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A Roadmap to Energy Savings for Schools

As state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown decide how best to spend the $2.75 billion in new funding made available by the passage of Prop 39 last November, experts at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab today released a guide to financing energy upgrades in K-12 school districts.

The study provides an overview of funding sources available to school districts for comprehensive energy retrofits and offers detailed recommendations for school administrators on how best to implement such projects. The findings should help inform the ongoing legislative process.

Prop 39 allocates $550 million each year for the next five years for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades in the state’s public buildings. The Governor and leadership in both legislative houses have proposed spending the bulk of the new revenue in K-12 schools. While Governor Brown’s proposal would distribute the funds in direct grants to districts on a per-pupil basis, legislators in Sacramento have been grappling with the idea of including a financing mechanism such as a loan-loss reserve program to extend the funds beyond five years.

K-12 schools in the United States currently spend $6 billion on energy costs each year, making it the second-highest operating cost behind only personnel costs. Investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy can significantly reduce energy costs, resulting in increased flexibility for schools to invest in other operational needs, including maintaining threatened curricula, retaining faculty and staff, or purchasing much needed supplies.

Along with reduced costs, these investments can also provide greater health, safety and comfort for students, staff and faculty. “Fixing the hot and cold spots, leaky walls and roofs, and broken windows not only reduces energy costs, it improves the indoor environmental quality of the building, and enhances the ability of students to learn and teachers to teach,” says Allen Chen, who leads the Communications Office at the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technology Division.

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