OCCC’s energy conservation efforts saved the school over $200,000 last fiscal year, and the plan is to save even more this year with the help of new Energy Manager Trey Lewis.
The introduction of the Oklahoma Facilities Energy Program or “20 percent by 2020,” a program created by Senate Bill 1096 in 2012 with the goal of creating a 20 percent reduction in energy spending by the year 2020, OCCC’s energy conservation efforts look to be even more on the upswing as a result.
Lewis, who graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in political science and economics before heading to American University where he received his degree in global environmental policy, has taken the reigns as the new Energy Manager and has big plans.
“[As an Energy Manager], there’s two different aspects. First, there’s the behavioral stuff. Everything from managing our building automation system and making sure the lights go off when they’re supposed to go off, or going around and making sure all of the lights are flipped off,” Lewis said.
“ And on the other side, it’s the performance side. And that’s everything from putting in LED bulbs to replace fluorescent bulbs, or looking at new gas heaters instead of electric heaters. Everything that is performance based.”
Lewis said OCCC saved over $200,000 last year, even though the energy conservation mainly kicked in around the middle of last year, and a lot of that was due to a high profile closing.
“The closing of the aquatic center was also a very huge part. We probably spent about $300,000 a year on utilities on just the aquatic center,” he said.
While $200,000 is a very big amount, Lewis believes that the school should be able to save over $500,000 this fiscal year if everything goes according to plan.
“Now, we’ll get the full twelve months of savings from something like the Aquatic Center closing. The thing about energy saving is that there’s a couple big things, but there’s a lot little things. It all adds up every day.”
Lewis says the facilities management team deserves a lot of the credit for the big time savings.
“And, the facilities management team has been really good at going through every operation and making sure we’re doing it in the most efficient way possible. They have been the main driving force behind a lot of the savings,” he said.
While this new energy conservation program is obviously helping the school financially, it’s also making the school a much more eco-friendly place.
“Last calendar year, we saved enough energy to power 800 homes and 6,000 tons of CO2. It’s really important for our community and our plans health to save CO2. While 6,000 tons might not be huge in the scheme of things, everything adds up. If every school in the state saved that much, we’d reduce our carbon emissions by a hefty amount,” Lewis said.
Even though he has only been OCCC’s Energy Manager since December, he already has plans laid out for this fiscal year, starting with the 20 percent by 2020 program.
“I’d like to meet the “20 percent by 2020” goal. The goal is to meet it by 2020, but if we keep up this year’s work, we should be able to hit it by the end of this fiscal year. I’d like to try to hit 25 percent [by 2020], which I think is doable.”
He also wants to get the students and faculty involved as much as possible.
“What I would like to do is, take all of the great stuff they’ve been doing behind the scenes, and communicate it out to people. So, talking with the press, or the faculty and the students about everything we’ve done and everything they can do to save energy.”
Lewis said campus inhabitants should try to be as environmentally conscious as possible, because it can go a long way.
“If you see lights that are on, turn them off. Obviously that’s a small thing, but it helps. Another thing is just keeping track of the little things. Try not to use the handicap button because it holds the doors open for a really long time, and all of that conditioned air gets sucked out.”
If students have any ideas about how the college can save energy, Lewis and the rest of the department are very open to any and all ideas or complaints.
“Emailing me [firstname.lastname@example.org] is the best way to reach out. That way they can tell me everything they have in mind. For example, if they have case studies about something they saw at a church or another campus, that really helps us too,” he said.
“I really welcome feedback, as much feedback as possible from people. Even if you aren’t happy about something, that’s just as good.”
While Lewis understands that the college has made great strides in energy conservation, he is ready to take on bigger challenges to help the school even more.
“A lot of the low hanging fruit has already been picked, and now we’re onto the harder stuff that may require a little more sacrifice.”