Saving energy remains priority

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
In today's tight fiscal environment, the federal government - the nation's largest energy consumer - continues to find ways to reduce energy use in its operations.

In what is known as the Department of Energy's Energy Savings Performance Contracts, Robins has partnered with one of 16 specialized energy contractors, Schneider Electric, to identify and complete several energy-savings projects across the installation. 

The initial selection of Schneider Electric was completed in February. The first phase of the request for proposal will take 12 months. 

Representatives were on site this week to begin gathering data to establish energy savings projects across five main areas. These include optimization of the base's centralized steam/chiller plants; re-commissioning 40 high-energy facilities to determine if established energy systems are functioning properly; net-zero complex, focusing on facilities (dormitories) to investigate if these areas can become self-supporting; centralizing a base-wide (direct digital control system) lighting control and heating ventilating and air conditioning system; and exploring other possibilities of opportunity for energy control measures and savings. 

Schneider Electric is one company that has demonstrated capabilities to design and construct projects that meet a particular agency's needs and arranges necessary funding. It guarantees that any improvements will generate energy cost savings to pay for a project during the term of the contract - in this case 25 years.   

Once contractors who work under ESPCs establish and define a project's requirements, they're compensated based on results from a customer's energy savings and performance.

"This will be an opportunity for the government to upgrade many of its existing systems," said Mark Byrd, 78th Civil Engineer Group energy engineer. 

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While large-scale projects can significantly impact a base's annual energy bill, the Base Energy Office continually stresses the need to remember the smaller details on a daily basis. 

This ongoing awareness campaign includes simply reducing energy by turning off your lights when not in use. That effort alone has the potential to reduce the Robins energy bill - which amounts to about $26 million annually - by 10 percent, according to Byrd. 

"It's one of the things we've looked at extensively when it comes to conserving energy," he said. "Getting people to understand is part of that energy awareness. With dwindling resources and budget cuts, it's imperative as conscientious employees at Robins to be prudent stewards of the tax dollars we're given an opportunity to work with." 

An ongoing energy blitz by the Robins Energy Office's MISER (Measure Investigate Site Energy Reduction) team routinely looks for ways to save energy by checking base buildings and high-energy facilities. Requests are taken for offices who'd like a visit from the MISER team.

Other updates include updating the energy dashboard, a computer program that manages and monitors an organization's energy consumption. Enhancing this can give more of an accurate picture of how facilities can continue to be aware of where their energy is used. 

Upgrades are also being explored on the local area network system to accommodate future technology. One project under development is a large metering system to accurately measure energy usage in specific buildings. 

Saving energy can't be done in a vacuum. Base working groups involve everyone from senior leaders to employees, to include energy awareness and conservation, facility energy, ground fuels, IT energy and industrial energy working subgroups.

"Our hope and expectations are to utilize these groups to get the word out, and how everything we do on this base affects our overall energy consumption," he said.