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Bullitt County Public Schools' Energy Management Program and District Energy Plan

BCPS is one of five public Kentucky school districts that participated in a pilot program with the Kentucky Energy Efficiency Program for Schools (KEEPS) in 2006. KEEPS helped Bullitt build a foundation for and successfully implement a school energy management program. KEEPS also served as a reporting agency that gathered annual energy use and cost data from all public-school districts in Kentucky, so districts could measure and track their improvements over time. The following two policies were introduced by BCPS in collaboration with KEEPS:


Bullitt County District Energy Plan: In accordance with District Policy 05.23 Energy Management, BCPS must use energy resources in a safe and efficient manner with continuous efforts to identify and implement opportunities to save costs, such as recent updates to include new filter and lighting technologies, while also engaging staff and students to commit to energy-saving practices.


Bullitt County Public Schools Energy Management Program: Established in November 2006 through KEEPS, the BCPS Energy Management Program included hiring an Energy Manager, creating an energy management plan, and making low- and no-cost changes to reduce energy consumption. BCPS promotes energy conservation through a variety of innovative programs and initiatives, including an energy mascot contest, pre-holiday break shutdown checklists, and school energy teams.

BCPS adopted the District Energy Plan Policy 05.23 Energy Management to establish a solid foundation for their Energy Management Program. By adopting this policy, the superintendent and Board of Education demonstrated a district-wide commitment to energy efficiency and conservation. BCPS realized there was a budgetary need to help control what it was spending on utility bills due to the rising energy costs and the demands of adding square footage to accommodate additional students. Utility costs had risen 44% within 5 years and in 2005 the county ran $186,000 over the utility budget. District square footage had increased 18% from 2004 to 2006. BCPS established the Energy Management Program in 2006, which monitors monthly utility usage, identifies, and implements opportunities to reduce energy consumption, and saves money for the district. 


The program officially began in November of 2006 by first hiring a district Energy Manager. The Energy Manager is responsible for reporting the energy use and cost data and coordinates all energy management efforts across the district. The Energy Manager, along with the District Energy Committee (which includes the Assistant Superintendent, Director of Facilities, Director of Technology, Director of Finance, Director of Food Service, and other key members) also developed guidelines for all BCPS building users (from students to external groups), covering HVAC temperature settings and schedules, filter maintenance, lighting, and other topics.


The District Energy Committee hosted monthly meetings during the first year to discuss and finalize details of the energy conservation and efficiency plan. One area of focus for the Committee was optimizing room temperature settings, selecting a range that is best for the learning environment while also conserving energy. The Committee considered the importance of occupant ability to control the temperature settings and obtained occupant feedback in the process. In order to ensure staff and students felt included in the decision-making process, the district energy committee placed a heavy emphasis on communication and education. From holding student energy poster contests to sending out energy cost and usage data in emails, stakeholders were educated as to why an energy management program was being developed, noting that saving money on energy costs would prevent the district from needing to cut back on staff and classroom funding. In addition, the district designed the program so that the realized savings would be used for educational materials related to energy efficiency and sustainability to invest back into the classrooms. The staff was also educated on how to operate the HVAC systems in each building and what adjustments could be made at the room level. The District Energy Committee provided resources about how the building automation systems would control the HVAC systems and the importance of holiday shutdown protocols, as well as the impact that personal appliances have on school energy use and costs. Stakeholder input was highly valued, and any suggestions or ideas for improvement were discussed. These guidelines and an energy conservation and efficiency plan were presented to the Board of Education where it was passed in May 2007 and then communicated district wide. Through these shutdown and scheduling efforts, the district realized 10% energy and cost savings in the first 12 to 18 months of the program.


Implementation was divided into three phases, focusing on specific schools and buildings in each phase. In the first year, the district noted a usage reduction of 11% in electricity (kWh), 7% in natural gas (ccf), and 1% in propane over the baseline, which resulted in a cost avoidance (including credits from the utility for corrected accounts) of over $240,000. The energy conservation efforts and cost savings were tracked by the Energy Manager utilizing ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, an online tool used for tracking energy and water consumption that provides each building with a 1-100 score for energy efficiency.


Each year, the district committee re-evaluates and expands upon the plan as necessary, utilizing previously realized savings to further upgrade and/or implement energy conservation measures. Initially, the district focused on small, low-cost measures, such as upgrading all exit signs to LEDs and installing light switch plate stickers to save energy by influencing the behavioral changes of individuals.  A few years into the program, the district committee also identified the need for a better preventative maintenance for the HVAC systems. As a result, the district created a comprehensive preventative maintenance program that is integrated into the work order system, which includes a filter replacement program, water treatment plan, and developed schedules for tasks like cleaning coils and changing belts. 


In 2008, the district entered into an energy saving performance contract (ESPC) to implement larger energy conservation measures such as new HVAC controls, a central building automation system, lighting upgrades, and domestic water heater and boiler replacements. The district has set an aggressive goal of earning ENERGY STAR® certification for each building in the district and being recognized as ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year.

