Energy efficient classrooms save utility costs
By Jay Fremont
Despite cutbacks in education budgets across the country, the movement to create more energy-efficient classrooms seems to be moving ahead, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than most educators and environmentalists would like to see.
In the long run, of course, increased energy efficiency in the nation's schools and colleges will result in significant savings on utility costs while also helping to protect the environment from further damage.
Center for Green Schools
One of the driving forces behind the move toward greater energy efficiency in American schools is the Center for Green Schools, which is an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council based in Washington, D.C.
In its 2009 report "Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that energy costs are second only to personnel expenditures for the nation's K-12 school districts.
The agency estimated these energy costs at $8 billion annually nationwide in 2008 but said that roughly a quarter of this total, or $2 billion a year, could be saved by improving energy efficiency in the schools.
Reduced energy costs are only one of the benefits that would be realized by improving U.S. schools' energy efficiency, according to the EPA.
Other benefits would include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, added economic stimulus from new investments in energy efficiency, improvement of indoor air quality, and improvement of student performance.
Ohio is making significant strides in its efforts to improve energy efficiency in schools throughout the state.
This progress can be credited in large part to the Ohio School Facilities Commission's enthusiastic adoption of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Schools, or LEED, rating system, which was developed by the USGBC.
Ohio in the Lead
Lisa Laney, green schools program director for the Ohio commission, said in late April 2013 that “Ohio is leading the nation in our green school efforts. We're even beating California.”
She noted that as of early 2013 Ohio had 345 schools either certified or registered for certification under LEED standards. This compared to only 201 in California, according to Laney.
Cited as one example of Ohio's progress on the energy efficiency front is the Cloverleaf Local School District in Medina County.
In the face of a looming school budget deficit, the district consolidated the operations of three previously separate elementary schools into a new, energy-efficient building, thus cutting both operating costs and utility bills.
Wisconsin Success Story
Other success stories are popping up in schools and colleges across the country.
In Wisconsin, Lake Mills Middle School, completed in 2010, has been hailed as one of the nation's most energy-efficient schools. The school received a LEED platinum rating after scoring 58 out of a possible 80 points.
Built by Wisconsin-based Miron Construction, the school realized annual energy savings of $85,000, thanks to a high-efficiency building envelope, energy-efficient lighting and controls system, and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
In a November 2012 referendum, voters in the Lake Mills School District voted to authorize the construction of an even more energy-efficient elementary school adjacent to the middle school.
The new $18.7 million building for Prospect Elementary School will incorporate even more advanced energy efficiency features to meet the now-tougher LEED standards, upgraded in the past year or so.
Geothermal Heat, Cooling
Like the middle school, the new elementary school building will use geothermal heat and cooling and will also incorporate a number of other simple techniques designed to keep energy costs down.
For example, new low-flow toilets will have auto-sensors. High-quality glass windows will reflect glare and thus help to keep heat from radiating into the classrooms.
The move to increase the energy efficiency of classrooms is not limited to K-12 schools. Several U.S. colleges and universities also are taking steps to green up their classroom environments.
Building Projects at UCF
A flurry of building projects – with a collective price tag of about $67 million – was in progress at the University of Central Florida in Orlando during the first half of 2013. Among them is the so-called Classroom II project, scheduled to be completed sometime in the fall of 2013.
Classroom II and other building projects underway at UCF are being constructed to meet LEED standards for energy efficiency. As a consequence, the new buildings will have better energy efficiency, air quality, and water usage.
According to UCF's Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, the new buildings will have 20 to 40 percent lower energy and water costs than older campus structures.
About the Author: Jay Fremont is a freelance author who has written extensively about personal finance, corporate strategy, social media, and locating discount office furniture.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere