University energy saving efforts cut consumption

Emails warned students, faculty of high use in warm months.
September 04, 2013

This summer, University of Minnesota officials experimented with a new tactic to cut energy demand on campus.

University Services sent mass emails encouraging students, faculty and staff to conserve energy when weather is hot and demand is high, contributing to a decrease in energy demand compared to last summer.

Shane Stennes, sustainability coordinator for Facilities Management, said peak energy demand in July was cut by nearly 5,000 kilowatts, or about 6.6 percent, from last year.

“[The email strategy] definitely has, as far as we can tell, had an impact in terms of [energy] consumption,” he said.

Energy demand on campus typically increases with the temperature, and Stennes said the University was successful at sending emails when demand was highest.

At Michigan State University, however, Campus Sustainability Director Jennifer Battle said school officials expect higher energy demand during hot weeks in the summer and are prepared for it.

Unlike the University, MSU doesn’t have programs focusing on curtailing energy use during the summer, Battle said, adding that research facilities are the school’s main energy users.

Stennes said University Services is careful with how many emails it sends out. Some students said they have started
turning out lights, while others ignored the messages.

While energy sustainability and cost effectiveness efforts like the mass emails are important to the energy management department, Stennes said the power infrastructure’s reliability is most important.

“We’ve got to make sure that people have the electrical services that they need in order to study, to take classes at the U and conduct research,” he said. “And after that is really when the cost effectiveness and the sustainability pieces come into play.”

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