Caddo Parish, Louisiana, School District Debates its Energy Path

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When does it make sense to bring in an outside energy efficiency organization and when is the wisest path to add personnel to do the heavy lifting internally?

That is the question raised by an ongoing situation in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, which includes Shreveport. The story at KTBS says that school district superintendent Lamar Goree wants to bring in the firm Cenergistic to reduce the average $90 million energy bill of the district, which has about 80 buildings. The firm says that it could cut the bill by $9 million during a five year time span.

The catch, according to school board member Barry Rachal, is that the company would pocket half of the savings. He thinks that a better path is to replace the current energy manager – who an unnamed school board member calls incompetent – with a certified energy manager.

Goree’s, who used Cenergistic in the school district he formerly headed, said that the plan would include elimination of the position of energy manager. The situation will be discussed on February 7 and possibly voted on later in the month.

The issue raised by the story is an important one. An hour or so surfing the Web provides detail on the leading ways to cut energy use: LEDs, renewable power, combined heat and power (CHP), better management of energy using devices and a handful of others. There are specialty items, of course, but those are some of the bigger items.

All types of businesses – not just school districts – must decide whether to enter into agreements with outsiders to pay for, design, deploy and operate the new systems or to take direct control of projects. There are significant differences in each case, including financing options and strategies, such as energy performance contracts.

In the case of Caddo Parish, the question is whether a certified energy manager is sufficient to get the job done. The implication is clear: A decade ago, an energy manager’s responsibilities and the required breathe of knowledge was far less than today. Organizations must not only decide whether or not to primarily rely on outsiders, but also make sure that their energy manager is capable.

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