By Jennifer Hayward, Sustainability Coordinator & Anna Scott, Energy Analyst, Lane Community College
(This article appears in the November, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)
Lane Community College established a revolving loan fund in 2006, the only one of its kind at a community college, to pay for energy conservation and renewable energy projects through utility carryover. The fund, called theEnergy Carryover Fund, realizes savings when current year electricity and natural gas expenditures are less than current year budget. Additionally, rebates and other incentives for energy-focused projects can be deposited into the Fund, helping to finance more projects in the future. The Fund is managed and implemented by Lane’s full time Energy Analyst, Anna Scott, and currently stands at $122,000.
Annual budgets for electricity and natural gas are determined using an energy use index calculation for the baseline year of 2004-05 and the current year’s prices. Money is transferred to the Carryover Fund if Lane is purchasing less energy per square foot because of efficiency, conservation, and on-site renewables than in the baseline year.
Lane’s Energy Analyst plans the Fund’s projects in collaboration with faculty and students in its Energy Management and
Renewable Energy Technology degree programs, Facilities Management and Planning staff, and college administrators, under the leadership of President Mary Spilde, a nationally known advocate for sustainability, and past member of the steering committee for the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.
In 2006, when the Fund was first set up, Lane created a spreadsheet that listed twenty-one projects to be completed over six years. Each project listed the estimated cost, rebates or incentives that may be available to help offset the cost, projected annual energy savings in MMBTUs and in dollars, and net dollar savings over the six year period. Using this spreadsheet, the college could plan projects several years out and have a reasonable projection of the Fund balance into the future. These projects included lighting retrofits, commissioning, and solar electric installations.
This system worked well for several years, but was temporarily put on hold because of an opportunity to use state stimulus, bond, and grant funds to implement projects. Thanks to prior planning, the college had shovel ready projects and was able to capture state stimulus funds for building-level sub-metering for electricity, natural gas, and water, new better-insulated roofs, an exterior lighting upgrade, and a solar thermal system that provides domestic hot water for Lane’s commercial laundry, showers, and two buildings. Lane’s voter-approved 2008 bond levy provides funding for such energy efficiency projects as heat recovery systems for the college’s laundry facility and data center plus $830,000 for renewable energy projects. A $100,000 renewable energy grant from Lane’s utility provider coupled with bond funds for renewable energy allowed the college to build a 43 kilowatt solar array with 19 solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations.
Busy implementing projects funded by these state, bond, and grant funds, college staff have only used the revolving loan fund in a very limited capacity for several years. However, implementation of these projects is beginning to wrap up and the college is moving back into using the revolving loan fund. Lane is a charter member of the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, which encourages colleges and other organizations to invest in self-managed revolving loan funds that finance energy efficiency improvements. As Lane has started its second round of planning for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, the resources associated with joining the Challenge have proven invaluable. One of these resources is a streamlined web-based Green Revolving Investment Tracking System that will be used in lieu of the original spreadsheet planning and tracking system.
Investing in energy efficiency using utility savings is an excellent model that any college can use. Lane encourages all ACUPCC member institutions to establish a green revolving loan fund, join the Billion Dollar Challenge, and begin using the resources offered to Challenge participants such as the Green Revolving Investment Tracking System. Lane’s revolving loan fund alone will not get the college all the way to carbon neutrality, but it will get the college part way there, and the planning that is required for the Fund has allowed Lane to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities that have skyrocketed its greenhouse gas reduction efforts.