School board approves first step in energy performance contract
By Jamie Ausk Crisafulli
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
With the intention of finding ways to make Glendive Schools more energy efficient while lessening the burden on local taxpayers, the Glendive Unified School Board voted Monday to work toward entering a performance contract with Johnson Controls.
The board voted to work with Johnson Controls on the recommendation of Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis.
“To me, it’s exciting. I don’t know what it’s going to bring, but these are the types of roads we need to start going down. We need to think outside the box,” Schreibeis said.
A performance contract is a partnership with an energy systems optimization company. The company inspects the physical plant operations of the district and comes up with bundled energy projects designed to achieve greater efficiency through modernization and other upgrades without the need for up-front capital.
Performance contracts are designed to be budget-neutral, according to Schreibeis.
The costs of modernization and replacing equipment are paid for by the energy savings realized from the energy optimization projects.
“That sounds like a really cool concept, fix some of our issues without having to take out of our general fund and take away from students and not have to shift (the cost) onto the taxpayers,” Schreibeis said in an interview Wednesday.
During the request for qualification process, the district posed several questions to each of three service providers who expressed interest in partnering with Glendive Schools.
Johnson Controls representative Peter Dutkowsky said his company saw many opportunities for energy optimization in the district.
“Based on our observations made while onsite visiting the facilities there are many opportunities both to save energy and improve comfort and the learning environment,” Dutkowsky noted.
He said the initial primary energy savings opportunities observed include lighting retrofits, controls upgrades, and steam trap verification.
“We also discovered needs with the mechanical systems (boilers, air handlers, etc.) which typically take many years to self-fund. However due to the persistent loss of water and treatment chemicals in the heating systems, these areas also have an opportunity to provide substantial savings to the district,” he said.
A representative from Johnson Controls will be at Monday’s Facilities Committee meeting to explain the process. If the board decides to move forward the district will contract with Johnson Controls. The company will then assess the school facilities and utility costs and submit a plan for the school district.
“They will give us a list of things we can do, how much money they are going to guarantee we are going to save on our facilties,” Schreibeis said.
There is no financial risk with moving forward once a plan is presented.
“They have to give us a guarantee, they put in the rest of the money if savings doesn’t equal out,” Schreibeis noted.
And in Schreibeis’ opinion, the sooner the ball gets rolling, the better.
“If we do move this direction, we have some stuff to get done before (the next) school year,” he said.
The GUSB’s Facilities Committee will meet Monday at 7 p.m.
Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at firstname.lastname@example.org.