FAMU utility bill raises concerns about usage

For the past year, State universities in Florida have faced stiff budget cuts and Florida A&M has managed to stay on track.

Despite  the increased cost in electricity usage during the 2008-2009 academic year, FAMU was able to meet its utilities budget, according to Deborah Leon, associate budget director.

“This has been accomplished through additional funding being provided as needed,” Leon said.

For Educational and General (E&G) Facilities the allocated budget for this year is $8.350,000. The budget for non-E&G is $3,763,467. The E&G is the state funded portion of the budget. The non-E&G is non-state funded such as Athletics and Auxiliaries.

For the 2008-2009 academic year, FAMU’s annual electric bill exceeded $7 million with a total energy consumption of 68,765,300 kWh, according to Kendall Jones, FAMU director of physical plant.

In the past three years, the cost of electric was as follows:
2006-2007: $5,840.147
2007-2008: 6,071,433
2008-2009: 7,599,862

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Renewable Energy Trust defines kilowatt (kW) as a standard unit of electricity production and consumption.
It means one kilowatt equals 1000 watts.

“Kilowatt-hour” measures the actual amount of electricity it produces over a certain period of time.

Jones said the increased usage was due  to the opening  of several newfacilities. “During this fiscal year, several new facilities came on line,” Jones said. “They are the New FAMU Developmental Research School, Commons Building, English Modular and the Multi-Purpose Teaching Gymnasium.”

The State University System Operating Budget Expenditures showed FAMU’s utilities’ expenses at an average cost when compared with its counterparts with the exception of Florida State University and New College Florida last year. 

FAMU purchases its utilities from the City of Tallahassee for the main campus, College of Engineering, Challenger Center and Vineyards through its Preferred Customer Electric Service Agreement and Natural Gas Agreement.

Jones explained that the peak season of electricity usage for the university is between June and October.

“The majority of electricity usage during the year is for lighting, approximately 54 percent,” Jones said.

Over the summer, the university cut back to a four-day workweek as a way to reduce energy consumption.

In an effort to save energy, Jones added that the university has implemented energy efficiency measures through a Siemens Energy Performance Contract, which deals with upgrading systems that generate heating and cooling.

Oscar L. Crumity, director of university housing, said water temperatures are maintained at levels to conserve cost and meet the residents’ needs.

“The staff is required to ensure operability of energy supporting equipment within each facility inclusive of electrical and water,” Crumity said.

Each unit is charged on the number of square of footage.

Bob Seaton, retail energy services manager for the City of Tallahassee Utilities, said energy use per day can vary widely, but water use is somewhat consistent.

“I usually expect to see students using about 2000-2500 gallons of water a month, or about 83 gallons a day,” Seaton said.  “That’s mostly cold water.”

Crumity encourages students to turn off electrical items and water when they are required and report utility problems at once in order to enhance safety and energy conservation.

Some students said it would be a good idea if the university holds a group information session and discuss the impact of energy savings because they never really gave energy savings much thought.

“Raising awareness on campus is the key to energy savings as I don’t think and do much about it,” said Kesha Dudley, 18, a first-year pre-dentistry student from Tampa.

Some students bring appliances and other electronic items to the residential facilities when they move in. Refrigerators, laptops, televisions, microwaves are some of the popular items students usually bring.

“The university can provide televisions and microwaves so we don’t have to bring our own,” said Ashley Watts, 18, a first-year general studies student from Norfolk, Va.

For students like Octavia Lewis and Dudley, the university can try to influence student’s energy savings because some people are not aware of how much energy they are wasting.

“The university can hold special classes explaining and instructing students how to save electricity and water,” said Lewis, 20, a second year pre-med student from Boca Raton.

The United States Department of Energy recommends fluorescent lights because they use less energy than their incandescent counterparts.

According to a study published at Wellesley University in Massachusetts, refrigerators accounted for 55 percent of energy usage. Lights account for 73 percent of wasted electricity with overheads and standing lamps responsible for two to three times as much energy waste as desk lamps.

The study also showed personal refrigerators use 1,184,334 kWh of energy each school year, which is equivalent to $118,433 per year or 735.98 tons of carbon dioxide emitted per year.

One of the suggestions the study made was for the university to encourage students to purchase energy efficient refrigerators by contracting with a company and providing lower prices for the fridges. Or limit one fridge per room.

Another suggestion was to incorporate a sustainability workshop into freshman orientation and install brighter overhead lights.

Universities such as Duke and the University of Utah have implemented ways to improve energy conservation.

Utility costs are expected to drop for the City of Tallahassee and when it does the university stand to save as well.

“The anticipated  drop in utility costs will help reduce the expenditures for utilities and reduce the strain on an already  tight budget if everyone continues to do their part with conserving energy throughout campus,” Leon said.

The State University System is made up of Florida’s 11 public institutions, which includes FAMU, FSU, University of Florida, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, USF and six others.