BCPS conducted outreach and communication efforts such as developing an energy management website, which includes a program overview, year-end energy reports, individual school energy data, ENERGY STAR rankings, and public presentations. In addition, equipment shutdown lists are distributed to staff before long weekends and breaks that include information tying these efforts to district savings. BCPS also engages with student energy teams in activities, such as developing and posting energy awareness posters in school buildings and installing light switch cover plate stickers throughout district facilities to remind occupants to turn lights off. Additionally, the district leverages its existing relationships with local media, including the Courier Journal and Pioneer News, to notify the public about the district’s Energy Management Program and any important updates. BCPS also utilizes established partnerships such as the Kentucky National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) for assistance with developing student energy teams and showcasing the benefits of an energy management program. The district also partners with the Kentucky School Board Association and the University of Louisville for access to resources and grants to support energy programs. The Kentucky School Board Association and Louisville Gas & Electric provided a total of nearly $40,000 in grant funding towards the Energy Manager’s salary from 2013 to 2017. This position is now self-sustaining due to these strategic energy efficiency upgrades.


From the beginning of the BCPS Energy Management Program, the district was able to measure the impact of its efforts by tracking the annual reduction in energy use (kBtu/sq.ft.) and cost from $2,268,560 in 2006 to $2,120,155 in 2019.  This reduction is despite a 22% increase in building square footage and utility rate increases. Buildings are regularly surveyed before holidays and breaks to verify that they are properly prepared and that the faculty, staff, and students are following the energy shutdown guidelines.

All existing and new district buildings are benchmarked using the Portfolio Manager tool, which provides each building with a 1-100 score for energy efficiency. The district requires that all newly constructed buildings achieve the “Designed to Earn ENERGY STAR” designation. Based on the rating, existing buildings with the most potential to earn the ENERGY STAR award during the next year are prioritized by the district for future upgrades.

In addition, the district regularly evaluates the impact that behavioral changes may have on utility usage and costs, in addition to mechanical and building systems. For example, BCPS estimates that of the $996,926 in 2019 savings approximately 20% is related to behavioral and operational changes, with 80% due to new mechanical and lighting systems. BCPS has experienced success with small, low-cost activities and investments implemented to help reduce energy costs and use. For large investments and capital improvements, the District Energy Committee evaluates both their budget and the potential for energy savings. BCPS also assesses opportunities to go above the standard code requirements and improve upon the energy efficiency of construction and renovation projects. The Energy Manager helps to proactively update the districts’ construction standards to achieve savings on these large capital projects to streamline preventative maintenance efforts.

List of capital projects:

Four new HVAC systems, including dedicated outside air systems that circulate fresh air; completed in 2009 - First year savings $144,800
New chillers for one HVAC system at a high school; completed in 2009 – First year savings $20,000
Total Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing renovation of three buildings; completed in 2015 (two buildings) and 2018 (one building) – First year savings $53,000 district wide installation of LED lights; completed in 2019. – Projected to save $460,000 in the first year. 

Energy conservation efforts and cost savings are tracked by the Energy Manager using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Utility use and cost data is collected and then reported out to each individual school along with overall district totals to encourage positive competition and reinforce program success.

Variables and monitoring activities tracked include:

  • Non-school-hour energy efficiency HVAC procedures;
  • Monthly utility usage and costs;
  • Non-school-hour energy efficiency HVAC procedures including;
    • Shutdowns over long breaks
    • Temperature Setbacks
    • Outside air units only operating during school hours
  • Rate schedule evaluations to ensure accounts are on the appropriate rate;
  • Replacement of incandescent bulbs more efficient technology;
  • Replacement of fluorescent and incandescent exit signs with LED exit signs;
  • Staff education and awareness such as:
    • Turning off lighting when leaving a room
    • Turning off manually switched exhaust fans
    • Turning off computer monitors at the end of the day
  • Regular school walkthroughs to monitor energy use behaviors and equipment operation;
  • Daily monitoring of HVAC control systems to ensure proper equipment operation and scheduling.

The BCPS Energy Management Program continues to realize increased annual energy savings since the launch of the program in 2006. As of 2019, BCBS reduced energy consumption by 21% from a 2013 baseline across its 2 million square foot portfolio comprised of 27 buildings. This achievement surpassed the district’s goal of a 20% reduction by 2026, eight years ahead of schedule.


In the 2016-2017 end of year report, BCPS estimated the utility costs without the implementation of the Energy Management Plan would total over $780,000 during the 2016-2017 school year alone. The cost to implement the Energy Management Program in 2016-2017 was approximately $90,000 for the Energy Manager’s budget and salary. With bond re-payment factored in, the district netted a savings of $442,694.


Since the inception of the program in 2006 BCPS has:

  • Saved and nearly $7.6 million in utility costs;
  • Spent approximately $76,000 annually to run the Energy Management Program;
  • Repaid $3.1 million for the ESPC bond.


This has left the district with a net cost avoidance of approximately $6.6 million.


As of September 2019, the BCPS Energy Management Program has saved nearly $7.6 million through an average electricity reduction of 35%, natural gas reduction of 40%, and elimination of propane gas use. In addition, during this time, the district increased their square footage by over 600,000 square feet and are still using approximately 34% less total energy (kBtu) as compared to the baseline year.


BCPS earned the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award in 2016 and 2019 for building a sustainable energy program with ENERGY STAR and creating an optimal learning environment for students. In 2019, the district was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as a Better Buildings Challenge Goal Achiever eight years ahead of schedule. BCPS recently announced a new goal of a 30% reduction in energy consumption over a 2013 baseline by 2026 and has added a 20% water goal to their commitment, demonstrating their continual dedication to a cleaner and healthier environment for its students and the wider community.