If you have given any thought to improving your school’s energy efficiency, chances are good that it has taken a back seat to more pressing matters like test scores and the new teacher evaluation regulations.

Perhaps now is the time to refocus on becoming energy efficient. With New Jersey schools facing escalating costs and tight budgets, here are a few important facts to consider.

  • Our nation’s 17,450 K-12 school districts spend more than $6 billion on energy annually. That is more than is spent on computers and textbooks combined.
  • Energy costs are second only to salary and benefit costs in the average school budget.
  • As much as 30 percent of a district’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.

The Board of Public Utilities’ New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program, is an initiative that delivers easy, actionable plans to use energy more efficiently. Here are four ways the New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program can help your school district free up more resources by spending less on energy.

Free Local Government Energy Audit

School districts throughout the state are taking advantage of the free energy audit. As a participating school, you will select from a list of pre-qualified firms to perform your energy audit. New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program picks up 100 percent of the cost of your audit, so there is no cost to your school district.

When your audit is complete, you will have a list of recommended, cost-effective energy efficiency measures and facility upgrades. This is a customized outline for reducing operating expenses at your school. Most of the measures will be eligible for financial incentives available through one of the following programs. Program representatives are ready to assist you in finding the best incentive programs to match your particular needs.

Pay for Performance

Pay for Performance is a comprehensive energy efficiency program that provides incentives towards whole-building energy improvements for schools with a peak demand in excess of 100 kw. It also includes new school construction projects with 50,000 square feet or more. The goal of the initiative is to achieve a 15 percent or greater energy reduction upon completion of the project.

Pay for Performance financial incentives can cover up to 50 percent of total project costs with a maximum incentive of $2 million. The incentives are awarded upon the satisfactory completion of three program milestones: an energy reduction plan prepared by an approved partner, installation of recommended measures, and a post-construction benchmarking report.

New Jersey SmartStart Buildings

Whether your district is building a new school from the ground up, or upgrading an existing facility, it’s easy to make smart, energy-efficient equipment choices with support from New Jersey SmartStart Buildings Program. The program offers a wide array of improvement options and incentives.

New Construction and Additions

Critical factors affecting a school’s long-term energy use include building form and configuration, lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning), and other systems. Integrating multiple energy-efficient options into a project design can result in savings that are much greater than those achieved by stand-alone efficiency measures. The easiest, most cost-effective way to achieve this benefit is to consider and select efficient alternatives during the design phase. Our program representatives are ready to help.

Renovations and Remodeling

School renovation projects typically entail a complete building overhaul, with major modifications to the building as well as replacement of HVAC and lighting systems. Opportunities for equipment selection and design enhancements are similar to those for new construction projects and, likewise, are most effective when incorporated into the design phase.

Remodeling may be as simple as a change in lighting systems, or as complex as an entirely new configuration of internal space with updated mechanical or electrical systems. Though not usually as extensive as renovations, remodeling projects may still offer considerable, cost-effective opportunities to improve energy efficiency.

Equipment Replacement

Beyond planned renovation or remodeling projects, your school may need to replace equipment due to scheduled maintenance, failing equipment or emergency conditions. Because equipment replacement decisions tend to be made quickly, New Jersey SmartStart Buildings is structured to allow a very rapid response.

Financial Incentives

New Jersey’s schools tend to operate within very tight budgets, and there are not always enough funds to invest in new, energy-efficient equipment. Incentives available through New Jersey SmartStart Buildings can lower upfront costs. In turn, your new energy-efficient equipment will provide your school with significant long-term savings on its monthly utility costs. Ask about incentives for the following equipment:

  • Electric Chillers
  • Gas Cooling
  • Desiccant Systems
  • Electric Unitary HVAC
  • Ground Source Heat Pumps
  • Gas Heating
  • Variable Frequency Drives
  • Natural Gas Water Heating
  • Premium Motors
  • Premiium Eddiciency Motors Prescriptive Lighting
  • Lighting Controls

Food Service Equipment

Schools can save significant energy and money in their food service operations by choosing energy-efficient cooking equipment, ventilation and refrigeration. New Jersey SmartStart Buildings offers financial incentives for the purchase of new commercial food service equipment.

Incentives ranging from $50 to $2,000 will certainly save you money when purchasing new equipment. Plus, you’ll continue to save on your gas, electricity, and water bills over the lifetime of your high-efficiency equipment. Ask about incentives for the following food service equipment:

  • Ovens
  • Fryers
  • Cookers
  • Freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Steamers
  • Griddles
  • Holding Cabinets
  • Ice Machines
  • Refrigerators

To get started on your school’s energy efficiency education, visit the website or call 866-NJSMART to talk with a representative.

Dianne Solomon is president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.