School Districts Cutting Spending Due to Rising Energy Costs, Survey Says
December 2009 - GreenTwo-thirds of school districts responding to a "School Energy and Environment Survey" have made spending cuts or modifications as a direct result of rising energy bills. Seventy-four percent of respondents also said their districts don't have the money to pursue energy retrofit or renewable energy projects. The budgetary constraints and cutbacks are primarily in building maintenance and capital investment, the survey says.
The online survey from Honeywell and Education Week Research gathered input from more than 250 district administrators nationwide regarding energy management and environmental sustainability practices. More than half of respondents have scaled back, delayed or eliminated the possibility of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects due to the economic downturn. In addition, while 96 percent of survey respondents view energy management as important to their district's long-term success, one-third reported that they do not have a strategic plan for managing energy consumption and costs.
Although school districts consider renewable energy sources as a potential solution, many do not have the internal resources or expertise to determine the most suitable investments for their buildings. According to the survey, 61 percent of school districts have evaluated or implemented renewable energy sources, with solar photovoltaic, wind and geothermal the most popular choices. Yet, 40 percent of these respondents said they don't have a clear understanding of the variables that impact the economic viability of renewable technology.
In addition, while there is growing interest for schools to incorporate sustainability practices into their building operations and curriculum, there is a gap between commitment and activity. While 26 percent of districts have set goals to reduce their carbon footprints, only 7 percent have completed a greenhouse gas inventory -- a necessary step in cataloging emissions and setting a baseline to gauge the impact of environmental initiatives.