VIP Focus: How to Power an Energy-Efficient School District

DashBoard, Dec. 14, 2016

DTE Energy

In Michigan, education officials constantly deal with a perfect storm of financial challenges—declining student populations, rising costs and fixed overheads. With payroll often accounting for at least 70% of a public school district’s operating budget, it can be hard for administrators to control costs without impacting the classroom.

Fortunately, energy is one expense that can be reduced without negatively impacting students.

DTE Energy has an efficiency incentive program that helps schools find those savings. Since 2009, more than 270 Michigan schools have taken advantage of the program, receiving more than $4.7 million in incentives.

Kentwood Public Schools’ Bowen Elementary
Kentwood Public Schools’ Bowen Elementary is one of many examples of schools working with DTE Energy to control energy costs and shift more money into their classrooms. 

At Kentwood Public Schools, a DTE Gas customer located southeast of Grand Rapids, district officials have used the incentive program to offset capital investment costs—and save energy—since 2010. DTE Energy advisors worked with officials to identify operations that could be upgraded, improved or replaced. The first project was a $415,000 replacement of outdated school boilers with more efficient models, for which the district received $25,000 in incentives. The district has since tackled nearly 50 projects, resulting in more than $114,000 in incentives.

Based on first-year savings, the projects are expected to save the district nearly 20,000 Mcf of natural gas each year—a nearly 25% reduction in energy costs—according to Todd Bell, the district’s executive director of finance and operations.

“The incentives played a large role in the decision to make the projects a reality,” Bell said. “Not only did they provide funding for the projects, but the projects provided reduced energy costs for years to come.”

In this way, he said, the upgrades are able to lower operating costs and “keep district resources in the classroom—where they belong.”

Livonia Public Schools, a DTE Electric customer, has received almost an identical amount of incentive funding for its projects.

Electric and Gas Usage Graphs
Typical energy usage in a K-12 school.

Since 2009—the program’s first year—Livonia has submitted 47 projects for review, receiving more than $122,000 in incentives. In nearly every instance, projects involved upgrading older lighting fixtures and adding various lighting controls and occupancy sensors in every building in the district.

Kentwood and Livonia are not alone. From Ada to Ypsilanti, school districts from around the state have been able to control their energy costs and shift more money into their classrooms through efficiency programs. To get your school district involved, check with your energy provider(s) to see what programs are available in your area. DTE Energy customers can visit or call 866.796.0512 (press option 3). 

VIP Focus articles are company-sponsored advertisements and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of MASB. It’s intended to provide Very Important Partners with a space to share information of value to you and your district.

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