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PUSD 'Green Czar' reports first round of savings to district

By Sara Cardine 05/24/2012

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From June 2011 to the beginning of 2012, Pasadena Unified School District offset nearly $400,000 in energy spending, thanks partly to the efforts of newly hired energy education specialist Chris Anderson. 


Anderson, who segued from teaching math at Pasadena High School to take the position last May, is on a mission to save $1 million in a single year through rebates and energy saving efforts at the district’s 29 school sites. In a presentation Tuesday before PUSD’s Facilities Subcommittee, Anderson reported a total of $398,367 worth of costs had been avoided in six months time. 


Cost avoidance is different from concrete savings, Anderson explained. For example, if last year the district paid $10 for 1 kilowatt of power and used 10 kilowatts, the cost would be $100. And then, say, this year the rate hiked to $11, but with the energy saving efforts in place, the district used only 9 kilowatts — its concrete savings would be only $1, but its cost avoidance would be $11, the difference between what it would have spent for the old usage at the new rate and what it actually had to pay. 


Anderson earned PUSD an additional $19,513 in low energy rebates for guaranteeing unused school buildings would remain in a low-use state throughout last summer. When the totals from a full, one-year cycle are released this fall, Anderson expects the district will have gained nearly $80,000 in rebates. 


During the six-month reporting period, Pasadena Unified reduced its energy consumption by an equivalent of 846 metric tons of carbon dioxide, Anderson reported. The impact of that is roughly the same as removing 152 passenger cars from roads for one full year, or the amount of carbon dioxide mitigated by 21,646 trees in a decade. 


“I like to think of [the reduction] in terms of trees instead of cars, because every time I get on the 110 Freeway, I think 152 of you guys shouldn’t be here,” Anderson joked.


Still too tentative to express outright confidence in the $1-million goal, Anderson says he’s optimistic, but realizes the program will only be as successful as the teachers, administrators and staff who commit to policing their own energy use. 


“It’s my job is to tell people they can’t do whatever they want to do anymore,” he said. “It’s like I’m the Grinch or something, so I expected some pushback. But most people understand what I do and why I do it.”

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