Energy-saving program has saved $262,554 since '11

Del Norte County Unified School District's energy program has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mark Giugni, a certified energy manager with Cenergistic, presented the School Board with two awards on last week - the first naming the district as an Energy Star Leader for reducing its energy usage overall by 20 percent and the second designating the district as an top performer in the Energy Star program. To be an Energy Star Top Performer, a school district's buildings must rank in the top 25 percent of energy efficient buildings compared to other K-12 districts in the same geographic region.

Del Norte County Unified School District is the only K-12 school district in California to earn the Energy Star Leader in 2013 so far, Giugni said. The only other Energy Star Top Performer K-12 district in California this year is Palo Alto Unified School District, he said.

"I've been (working) with the district for two years, although I live in Sacramento," Giugni said. "I've traveled to California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho and this is the best district to work with."

The school district entered into a contract with Cenergistic, which is based in Texas and helps school districts, colleges, churches, hospitals and other organizations reduce its energy consumption, and hired Giugni in 2011. The district became an Energy Star Partner in 2011.

Since the program started in 2011, the school district has reduced its energy costs by completely shutting down its boilers during the spring and winter breaks, according to the district's energy manager, Christie Lynn Rust.

It has also reprogramed all its thermostats with new software and developed a strategy to reduce mildew in portable classrooms. Rust said her staff built specialized carts designed to dehumidify the district's moister schools.

The district has spent a total of $262,554 on its energy program to date, Rust said. Its net savings to date is $268,825. The program costs are expected to plateau by July 2015. At that point the district would no longer be paying Cenergistic's fees, she said. The district is expected to save roughly $3.4 million in energy costs by July 2021, Rust said.

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