Government Energy Efficiency Efforts Paying Off

Millions of dollars in energy efficiency investments in the territory’s schools and hospitals are paying off, saving the government and taxpayers more than $3.2 million in utility bills every year, according to figures from the company that installed them.

Energy Systems Group began retrofitting the territory’s hospitals and schools in 2011, when high fuel prices were causing electricity and water costs in the territory to skyrocket.

In January 2011 the company began a project to retrofit 11 schools with energy efficient lighting and plumbing systems for $6.7 million, funded entirely out of federal stimulus grants. Energy Systems guaranteed at least $1.5 million a year in savings, ESG’s director of business development, Doug Tischbein, told the Senate Energy and Environmental Conservation Committee on Wednesday.

The retrofits included energy efficient lights, low-water use toilets and sinks, and systems to cut off lights automatically when rooms are not in use, Tischbein said. The project worked, saving a bit more than the $1.5 million promised and, in 2014, the territory engaged the company to provide the same lighting and plumbing retrofits for 35 school facilities, using $10.8 million in local funding from bond borrowing. (See Related Links below) That project guaranteed $1.7 million per year in savings.

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Saving water was a major component, Tischbein said. "In some cases some of the toilets were using about four gallons per flush. We took it down to one gallon," he said. They also replaced more than 47,000 light bulbs with energy efficient versions and set up systems to turn out lights when rooms were not in use, he said.  "I also feel it is important to point out that all of this work was completed after hours when school was dismissed. It was completed on time and on budget without a change order," Tischbein told the committee.

At this rate, the cost of the retrofits will pay for themselves in about five more years, after which the territory will be ahead of the game, he said.

Senators also heard a presentation from Ocean Thermal Energy Corp. on the potential for that energy source and an update from the V.I. Water and Power Authority.

No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing.

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