AUSD Focuses on Energy

Schools aim to reduce demand

In a world that places an ever-growing emphasis on sustainability efforts, Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) has recently stepped up with a plan to reduce electric use and possibly generate renewable energy for all its facilities in the near future.

According to Shariq Khan, AUSD’s chief business officer and Susan Davis, senior manager of community affairs for AUSD, the plan is known as the Conservation, Efficiency and Generation (CEG) Plan. Its current objective is to minimize energy demand as much as possible, while considering the limited financial resources available to the district. 

The plan dates back to 2014, when solar power advocates, comprising of Alameda residents and students initially requested AUSD implement solar power into its facilities. AUSD then requested the assistance of Sage Renwables, a renewable energy consulting firm, and Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA), an architectural company. They collaborated in examining all AUSD facilities. This ultimately led to the development of the CEG Plan. In June 2015, the school district developed and incorporated the plan into the Facilities Master Plan, an important component of a larger effort to modernize AUSD schools called Measure I. 

AUSD will focus on the conservation component first for several key reasons. According to a document posted on the school district’s website, “Energy conservation is largely based on behavioral practices to use energy in a more efficient manner. Conservation is free and should always be the first step. Simple conservation practices include turning off lights when not needed, setting thermostats to lower settings in the winter and higher settings in the summer and keeping mechanical equipment properly maintained.” 

The second component of the plan: “Energy efficiency involves replacing existing architectural components like roofs and windows, along with and mechanical and electrical equipment with new equipment that has higher energy efficiency and therefore uses less energy.” The third and final part is generation or the installation of “renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaic systems.”

Khan and Davis noted that implementing the conservation component itself could save AUSD $700,000 to $1 million within five years. Both also stated that since AUSD’s electricity is provided by Alameda Municipal Power (AMP), a company that generates carbon-neutral electricity, it would be unnecessary to immediately initiate the generation process, especially when considering the district and Alameda’s current financial status. 

AMP provides a favorable and subsidized electricity rate — 30 percent less on electricity compared to Oakland’s and San Leandro’s school districts. Khan and Davis said it is best to focus on conservation efforts first, as doing so will benefit both AUSD and Alameda’s residents and students. 

AUSD plans to implement several upcoming comprehensive campaigns that will facilitate the CEG Plan and will address both simple machines, such as parts and types of lightbulbs to more complex machines, such as air conditioning. 

First up is the “zero energy initiative,” which mainly involves unplugging and turning off equipment throughout summer break this year. Another part of the initiative is the possible development of a computer program that can alert users if a computer is idle for an extensive duration of time and will automatically turn off a particular computer if the system does not receive a response. 

“We are grateful to AUSD students and community members who have encouraged us to examine the district’s energy use and create a solid plan for reducing it,” said Khan. “We look forward to implementing that plan and continuing to work with students, staff, community members, and AMP as we move forward.”