Under the Cool Schools Initiative the State of Oregon calculated the projected cost savings if public schools underwent energy efficiency upgrades. The State then issued bonds based on that calculated savings. The money generated through sale of the bonds was used to help schools pay for energy audits and retrofits. So far, a $175,000 investment in state dollars has leveraged $21 million worth of economic activity and created jobs that cannot be outsourced.
A superintendent of the small Dallas School District admits to being skeptical that the energy retrofits would actually save money but she was desperate to replace the 50 – 80 year old boilers that broke down so frequently classrooms often had to be closed during cold winter months.
She admits she has gone from skeptic to fan because in the retrofitted buildings they are now saving approximately $150,000 per year in electricity and natural gas costs. This means they were able to have one additional teacher in the classroom and those classrooms are now warm and well-ventilated.
The Dallas School District used local contractors to do the retrofit work. One small plumbing company had just had to lay off three members of his crew when he got the call about the retrofit project. Cool Schools enabled him to bring those people back off the unemployment line and since then his company has grown 30%.
In another community, until recently, students arriving at the K-12 Corbett School – recognized as one of the best public schools in the United States – could expect their classrooms to be only a bit warmer than the air outside, which in the winter hovers right around freezing. Peak indoor temperature in some classrooms was in the low 50s.
In need of a heating and cooling upgrade, the Corbett School District secured a $583,000 loan in 2011 from the Oregon Department of Energy’s Small-scale Energy Loan Program as part of the Cool Schools Initiative.
Most of that funding went toward buying and installing a new boiler and a web-managed control system that precisely regulates heating, cooling, and airflow in five district buildings. The district will repay the loan at below-market rates over 15 years, while it saves more than $20,000 in annual energy costs. After the loan has been repaid, these savings are projected to increase to around $80,000 a year.
Quantifying the savings from energy conservation and developing creative financing tools enabled local tradespeople to make their livings saving schools money and creating better classrooms for their own children to learn in. The first two phases of Cool Schools directly created more than 300 jobs.