News Column

VP Shows Off Energy Savings Plan

July 18, 2014



SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa., July 18 -- Slippery Rock University issued the following news release:

Amir Mohammadi, Slippery Rock University vice president for finance and administration, is off this weekend to the National Association of College and University Business Officers conference as a member of its sustainability advisory panel and says he hopes to bring back additional ideas for conserving energy and saving money on campus.

"I was appointed a member of the advisory panel by the NACUBO president before joining the Slippery Rock University team," Mohammadi said.

The new vice president joined SRU in May after serving as executive vice president and university treasurer at Delaware State University.

"I will be taking two large posters to the meeting, one related to my work at Delaware State, and the other representing work under way at Slippery Rock University," he said.

The posters show the two university's commitment, and to-date success, to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

Cheryl Norton, SRU president, has signed on to the climate commitment plan, as has Harry Williams, president at DSU. ACUPCC's climate commitment seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by conserving energy and other natural resources at colleges and universities across the nation.

"I think the panel will be impressed with our results," Mohammadi said.

He said he plans to meet with James Dillon, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education vice chancellor for finance and administration, about issues regarding energy savings that not only affect SRU, but ideas that could benefit either individual PASSHE universities or the entire state system. "I would like SRU to become a model for the entire PASSHE system," Mohammadi said.

SRU is attempting to reach carbon neutrality by 2037 and has implemented a number of steps that are already saving both energy and money and reducing the University's carbon footprint.

Those programs have involved working toward greater use of green power, better building insulation systems, implementing energy saving policies and improving central plan efficiencies through a variety of upgrades, among others.

The SRU President's Climate Commitment poster shows what Mohammadi calls "serious rewards" as it graphs what "the cost of doing nothing," or what SRU's energy costs would have been had the University not embarked on a program of improving its facilities' energy efficiency beginning in 2005.

Compared to a "business as usual" case, in which the University's building energy efficiency remained at its 2005 levels while the unit cost of energy escalated at 2.5 percent per year, SRU's energy costs for last year would have been $2 million higher than their actual cost.

Overall, if all of the SRU Climate Action Plan projects are implemented through 2037, the avoided costs could reach a combined savings near the $95 million mark.

The NACUBO advisory panel, which includes participating members from the University of California, Arizona State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, among others, advises the organization's director for environmental leadership in such areas as campus financing for sustainability projects, operational issues such as energy, dining services, transportation, green buildings and design, leadership and governance and smart growth in campus planning.

The panel's work includes creating a strategic vision and plan for NACUBO to lead member institutions towards a more sustainable future; identifying and relaying the informational needs of colleges and universities and providing feedback on NACUBO's plans and efforts to meet these needs; informing NACUBO of the specific needs of members for training, skill improvement and other forms of professional growth and assisting in the development of strategies to meet these needs; supporting the association's programming efforts through the involvement of volunteers from member institutions; providing advice and guidance to NACUBO members as needed; and maintaining a network of members with expertise in higher education sustainability; and assisting NACUBO in establishing cooperative efforts with organizations having common interests in college and university sustainability issues.

Mohammadi's work at DSU was cited by the U.S. Department of Energy for the commitment to the Obama administration's "Better Buildings Challenge," which is a call to make commercial and industrial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by the year 2020.

Delaware State and the University of California at Irvine were cited at the White House last May. DSU was honored for creative use of finance to garner guaranteed energy savings.

Mohammadi's involvement on that project included work with state regulators to develop "On Balance Sheet, Off-Debt Capacity Performance Contracting: to fund a guaranteed energy savings agreement." He presented the concept at the NACUBO 2013 annual meeting.

He said a number of steps are already under way for expanded energy and cost savings at SRU, in addition to those taken in recent years.

"Now whenever we undertake remodeling or upgrades in buildings, we will be installing 'light on demand' technology so lighting in certain areas will only be on when someone is using the facility or the specific area. This will help reduce costs when someone accidentally forgets to turn of the lights in a classroom or laboratory," he said.

Such lighting technology was used in the construction of SRU's new residence suites where hallway lights are dim, but brighten to full power when someone walks down the hall.

"We are constantly looking at 'low-hanging fruit' for ways to further cut unnecessary electrical power, heat and water usage. And, of course, we are simultaneously developing systems and making use of new technology improvements that will give us even greater savings in more extensive projects involving what we see as 'higher-hanging fruit,'" he said.

Mohammadi's work in energy conservation at DSU earned the university a Second Nature Leadership Award from the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

He is credited with helping DSU reduce its energy consumption by $5.3 million, and decreasing its deferred maintenance by $6.2 million, while reducing the university's carbon footprint by 26 percent by implementing measures to increase energy efficiency and upgrade important facility systems using innovative options for financing capital improvements with energy savings.

Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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