News & Updates


Gulf Power Helps Schools With Energy Savings

Electricity price increases were coming, while budget cuts were looming. 

Dr. Bill Smith, director of facilities planning for the Okaloosa County School District, saw the perfect storm on the horizon. So he and Steve Bolton, the district’s program director for maintenance, created their own energy management program from scratch to help the 35 schools, which serve 30,000 students.


In its early stages, Smith has already seen energy savings that could reach $1 million annually.

“It’s only the beginning,” he said. “This is a huge success story.”


Smith worked with Terry Dawkins, Gulf Power’s marketing representative for the school district which is one of Gulf Power’s biggest customers.


“We had talked many, many times about doing an energy audit at the schools,” Dawkins said. “As the prices started to rise, I was starting to get calls from everybody. We joked that we needed to teach the teachers about energy conservation.”


The first step was behavior modification because it’s cheap and easy. Smith and Bolton went on a “road show” to each school to tell principals and teachers about the energy management program.

“We told them to treat their school like they treat their home,” Smith said.


For example, the school district has more than 6,000 computers and all were being left on each night. Now Smith receives a daily report that lists computers that were left on and that report is sent to each principal.


Other quick and simple conservations tasks:


· They had schools unplug refrigerators not in use during the summer. Each one costs $40 a year to run.


· They urged employees to turn off televisions and lights when not in use.


· They had teachers close the classroom doors so air would not escape into hallways.


“Each principal gets the savings, which is a good buy-in to make it to their favor,” Smith said. “Instead of us playing the bad guy, we wanted to have the principals buy into it.”


Smith’s group compiled a comparison savings from August to November 2008 compared to the same time in 2007 just on behavior modification. The result was almost $250,000 district-wide. That equates to $1 million in annual savings.


“These are the little small things that add up,” Dawkins said.


The next step was to retrofit the lighting. The school board has approved $2 million over the next 12 months to put the plan into place.


Working with Gulf Power’s Energy Services, the school district contracted with Energy Lite to retrofit the school’s lighting system. Starting with the bigger high schools, Energy Lite does an audit to determine if a retrofit is needed. As a result, they put in new light bulbs with 3-4-year life expectancy, compared to 4-6 months for the incandescent bulbs that were being used.


The third part will be a retrofit of controls. Some schools do not have thermostats for air conditioning units, just an on/off switch. Smith’s group will be able to monitor every unit, know when one goes out and dispatch personnel.


“We’re also saving money on labor hours,” Bolton said. “We can check before sending a truck to a school 20 miles away. Before, we were chasing rabbits.”


Smith said the $1 million savings on behavior modification methods will double once the lighting and control retrofits are implemented. He estimates a 3½ -year payback on lighting and 5-7-year payback on controls. He plans similar programs for water, gas, sewer and trash.


“The reason we’re saving so much money is we were that bad in energy conservation,” Smith said. “We’re just scratching the surface.”


Gulf Power Company is an investor-owned electric utility with all of its common stock owned by Atlanta-based Southern Company. The company is a tax-paying utility with rates well below the national average. Gulf Power serves more than 400,000 customers in 10 counties throughout Northwest Florida. Our mission is to safely deliver affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible energy to very satisfied customers in strong communities.