Energy efficiency a priority among higher education facility leaders in the US
Cost savings drive energy efficiency efforts, but organisational barriers are proving to be an obstacle, a new study finds. According to the study commissioned by Schneider Electric and the Alliance to Save Energy, energy efficiency is recognised among US higher education institutions as key to fulfilling their schools’ core mission, with almost nine out of 10 respondents expecting to increase or maintain energy efficiency investments next year. Eighty-eight percent of respondents also agree that energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to meet their energy needs while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting costs.
The biggest factor driving schools’ energy efficiency efforts is cost savings, according to the survey conducted with higher education facility leaders, with environmental benefits and industry standards rounding out the top three reasons for becoming more energy efficient. However, obstacles exist to achieving these objectives. While 92 percent of respondents stated that their school had a culture that encourages energy efficiency practices, organisational barriers are challenging their ability to achieve efficiency goals. Fifty-nine percent view this as the biggest obstacle, with insufficient funding and lack of a clear definition of success also ranking highly.
Another factor impacting institutions is aging infrastructure, with 59 percent indicating that the average age of their buildings exceeds 15 years, and only one in five reporting that the average age of their building is below 10 years. As facility leaders look to upgrade existing buildings, compatibility with new technology ranks as most important when considering making an investment. Compatibility with legacy systems outranked quality of the product and technology advancements of the solution.
“A majority of the higher education buildings that stand today are expected to be in operation for the next few decades,” said Tara Canfield, segment director, education and commercial office buildings at Schneider Electric. “Tremendous opportunities exist to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste in these existing buildings. In particular, by integrating building systems, facility managers can view energy use from a single interface, identify long-term opportunities for savings, and continuously optimise their facility to yield the highest levels of efficiency over time. This integration also enables organisations to better use data from the Internet of Things, turning building insights into meaningful action that will improve operations.”
Canfield added, “While we’re pleased to see energy efficiency ranking highly among facility leaders as an area of importance and continued investment, the findings also show that steps need to be taken to streamline organisational processes and establish a clear definition of success among stakeholders to achieve each school’s energy efficiency goals. Having the right strategy and measurement approach in place is critical to the success of any energy and sustainability program.”
“In today’s budget climate, energy efficiency is a critical tool for higher education institutions in their efforts to cut costs and prepare strategically for long-term success,” said Scott Thach, vice president of education for the Alliance to Save Energy. “And leveraging capital investments with energy education ensures that those efficiency upgrades maintain performance and optimise savings. It’s the last low-hanging fruit in the efficiency space — in addition to creating the next generation of smart energy consumers, professionals, and leaders. Combining efficiency with education is the shortest path to savings, and smartest strategy for making long-term sustainability truly sustainable.”
The full survey results are available here.
This article was originally published by ACHR News
For more information about Schneider Electric, visit www.schneider-electric.com/us.
For more information about the Alliance to Save Energy, visit www.ase.org.