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Study: Wisconsin schools see 23 percent drop in energy use

MADISON (WKOW) – New data shows energy use in Wisconsin schools is decreasing and school district collaboration with Focus on Energy is helping drive that decrease. That relationship also has given districts the data they need to save more energy and money in the future.

Focus on Energy and B3 Benchmarking worked with 212 Wisconsin school districts, representing 94% of Wisconsin counties, to collect and analyze utility data, square footage and usage details at 1,223 school buildings – more than half the total number of schools in the state.

Findings include:

· Wisconsin schools spend more than $175 million a year in energy costs.
· Energy use at benchmarked schools has decreased 23% between 2006 (year of previous comprehensive benchmarking) and 2018.
· That 23% decrease represents $40 million that can now be spent on other priorities related to educating Wisconsin’s children.
· Nearly all (97%) of the districts that participated in 2018 have completed at least one project with Focus on Energy.

The data gathered also points to more opportunities. If all schools in the study improved energy usage to exceed the current energy code, the combined savings would amount to an additional $8.2 million.

The data B3 Benchmarking gave to the participating school districts lets them compare the performance of their buildings – energy consumption, energy costs and carbon emissions – with other schools around the state.

“The feedback (from school districts) has been really positive. People are really interested in comparing to their peers,” said Heather Feigum, who manages Focus on Energy’s Agriculture, School and Government programs. “We’re comparing directly to other Wisconsin buildings, so (the comparisons are to school districts) in similar financial scenarios; similar weather scenarios. And they like to get a grade – an A, B or C. And if they have a lower benchmark, they can take that to their school board and say, ‘Look, we’re low compared to our peers,’ and it helps them build a case for upgrades.”

The data also provides a road map for future energy- and cost-saving possibilities.

“The data can help a school district decide things like which school [building] to prioritize for energy efficiency upgrades, or if they need to prioritize electric or gas. It’s really about creating a relationship with a school district and helping provide them technical assistance deeper than just ‘change your lights’ or [offering] a financial incentive.”

The school buildings included in the study vary in size from 1,500 to 874,074 square feet and were built between the years of 1875 to 2018.

Other key takeaways of the school benchmarking study include:

· Operation of the building had a bigger impact on energy use than the size or age of the school. Well-trained buildings and grounds managers can save school districts thousands annually.
· On average, schools with pools use 12% more energy.
· Heating fuel usage at participating schools dropped 30% between the 2006 and 2018 studies.
· Electricity use still dropped 5%, despite nearly half of the schools studied adding air conditioning between 2006 and 2018.

Focus on Energy offers financial incentives and energy expertise to residential, business and municipal customers of 107 partnering Wisconsin utilities.

A recent third-party evaluation noted it runs the most cost-effective energy efficiency programs in the nation. It also found every $1 invested in Focus on Energy generates more than $5 in benefits for Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced pollution and reduced energy costs.

About Focus on Energy

Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state’s investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities.

Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control Wisconsin’s growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call 800.762.7077 or visit

Chris Watkins

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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