Known for its performing arts programs, Oklahoma City University (OCU) always keeps its doors open for students - literally. OCU provides building access to students around the clock, which makes it difficult to anticipate the campus' energy needs.
As the school's vice president of administration and finance, Mary Coffey must plan for and manage energy usage for the 28-building campus. Throw in the challenges that characterize today's energy picture - such as fluctuations in energy availability and costs - and Coffey faces a complicated task.
"In higher education, there's always a money crunch," Coffey said. "Whatever we can save in utility costs increases the funds available for initiatives that directly benefit students."
So OCU is tackling the challenges of energy cost management through the use of a new tool, the Honeywell Energy Analysis Report (HEAR). HEAR gives OCU a way to understand and address two primary business issues in light of rising prices: the need to find out where and how much energy is being used, and the need to minimize excessive energy use.
GAINING ENERGY INSIGHTOCU has worked with Honeywell for years to manage its energy use and consumption, specifically through performance contracts. The savings from these contracts enabled OCU to fund an energy management system and other upgrades without affecting operating budgets.
Along with the management system, OCU wanted to get a better idea of how to control its energy spending. That's where HEAR comes in. HEAR identifies energy-use anomalies that may be straining operating budgets, and reveals trends and patterns embedded in energy data. The report helps OCU measure, analyze, and understand its energy costs and provides actionable recommendations for boosting energy efficiency.
For example, HEAR revealed ways to reduce utility rates based on campus usage. Prior to implementing the program, university buildings were individually metered. After reviewing utility rates, the university determined a central metering system would be more effective. OCU reduced its 26-meter system to four, resulting in a reduced rate and an anticipated decline in electric charges.
"HEAR gave us a better understanding of how we were being charged," Coffey said. "We have a much greater sense now of how to best use energy and how to reduce associated costs."
The findings of the report have helped cut university energy consumption in several others areas, including climate control and lighting. When the report revealed high on-peak load, for instance, further investigation found excessive use of lights in the university's field house. OCU installed monitoring devices to minimize use and save money.
TURNING DATA INTO DOLLARSOther cost-saving measures include the installation of four banks for thermal energy storage. The banks stockpile low-cost energy generated at off-peak periods for use when demand is higher. Shifting energy purchases to off-peak times has saved OCU tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, the report helps OCU identify mechanical and maintenance problem areas. This proved especially useful when findings showed the university had been using nearly 60 lbs of natural gas pressure to fuel the campus, when the figure should have been around 15 lbs. Honeywell probed deeper and maintenance discovered a gas line leak. The university fixed the leak, cutting related charges by approximately $11,000 the first month.
HEAR also allows the university to see how decisions related to individual buildings can impact the university's bigger energy picture. Coffey asked Honeywell to share the report's findings with university leadership as a way of increasing awareness of energy-saving practices. The presentation started an ongoing discussion about energy, and Coffey now meets regularly with building coordinators to discuss the report and its recommendations.
"People were surprised at what was really going on in the buildings in terms of energy consumption," she said. "They didn't realize all we could be doing to save energy dollars."