind them that walking, biking, and car-pooling to school is a great way to save energy and stay healthy. Back-pack stuffers followed, asking families to Take the Pledge for the It’s In Our Power campaign.

See The Light Energy Toolkits

See The Light is a behavior-based energy efficiency solution that helps school districts cut their energy costs. It provides energy-efficient resources and trains employees and students to adopt energy-efficient best practices. Municipalities within the New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) service territory may be able to participate in a See The Light pilot at no cost. The first 30 schools to apply from municipalities within NJNG’s service territory will be eligible for the free Toolkit. Qualifying school districts may contact Raquel Phillips at New Jersey Natural Gas at 732-378-4928 or rphillips@njng.com.


New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program is a statewide program that offers financial incentives, programs and services for New Jersey residents, business owners and local governments to help them save energy, money and the environment. Below are four programs that will be highlighted in the workshops:

Direct Install

Direct Install is a program designed to reduce a facility’s energy costs by replacing lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and other outdated operational equipment with energy efficiency alternatives. The program pays up to 70% of retrofit costs, which improves the payback on the project. There is a $75,000 incentive cap on each project.

Pay for Performance

Pay for Performance is a comprehensive energy efficiency program that provides incentives towards whole-building energy improvements. The Existing Buildings component includes buildings with a peak demand in excess of 100 kW in any of the preceding twelve months. School districts can save 15% or more on the energy consumption in their buildings with the help of BPU’s approved partners while receiving incentives along the way.

Local Government Energy Audit

An energy audit is an analysis of a building or facility, which indicates how and where that building can reduce energy consumption and save energy costs. The Local Government Energy Audit program provides qualifying participants with an investment grade buildings’ audit and subsidizes 100% of the cost of the audit. This program is available to qualifying school districts.

Free Energy Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a process for evaluating the energy use performance of buildings. This service is currently available free of charge to qualifying K-12 schools.

Schools can implement multiple efficiency measures to reduce energy use and manage costs. Many are no- or low-cost, but yield real savings. It’s up to school facility managers and business officials and the local community to take the first step to use the existing resources and make smart energy efficiency decisions. Attend the Sustainable Jersey workshops to learn more about these and more available programs and funding.

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