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Public-private partnerships provide energy efficiency

Growing numbers of school districts are entering into public-private partnerships (P3s) to accomplish energy efficiency improvements that will result in cost savings and improved environmental stewardship.

For instance, last year, the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) in California launched its Efficiency Financing Program to fund energy efficiency and water retrofits on local schools. Fifty-four school campuses, two local governments and a nonprofit hospital are currently participating in the program, which is backed by contractually guaranteed cost savings.

Each participant works with a pre-qualified private energy service company. Participating schools and other public buildings will use a joint municipal bond to fund energy-efficient upgrades to their buildings, such as adding irrigation controls and programmable thermostats, says Amy Bolten, SCWA spokesperson. They will pay for the bond issuance with their accrued energy savings.

Participating in the program will “provide our district with an opportunity to upgrade various parts of our facilities through energy efficiency construction projects that will decrease our utility bills [over time] and provide a revenue source to pay for the improvements,” says Jennie Bruneman, director of maintenance and operations for the Santa Rosa City Schools. “The energy retrofits reduce your utility bill and you use the savings from what you are not paying the utilities to fund the project.”

After selecting an approved energy service company, Santa Rosa is determining which projects to undertake. Bruneman says the district is considering lighting retrofits, irrigation controls, programmable thermostat upgrades, computer power management, and HVAC upgrades, and could start construction projects by the summer of 2014.