Exceeding goals for power and natural gas savings in the first two years, California’s major private-sector utilities and 33 college campuses are in the second year of a three-year extension of a unique partnership that fits well with the state’s broader push for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions.

Funded by the state energy utility ratepayer public goods surcharge, the program spent $12.8 million the first two years (2004-05) and has budgeted $30 million for 2006-08.

The two public higher education systems combined represent the largest higher education system in the United States. The result has been significantly reduced energy bills and GHG emissions, according to campus officials. “Without these incentives, the two university systems would be hard-tasked to develop and conduct many of their existing energy-reducing projects/programs,” said Paul Browning, a spokesperson for the program in the 23-campus California State University and College System (CSU).

“When this partnership was launched in 2004 it was the only one of its kind in the nation, and still is in terms of higher education,” Browning said. “Municipal utilities generally have generic and much smaller programs, and do not have specialized partnerships for specific types of customers.”

The large public college campuses individually and collectively represent huge energy-intense operations. Campuses vary from large (9-10 MW loads), to medium (5-6 MW) and small (under 2 MW). Collectively, the CSU campuses currently boast 5 MW of on-site renewables (mostly solar photovoltaic systems) and 25 MW of cogeneration with goals for doubling both by 2014 (10 MW and 50 MW, respectively).

Along with the 10-campus University of California System (UC), the state’s four largest investor-owned utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. — assist each campus in pursuing individual energy-saving projects, measures and retrofits. The program is implemented by a cadre of energy managers — one for each campus — ongoing university-level training programs, and funding and administration from the utilities as an extension of their stepped up, multi-billion-dollar energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives.

In the first two years, the campuses collectively saved 32 million kWh of electricity and 1.5 million therms of natural gas, compared with target goals for the period of 25 million kWh and 1 million therms, Browning said. The campuses spent $12.8 million to achieve these results with the utilities providing about 80% of the funding ($10.4 million). Each individual program within the partnership for each campus must have at least 20% of the funding coming from the campus; the utilities’ Public Goods monies support the rest.

Goals have been established for each campus system to achieve 10% reduction of their overall energy use by 2014, but after the first two years of the partnership the CSU system was only at about 2%. State officials want to see the campus buildings used more heavily to maximize the numbers of students being educated, so use-factors are expanding rapidly at all campuses, particularly the largest ones, said Aaron Klemm, CSU energy program manager. Therefore, measuring energy efficiency programs in terms of Btus/square foot of building space doesn’t really add up.

Part of the problem is not being able to factor out the steady growth in power use-per-student and per-faculty member on campus that add to increased gross totals of energy consumed while the overall efficiency is getting better. “We have roughly the same space, with more students, more Ipods, more laptops, all generating heat and consuming more power in the buildings and using the buildings for longer periods of time,” Klemm said. “Energy efficiency programs just offset the increased use.”

A lot of the work so far has involved central plant monitoring-based commissioning projects to set new baselines for older, established buildings, then thoroughly finding ways to shave that energy use through software control improvements, process/operating changes, and equipment upgrades, according to Klemm.

“In these projects, we look at the whole sequence of controls, various pieces of equipment in central plants, and revise those according to trends and load conditions, ” Klemm said. “You have to first control the loads and then optimize them from an energy perspective. We have one project with a gas-fired absorption chilling central plant that promised 80,000 therms of savings, and they’ve already achieved 85,000 therms of savings, and a million kilowatt-hours as icing on the cake.

“In the monitoring-based commissioning the focus is on the software inside of the controls for the most part,” he said. “About 90% of the time it is a matter of software and changes to the sequences of operations.”

Since 2004, each system has set statewide goals for all of their campuses. CSU’s chancellor established an exeutive order (No. 987) delegating to each campus president and their designees a systemwide policy on energy conservation, sustainable building practices and physical plant management.

“The trustee policy is consistent with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s own executive order (S-12-04), which requested the CSU system’s active participation in statewide energy conservation and reduced electrical demand,” said CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, who issued a detailed order with specific guidelines for conservation, energy independence, renewables and conservation, sustainable building practices and physical plant management. For the UC system the president for the overall system established a sustainable practices policy, including clean energy standards setting a goal for each campus.

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