Montana State University

Facility upgrades save MSU more than $400,000 annually

April 13, 2015 -- MSU News Service

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Montana State University saved $429,000 in the year after it instituted a number of energy-saving performance measures, university officials announced today.

The efforts included a number of measures that were designed to not only improve the university’s energy performance, but also to reduce maintenance costs, improve the comfort of occupants in university buildings and reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

The savings exceeded – by more than 15 percent – the amount that the university had been guaranteed in its energy savings performance contract, according to Dan Stevenson, assistant facilities director at MSU. McKinstry, a local design, construction and energy services firm that entered into the energy savings performance contract with MSU, had originally guaranteed the university annual savings of more than $370,000 from reductions in energy, water, steam, natural gas and peak demand.

“The utility savings from this first phase of work have outperformed our expectations,” Stevenson said. “These projects have allowed us to proactively control our utility costs and build infrastructure that will last for decades.”

The savings will go toward repaying debt that was used to fund the energy saving investments, according to Tom Stump, director of Auxiliary Services. After meeting debt obligations, the savings will be used to invest in deferred maintenance and upgrades in the university’s auxiliary facilities. Those improvements will help keep student housing costs lower, Stump said. He added that both the investments and savings are related to self-supported auxiliary areas of the university, which are unrelated to university buildings and programs that receive state support or tuition revenues.

The university entered into the energy savings performance contract after an intensive energy audit in 2010 laid out numerous opportunities for utility savings, Stump said. Student groups also advocated for energy upgrades in order to help meet the university’s sustainability goals and to improve livability and comfort in the residence and dining halls. Work on the performance measures began in 2013.

The first phase of work included mechanical and lighting upgrades in several auxiliary buildings on campus, including the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, which hosts sporting events, concerts and trade shows. Two subsequent projects have been completed and their savings are currently being measured and verified, Stump said.

Stevenson said the reductions in utility consumption have reduced the annual carbon footprint of the university by about 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to removing 300 average homes from the grid.

The savings were calculated using the state utility rates established when an energy audit occurred five years ago, Stevenson said. Since then, regional electrical rates have risen by roughly seven percent, meaning the university is saving more in real dollars than the estimated annual savings measured by the company.

The university’s energy savings performance contract was the first of its kind by an institution within the Montana University System.

Contact: Dan Stevenson, (406) 994-5470 or daniel.stevenson1@montana.edu