Campus News

Small conservation efforts pay off in big energy savings

As the cost of electricity, heating fuel and other energy sources continues to climb, the university is putting increased emphasis on reducing energy usage and lowering energy expenses.

In the last fiscal year UGA spent more than $28 million for energy and related utilities, and costs aren’t likely to go down, said Ken Crowe, assistant director for utilities in the physical plant division.

So it’s up to faculty, staff and students to help cut consumption and save money.

“It’s my hope that all members of the UGA community will consider ways to conserve energy in their individual offices, departments, labs and classrooms,” said Crowe, who has been appointed university energy engineer to coordinate energy-saving efforts.

October is national Energy Awareness Month, a good time for the university to focus on energy issues, according to Crowe, who is a member of the university’s Energy Conservation Executive Committee

The committee has issued a report that recommends several energy-saving measures. They include auditing campus buildings for inefficient energy use, more closely monitoring utility use in buildings, burning biomass with coal in the steam plant and using vehicles that run on renewable fuels.

The university has created an Office of Energy Services in physical plant to coordinate all aspects of energy resources on campus. This includes procuring energy from outside sources, producing energy at the central steam plant, distributing energy to buildings and conserving energy throughout the campus.

Crowe is overseeing a university energy Web site that will contain information on saving energy and track efforts to cut energy use on campus. He said the site eventually will have a building “scorecard” that lets employees and students view energy-consuming characteristics of their buildings.

Crowe hopes employees and students will use the site to share ideas on saving energy and also report instances of observed energy waste.

Several initiatives are either already in place or being developed to lower energy usage at UGA, and Columns is reporting on some of these efforts in a series of stories this semester. The initiatives include energy audits in buildings, alternative transportation options, water-saving measures, “green cleaning” in buildings, use of alternative fuels and use of a biorefinery to produce energy.

But some of the best ways to save energy are as simple as a flick of the hand, according to Crowe.

“The greatest energy efficient measure is to turn off idle equipment, especially when leaving offices in the evening,” he said.

Ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility, Crowe said.

“Physical plant can do the major work, but we can’t make people do the small things that can make a difference,” he said. “It’s up to everybody at the university to help with this effort.”