In-Depth: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced this bill to provide a coordinating structure to help schools better navigate available federal programs and financing options for energy efficiency improvements to their facilities. When he introduced this bill in the 115th Congress, Rep. Cartwright said:
“This bill promotes strategic and cost-saving investment while improving our schools and protecting the environment. It lessens burdens on school administrators by establishing an efficient, one-stop shop for schools, providing administrators with better access to information and resources for implementing these upgrades.”
The Alliance to Save Energy, an energy efficiency advocacy group, supports this bill. Its president, Kateri Callahan, says:
“The savings from improved efficiency are very real. We’re talking about millions of dollars, and by creating a central clearinghouse for information, this bill would help busy school districts and principals put those savings into action educating children.”
Researchers at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) found that energy efficiency improvements lowered electricity consumption by three percent on average, reducing power bills and freeing up money for textbooks and other priorities. However ,they also found that on average, schools received only 24 percent of the energy savings that were projected before investing in the upgrades.
This bill has 26 bipartisan cosponsors, including 25 Democrats and one Republican. It was first introduced in the 113th Congress. It unanimously passed the House in 2014, 2016, and 2017, but has yet to be enacted into law. Last Congress (115th), this Rep. Cartwright introduced this bill with the support of 50 bipartisan cosponsors, including 41 Democrats and nine Republicans, and it passed the House by a voice vote before failing to receive a committee vote in the Senate.
This bill has the support of several groups representing school administrators, including AASA (The School Superintendents Association), the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the Association of School Business Officials International, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, the National Rural Education Association, and Rebuild America’s Schools. Several green building groups, including the Alliance to Save Energy, ASHRAE, Green Business Certification, Inc., and the U.S. Green Building Council, also support this bill. Additionally, the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) also supports this bill.
Of Note: In the U.S. K-12 school system, energy costs are the largest non-workforce expense. Estimates put the annual total at between $6 billion to $8 billion. It’s estimated that schools could save up to 30 percent on electric utility bills through energy retrofits, installation of energy-efficient equipment, and distributed generation resources. This extra $2 billion in cost savings could be used to purchase nearly 40 million new textbooks.
Additionally, many schools are in urgent need of facilities improvements. One Dept. of Education survey found that 43 percent of schools indicated that the poor condition of their facilities interfered with the delivery of instruction. Many of these problems involve heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Upgrading these systems would enable schools to improve their learning environments, save on energy bills, and focus scarce funds on other priorities.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already publishes a guide to energy efficiency programs in K-12 schools, wherein it outlines how to plan and design approaches to energy efficiency in K-12 schools, the foundational principles for program development, strategies for effective program implementation, investment and financing opportunities for energy efficiency projects, and resources at all levels of government. In its publication, the EPA calls local governments “well positioned to work through school districts to improve energy efficiency in K-12 school buildings.” On its website, the EPA also provides a list of resources to help schools develop energy efficiency programs, including the EPA, other federal agencies and programs, national organizations, and state and local entities.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Zhang Shu)