As students and teachers return to school during a time of strapped budgets, 39 Michigan K-12 schools will save $10 million in heating, cooling and other energy costs, reports Energy Works Michigan.

Participating schools will save, on average, $75 per student per year through energy efficiency efforts, offering a way to make up for per-pupil cuts in school funding that will take effect in the 2011-2012 school year.

Energy Works Michigan is a non-profit affiliate of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

By investing in energy efficiency, schools deliver both immediate and long-term savings to taxpayers and school districts, reports Energy Works, which has released its final report to the Michigan Public Service Commission summarizing the first two years of the Michigan Renewable Schools Program.

Renewable Energy Program schools installed 35 solar and wind systems totaling 250 kilowatts across Michigan. Thirty-nine schools participating in the Energy Efficiency Program invested $4 million in their facilities and will save over $10 million in energy costs after recouping their investment in building improvements.

Said Elizabeth Godwin, superintendent of the Decatur Public Schools in southwest Lower Michigan: “This energy audit helped us focus our efforts to save money through reduced energy use, and it’s a great incentive for making these cost-saving energy improvements. This program helps Michigan schools now, by cutting energy costs and freeing up resources for classroom instruction; and it will help our state in the future, by educating our next generation to make wise, fiscally responsible energy decisions for the rest of their lives.”

Energy Works Michigan is a nonprofit technical resource focusing on energy in schools. EWM was founded by the Ecology Center with funding support from the Michigan Public Service Commission in 2009. EWM recently concluded a 2-year, $3.3 million contract with the MPSC that leveraged $5.2 million in additional funding. The Michigan Renewable Schools Program provides technical assistance and incentive financing to assist K-12 schools across Michigan with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy education.

“We’re creating jobs today, saving money for schools, enhancing learning environments for students and teachers, and preparing Michigan students for the energy jobs of the future,” Lauzzana said.

The Energy Efficiency Program provides detailed energy engineering analyses to schools in need of energy retrofits. In the first two years, 39 schools received this service free of charge. These schools were determined to have an opportunity to save 30 percent on their energy costs, with a payback of less than five years.

The Renewable Energy Program has already installed 35 renewable energy systems at 28 schools, generating over 40,000 kilowatt-hours of emission-free solar and wind power. Over the next 20 years, these systems will generate enough clean energy to power an average Michigan home for 677 years, while preventing 8.58 million pounds of CO2 equivalent pollution from being released into the atmosphere.

Energy Works Michigan includes a strong educational component. Working with Michigan classroom teachers, EWM staff developed 32 lesson plans covering energy efficiency, solar photovoltaic, and wind energy. New lessons on geothermal and solar thermal are in development for 2012. To date, over 200 teachers have been trained in professional development workshops and each participating school received laboratory kits to make energy lessons hand-on and engaging for students.

“Our final report to the Public Service Commission documents how much energy schools are saving and how much money they are saving,” Lauzzana said.  “We also have a better idea of how this will positively affect our state in the future. It’s a triple bottom line: saving money, educating our next generation, and creating jobs.”

EWM’s final report, which concludes the first two-year $3.3 million funding cycle, is available for download online.

Enthusiastic participation has resulted in leveraging $5.2 million in additional funding to supplement the MPSC’s $3.3 million investment in the program, for total spending of $8.5 million. This financial leverage was generated from numerous sources including: school maintenance budgets; sinking funds; federal energy bonds; utility incentive programs; community, corporate, and private foundations; and individual donors.

The projected total of 67 schools in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs will save over $400,000 annually in energy costs and over $10 million over the life of installed equipment.

Energy Works Michigan recognizes that schools are an important place to focus. While the average school building is 42 years old and achieving a failing “D” rating for infrastructure and facilities.

U.S. schools are also widely recognized as falling behind in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Hands-on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy education engages students, while building improvements can save school districts $75 per pupil annually. If every school in Michigan were to garner these energy savings it could save Michigan taxpayers over $150 million annually and over $2 billion in the life of the installed equipment.

Additional information, including real-time tracking of electricity produced by renewable energy installations in Michigan schools, is available at


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