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Energy program saves big bucks

An ongoing energy curtailment program helped the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District save more than $190,000 last year.

Del Ambrosia, director of facilities and operations, reported to the School Board on Wednesday that through reduced consumption of natural gas, electricity and water and increased efficiency of equipment, $190,627 in costs were avoided in 2007-08. Since the program started in 2001, Niagara Wheatfield has saved $1,374,171, he noted.

Ambrosia said classroom temperatures are maintained between 69 and 76 degrees, depending on the season, while unused areas have automatic heat and lighting reductions. Utility bills are continually reviewed for errors, and equipment is upgraded as needed, according to the program.

He may also find himself unplugging computers and turning off lights to help the effort.

The program's performance was impacted by high utility rate increases.

The district spent $456,027 on gas last year, up from $343,032 the year before. However, Ambrosia pointed out that costs should have been higher according to projections because of the added square footage in many of the buildings and the 20 percent hike in gas prices.

He acknowledged that gas projections can be difficult, as it is "a volatile commodity that goes up and down like a yo-yo."

Electric costs actually decreased from $590,588 to $395,788 even though usage went up 8 percent, he said. The savings are attributed to funding from the Niagara County Greenway Project, which reduced the cost of kilowatt-hours from 13 to 6 cents.

Program improvements that need to be continued include upgrading of energy management software, training of district staff and standardizing all building temperature and light settings.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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