By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – A new program will identify ways to cut utility costs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and help the campus reach its sustainability goals.
The University of Nebraska and Nebraska Medicine are partnering with Dallas-based Cenergistic on the five-year program that aims to reduce energy consumption across the university system through technology- and behavior-based strategies that will help maximize the use of facilities and equipment.
The partnership, recommended by a university-wide committee and approved by the Board of Regents in June, adds another level of expertise to the university’s ongoing energy conservation efforts.
“Campuses have done an excellent job of enhancing sustainability over the years, but we can always do more to be better stewards of our environmental resources,” said University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds. “We’re excited to have Cenergistic on board to help us think through how we can be an even more sustainable and more innovative university.”
A sustainability master plan completed in 2005 calls for UNK to reduce its energy usage by 25 percent by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“We’re not going to get there unless we change behaviors and we really look at having the most effective and efficient systems when it comes to energy consumption and use,” said Jon Watts, UNK’s vice chancellor for business and finance.
UNK has already taken several steps toward reaching those goals, including transitioning to energy-efficient LED lighting, improved monitoring of energy usage within individual buildings and real-time tracking of production at the on-site utility plant.
The university also signed an agreement with Nebraska Public Power District to purchase electricity from a 53-acre solar farm that went online late last year in northeast Kearney. UNK, which gets nearly 30 percent of its electricity from the solar farm, expects to save about $250,000 in utility costs through the 25-year commitment.
“It’s been a really good relationship and actually exceeded expectations,” Watts said.
The partnership with Cenergistic will build upon those initiatives by analyzing building and energy use on campus and identifying operational and behavioral changes that further promote energy conservation.
Cenergistic engineers and conservation experts will work with facilities and operations teams at each campus to gather information, provide on-site training and oversee the program.
Watts called the partnership a “win-win” since the university isn’t required to pay an up-front fee for management of the self-funded program. During the five-year contract period, the University of Nebraska will pay Cenergistic 50 percent of the total energy savings realized each month as a result of the firm’s recommendations.
Those recommendations will be vetted by NU’s chief business and academic officers before university-wide guidelines are issued.
Watts said utility savings are “critical” for UNK, where the money is used to fund infrastructure projects such as the ongoing sewer replacement work on the east campus, fiber network upgrades and an electrical loop that would serve west campus.
MEET OUR ENERGY SPECIALIST
Chuck Kreis is Cenergistic’s energy specialist at UNK. He can be reached at 308-293-5154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.