The University of Michigan's
operations team, a group charged with identifying and implementing energy conservation measures in the university's academic buildings, helped to cut last year's energy consumption by 8.1%, saving $4.1 million on utility bills in the process. The energy cuts exceeded the university's goal of 5%, according to Rich Robben, U-M's executive director of plant operations.
The savings equates to a reduction of 17,800 metric tons of carbon emissions, comparable to removing 3,562 vehicles from the roads, according to the university.
"Last year's utility budget was $64 million, so we've been able to reduce it. This year, our utility budget is going to be reduced to below $59 million," Robben says. "That translates right back to the schools' and colleges' costs. This is a direct hit on the expenses that go into determining whether you need to increase tuition or not. This helps keep tuition rates down."
Over the last four years, the Planet Blue team has evaluated and implemented energy conservation measures in 137 academic buildings, such as installing occupancy sensors in conference rooms and updating controls for heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Planet Blue is also assigning teams to various groups of buildings. Those teams will communicate with occupants as to sustainability measures they can take.
"University communities are very transient. Your students are changing over every four years, so you're in this mode of continually trying to raise awareness to make sure everybody knows what's going on and what they can do," says Robben.
Source: Rich Robben, U-M's executive director of plant operations
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar