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Pace University: Coordinated Energy Management Strategy

Pace University has committed to the Better Buildings Challenge and Better Climate Challenge to reduce our energy use intensity (EUI) by 50% and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 50%. The University also adopted an Energy Conservation Guideline that outlines heating and cooling set points for occupied and unoccupied times. 

Within the university, multiple departments increased their buy-in for the Coordinated Energy Management program for different reasons, which include but are not limited to: faculty and staff realized an improvement in comfort while others found the university energy specialists to solve persistent problems that have existed for years. The Facilities Department now contributes to the program and utilizes the energy specialists’ expertise in determining Building Management System (BMS) programming issues to help them in times of need such as freeze protection. The Finance Department also increased its buy-in when the team reviewed the cost savings associated with the energy management strategy. 

Pace University has made commitments to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions, but by 2015 the University was using more energy per square foot than its initial baseline. The initial goal was for a 20% reduction in baseline energy use, but the energy intensity actually increased by 20% over this timeframe.  To address this head on, the University partnered with an energy consulting firm as current staff were not able to focus on energy management with their other responsibilities.

With the help of the consulting firm, the university created a Coordinated Energy Management program and hired two energy specialists to assist in running the day-to-day operations. The firm provided training to the energy specialists and enforced a plan to ensure energy reduction, guiding them to match HVAC equipment to occupancy, provide continuous audits of building space, enforce a set point policy, and alert facilities staff of equipment that may be wasting energy. 

Pace Energy Summary

Table 1: Pace University Energy Summary 

The energy accounting software the specialists use determines changes in weather, building square footage, equipment and building upgrades and calculates an expected energy usage/spend (BATCC) vs  actual usage/spend, allowing them to track for efficient use of energy while incorporating other variables.

The consulting firm provided the proper staff, training, interaction with facilities staff, and engineering guidance to help boost energy savings.  The University quickly realized that energy specialists solely focused on energy conservation could produce better results than installing more complicated equipment. Furthermore, their approach did not require any capital expenditure, so realized savings from the project are able to be invested into other energy savings projects immediately. The University has expanded this program to include demand response that generates about $150,000 in revenue to the University annually with minimal impact to operations. This revenue has funded lighting upgrades, VFD installations, Building Management Software (BMS) Upgrades, Pipe insulation, Solar Benches and other projects that reduce energy usage on campus.

The energy specialists that work full time on campus also assist the facilities staff, help with Building Management System (BMS) programming and scheduling, and help prepare for demand response events. The program also incorporated occupant well-being by ensuring outside air is maximized during occupied times, providing daily flush outs during the pandemic, and alerting facilities staff when dampers are inoperable. The knowledge gained from implementing these strategies was integrated into a formal set of guidelines for the university.

This program has helped Pace University get back on track with its energy and GHG reduction goals and has allowed the University to make advanced commitments, such as joining the DOE’s Better Climate Challenge.   

Enacting change across a large organization can be difficult, but effective communication can help bridge the uncertainty. Initially, there was pushback from faculty and staff regarding the energy conservation strategy especially when rooms were too hot or too cold. However, after demonstrating additional value and highlighting the environmental benefits from the program and showing the university greenhouse gas reduction, the Faculty and Staff has greatly increased buy in. 

Educating the greater community about the program has also helped ease individual occupants’ concerns. Some of the stakeholder engagement and education efforts implemented were to provide updates to student, staff, and faculty groups such as the University Operations Committee and GreenPace, participating in employee development day, guest speaking in Environmental Science Classes, as well as working with the Pace Sustainability Initiative Student group and helping to fund their garden. 

The energy specialists swept the BMS every morning and alerted facilities staff to any issues in the buildings. This proactive approach allows the University to address problems before faculty and students arrive at a building.

Additionally, specialists consistently monitored the building equipment, allowing them to assess performance and make any necessary updates to the Building Management System to ensure optimum efficiency.

Energy Specialists input utility bills monthly to track performance and determine if changes that have been made are impactful and also shows areas for improvement.

The University has seen a 24% reduction in GHG emissions (which had jumped up to about 40% during the pandemic) since implementing this program.  By having a strategy in place and dedicated staff focused on saving energy, they were able to take advantage of low occupancy during the pandemic and increase energy savings.

The Coordinated Energy Management program has had a sustained positive impact and has been in effect for five years at Pace University.  The quantitative measures are in table 1 above (data complete through October 2022), saving over 26 million kWh, nearly 1 million therms of natural gas, and $6.8 Million in operational savings, which has been able to be invested in additional energy savings projects. 

Pace University anticipates exceeding $7 million in savings by the five-year mark.