While California’s energy blackouts have drawn the most media attention in the past year, school districts across the country are facing the reality of rising energy costs. Their costs are rising on all fronts, from per-kilowatt increases in electricity (coupled with an increased need for electricity to operate a growing array of electronic equipment), to higher bus fuel costs, to rising heating and cooling expenses.

Traditionally, schools have not been efficient users of energy. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that most schools can cut their energy usage by 20 percent to 30 percent through easy-to-implement conservation measures. These may include better weatherization, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, and making sure that heating and cooling systems are operating at peak efficiency.

The EPA and a number of other federal agencies and private groups provide information about how to conduct an energy-efficiency audit and improve energy usage:

  1. EnergyStar (http://www.energystar.gov) is a joint EPA and Energy Department web site that provides energy efficiency comparisons for schools and other buildings across the United States.
  2. Indoor Air Quality (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/schools) is an EPA site that includes a “toolkit” for schools to test their most obvious sources of poor energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
  3. EnergySmart Schools (http://www.eren.doe.gov/energysmartschools) is the Energy Department’s primary site for energy-saving ideas for schools. It includes extensive links to local and national sources of additional information.
  4. The Alliance to Save Energy’s Green Schools Project (http://www.ase.org/greenschools) provides information and links with money-saving energy ideas.
  5. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (http://www.aceee.org) provides information about energy efficiency programs, as well as news updates from industry and government.