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Office of the State Comptroller - Local Government & School Accountability

Cost-Saving Ideas: How to Reduce Energy Costs

How to Reduce Energy Costs [pdf]
Introduction | Pay Less for Energy | Use Less Energy | More Information

Introduction

Energy costs are a large segment of any local government or school district’s budget. The two basic ways to reduce energy costs are to pay less for energy and reduce energy consumption. Beyond economic concerns, reducing energy consumption makes environmental sense, giving localities the opportunity to reduce pollution and make their communities greener. This guide [pdf] is an introduction to some of the steps you can take to reduce energy costs and lower the impact on our environment.

Pay Less for Energy

The competitive retail energy market means that you are no longer restricted to buying energy from your host utility. While the utility continues to deliver electricity and natural gas, energy service companies (ESCOs) sell you electricity or natural gas. Competitive bids are required for energy purchases and enable your local government or school district to find the lowest cost ESCO serving your area. There are a variety of pricing plans available including fixed, capped, indexed, seasonal, and variable (hourly) plans that may better suit your needs than what your utility is currently offering.

You may find that the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) has contract prices negotiated for commodities such as natural gas that will save your locality money. To learn more about OGS contracts and find out how to be included in future bids, check out its website, http://ogs.ny.gov/BU/PC/.

You may also find cost savings from cooperative purchasing arrangements with other municipalities and school districts. There are several such arrangements already in place. Contact your county purchasing agent for more information on cooperative purchasing arrangements.

Note: There is no general statutory authority for local governments or school districts to enter into cooperative purchasing arrangements with private corporations.

Use Less Energy

Whether or not your locality is able to lower the price it is paying for energy, there are immediate steps you can take to reduce the amount being used.

  • Appoint an Energy Manager and develop an overall energy management program to optimize energy use, including provisions for making your facilities more energy efficient as part of any future upgrades, maintenance or new designs.
  • Get an energy audit or technical assistance study to determine where you can save. Contact the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) or the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for more information.
  • Consider financing energy improvements with an energy performance contract. In an energy performance contract, a private contractor performs energy services, which could include, for example, the installation of an energy system or equipment to improve energy efficiency. (The NYSERDA website has helpful information on these types of contracts.) The locality uses a portion of the savings generated to pay the contractor. A technical assistance study can evaluate a proposed performance contract before your locality enters into an agreement.

    School districts may be eligible for increased State aid in connection with energy performance contracts. For more information see the 2013-14 State Aid Handbook [pdf].
  • Turn off lights when not in use or install timers or motion sensors in low-traffic areas.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs to reduce lighting energy use by 75 percent.
  • Replace traffic lights with more energy efficient models.
  • Make sure that office equipment and computers are turned off at the end of the day.
  • Utilize Energy Star power management software on your computers. For more information see http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=power_mgt.pr_power_mgt_sleep_activate.
  • Turn on power save features in office equipment such as copiers and printers.
  • Eliminate unnecessary equipment.
  • Perform manufacturer-recommended routine maintenance of all equipment, including HVAC systems, to ensure optimal operation.
  • Buy energy efficient equipment. See http://www.energystar.gov for information about the federal Energy Star program.
  • Tighten up windows and door frames; install weather stripping.
  • Use programmable thermostats to raise air conditioner settings and lower heating settings.

More Information:

For more information on this topic, please see the following reports and publications:

Energy-cost saving ideas in audit reports

Other Useful Websites: