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Firm pitches energy-conservation training for Penn-Trafford

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By Chris Foreman
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

A Texas-based energy-conservation firm estimates it could help Penn-Trafford School District save money on utility bills without any upfront costs.

Ross Kelly, vice president of Energy Education, gave an hourlong presentation at the school board's Oct. 1 meeting to outline the potential benefits of a contract geared toward reducing the district's energy costs.

The district wouldn't have any initial expenses or be required to buy any new equipment, Kelly said. Instead, Energy Education would help Penn-Trafford train a district employee to serve as an energy specialist to help identify the waste in the district's current energy consumption.

Though the district would have to spend money for the training and energy-accounting software, the first-year savings could be around $116,000, Kelly said. The savings could reach $3 million over 10 years, he said.

If the program fails to save the district money, the firm covers the training, software and any other costs.

“Any dollar you spend that does not generate savings, we're on the hook for,” Kelly said.

Norwin, Mt. Lebanon, Seneca Valley and South Butler County school districts are among the 20 Pennsylvania districts that have contracted with the firm. Across the country, about 1,200 districts are clients.

In all but seven cases nationwide, the energy program produced savings for the districts in the first year, Kelly said.

Norwin officials in April reported they saved $165,000 through a 15-percent reduction in energy use during a nine-month period.

Participation in the program enables clients to use the firm's team of engineers to help monitor the maintenance of their equipment. The firm's experts would visit the district buildings as often as 20 times a month in the first six months of the program.

“That could be a big plus,” school board member Nick Petrucci said.

Much of the savings would result simply from encouraging employees to modify their habits, such as turning equipment off when it's not in use. Kelly said one-third of the district's energy consumption might be considered unnecessary.

The offer of the program comes on the heels of the school board workshop last month to brainstorm ways to reduce costs.

Superintendent Tom Butler, who met with Kelly on two occasions before the meeting, said the board now will have to decide whether it would like to tour Norwin's or Mt. Lebanon's buildings to help to determine if it should hire Energy Education.

The firm charges a 12.5-percent fee of estimated savings over 10 years, but the fee is paid during the first four years. The accounting program, designed by a company based in State College factors utility-rate changes and weather conditions into the utility costs to ensure Energy Education isn't being credited for lower rates or mild winters, Kelly said.

“Our goal is to never be in a debate with our client as to what the savings were,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or

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