Energy conservation is one of the most impactful energy investments one can make—it has no carbon footprint or geopolitical consequence, and once efficiency investments are made, they will continue to pay off for years into the future. Recognizing all these advantages, Florida A&M is continuing with several major energy conservation initiatives and embarking on additional new ones. As a result of recent efforts, the university has cut its utility bill by approximately $1 million over the past year. A lower utility bill increases financial sustainability for the university and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. These are “double whammy” benefits of environmental and economic sustainability.
In December 2014, FAMU became the first university in Florida to join the Better Building Challenge sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Through this effort, FAMU committed to reducing energy use campus-wide by 20 percent within 10 years. As part of the commitment, a showcase building on campus will be chosen as a demonstration site for implementation of energy reduction measures.
The Better Building Challenge follows an ongoing major program to implement improvements in systems that heat, cool, and light the campus buildings and outdoor areas. The most apparent upgrade was campus-wide replacement of conventional lamps and ballasts with high-efficiency bulbs. Other changes that reaped big efficiency rewards are not visible to the general public—these include replacement of equipment used in the campus centralized plant and the piping that carries steam to buildings.
This first wave of energy efficiency investments is part of a guaranteed energy savings performance contract with the Siemens Corporation. The agreement guarantees savings as a result of actions taken from an energy audit conducted at the outset of the program. The audit identified the most profitable first steps for investments in energy efficiency. Ideally, as the program reduces utility expenses, dollars can be freed up to implement even more efficiency projects for further savings.
The university’s Facilities division, in partnership with the Sustainability Institute, is working on an energy master plan to identify the remaining opportunities to save money and reduce environmental impacts. This energy master plan will be devised side-by-side with a wider campus effort to create a Sustainability Action Plan for FAMU. The effort will engage faculty, staff, and students in forging recommendations for saving resources and money, promoting well-being of members of the campus community, and growing a green economy, among other goals that follow the sustainability “triple bottom line” of people, planet, and profit.
Addressing the challenges of saving energy crosses into another important and challenging element—changing human behavior and habits. Considering the carbon footprint of commuting is a good illustration—it will take a combination of behavior change and enhancement of alternative transportation options to bring about the desired reduction in vehicle fuel usage.
FAMU recognizes that it takes a combination of technological improvements and human ingenuity to bring about sustainability, in essence a better way of living in the 21st century. The creativity of faculty, staff, and students are FAMU’s greatest energy source, and these will be harnessed to craft a strategic plan forward.