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   from the issue of October 27, 2005

Energy savings plan put into motion on campus


In an effort to cut energy bills by some $1.7 million, some UNL buildings have begun to go dark and chilly when most faculty, staff and students have gone home for the day.

Many faculty and staff are making better effort to turn off unused lights, computers and equipment and are unplugging their space heaters and taking them home for the winter.

In response to an unprecedented and unbudgeted increase in natural gas and other fuel and energy prices, UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman outlined a plan this month to shut down 22 university buildings between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and on weekends, and to make some changes in heating and lighting an additional 42 UNL buildings that can't be entirely shut down.

Perlman on Oct. 12 informed the UNL community of the planned energy curtailment. In an e-mail to all faculty and staff, the building action list was distributed, showing buildings for nightly and weekend shutdown (like Canfield and Seaton Hall); a list with limited or reduced energy curtailment (like the halls with night research and instruction, Andrews, Temple Building and others); and those exempt buildings with book and artifact collections, animal and plant research. Some buildings will be targeted for specific thermostat operating ranges and others will be shut down wherever no one is working at night.

Thanking the UNL community for its support, Perlman said the changes are difficult because the university "is not an 8-to-5 operation."

"I was pleased to note that none of the requests for an exemption (from energy curtailment) was other than respectful of our need to save money on energy," he wrote. Perlman is also optimistic that these curtailments requested Sept. 26 can add up to as much as $1 million by the end of the fiscal year.

UNL faculty, staff and students are also reminded and encouraged to shut off lights and computers and equipment when not in use, with Business and Finance personnel estimating additional "self-shutoffs" can equal as much as $1.8 million in a year.

"Individuals really need to do their part," said Jim Hines, director of building systems maintenance. "We often hear the comment 'the lights in my office are such a small portion of the university's annual utility bill that shutting them off can't amount to much'. This belief is a mistake."

Hines said the bill for lighting 6 million gross square feet of UNL buildings 24 hours per day costs approximately $2.6 million. By turning lights off for 100 hours per week (nights and weekends) the savings is approximately $1.7 million per year. "That is $1.7 million that does not need to be added to the university's budget via tuition increases or additional state funding," he said.

On an individual level, turning off one light saves between a couple cents and a nickel an hour. "Does shutting off one light switch make an impact? Yes. The total savings is an aggregate of everyone doing what's right and cooperating."

Hines said another problem area is desktop computers. "A computer that is off cannot be hacked when it is not running. In addition to increased security, each desktop computer shut off for 100 hours per week (nights and weekends) will save approximately $20, and if you multiply that times the number of computers, say 4,000, that's $80,000."

Perlman noted that space heaters (which some employees have used in particularly drafty or cold buildings) are another problem area.

"Of course, we are at the mercy of the weather to some extent; if the coming winter is mild, we can anticipate greater savings," he said. "We also need to emphasize how important it is that space heaters not be used, thus negating the energy savings realized by the temperature set-backs."



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