Students Lead the Way to Save $1.3M in Energy Costs for Southern California School Districts
Southern California, April 14, 2010 – Green Schools, an Alliance to Save Energy program funded by Southern California Edison, reported energy savings of over 7.9 million kilowatt hours among the 117 schools involved in the program over the last three years. This amount of electricity savings is equivalent to preventing two tons of CO2 emissions into the environment and saving $1.3 million in energy costs. These savings resulted not from expensive retrofits, but from no-cost behavior and operations changes initiated by students as part of their hands-on learning about energy efficiency.
The Alliance’s Green Schools Program provides energy efficiency education to students in school districts across Southern California, engaging them as leaders in “real world” energy saving activities in their schools. In a time when the region’s school districts are seeing critical budget shortfalls and multiple teacher and staff layoffs, energy savings of this magnitude are particularly valuable to the schools.
“We have received reports that the districts are using the savings to help blunt the recent state budget cuts,” said Jo Tiffany, Senior Director of Education for the Alliance. “Most of the districts we work with share the cost savings with their schools. With all the financial cuts and teacher layoffs, the cost savings can even be used to save teacher jobs.”
Many schools have used the savings to bolster school activities by purchasing sorely needed supplies, including A/V equipment, white boards and even ink cartridges to print lesson plans that pertain to energy efficiency.
Over the last three and a half years, nine districts have been involved with the program:
- Murrieta Valley Unified School District
- Temecula Valley Unified School District
- Lake Elsinore Unified School District
- Alta Loma Unified School District
- Desert Sands Unified School District
- San Bernardino City
- Hesperia Unified School District
- Beaumont Unified School District
- Palo Verde Unified School District
Since 2007, Green Schools has served over 200,000 students in communities with populations totaling over three million. In many cases, the Green Schools Program is the first exposure that students and communities have with energy efficiency, conservation or sustainability. The program also exposes students to career opportunities in “green” industries. Schools often invite environmental professionals to speak in their classes or at events such as career fairs and Earth Day festivals. In addition, middle and high school students are trained to conduct basic energy audits of their schools, empowering them to sleuth out energy “inefficiencies” and to make recommendations to districts for retrofits that can result in thousands of dollars in energy savings. All the while, these students gain valuable skills they can take into future jobs, such as working with technical tools, data collection, analysis, public speaking and learning how to frame an argument for a particular audience.
Sultana High School teacher Mark Ziesmer, whose school’s participation in the program generated over $80,000 in energy savings, extolled the power of students as change agents when he said, “Our [Green Schools] students have won over the highest levels of management – principals, superintendents and school board members – to the merits of energy conservation.”
Edison’s Director of Energy efficiency Gene Rodrigues commented, “I’ve talked with many students who have been part of the Green Schools Program over the years, and the one thing that consistently jumps out at me is their passion for their mission of saving energy.
“The students are proud of their accomplishments in protecting the environment and saving money for their schools and, as young people can be, are persuasive in their advocacy for energy efficiency at school, with their own families, and in the broader community. In my opinion, the Green Schools Program is a model for effective market transformation.”
The Green Schools Program has been implemented in Southern California Edison’s service territory for over ten years, starting in 1999. Green Schools’ unique approach integrates real-world energy savings in schools with classroom instruction on energy efficiency. Students regularly take the initiative on projects and work with teams comprised of other students, teachers, custodians and district administrators. The Green Schools Program often extends the energy efficiency lessons to students’ homes and to their communities at large.