Money saved by the energy conservation efforts of University departments will not be lost from institutional budgets, thanks in part to the work of UNC School of Law facilities director Shelby Mann. House Bill 1292 recently became law - and with it, an incentive for all units of the 17-campus UNC system to work to conserve energy and save money.
The law states that 60 percent of money saved through energy conservation must be used for additional conservation projects - and that the governor cannot reduce budgets by the amount saved.
"I've always tried to be conservative with our budget in relations to conserving energy within our building," says Mann. But two years ago, she got word that energy meters were going to be installed in all campus buildings. Mann wondered whether tracking energy use would lead to increased bills for departments - or the loss of moneys from the budgets of those who were successful in cutting back on their utility use.
At the same time, she was participating in the University Management Development Program sponsored by the Training & Development Department. The purpose of the program is to "develop your professional competencies through comprehensive learning experiences" encouraging leadership development and networking with UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central University leaders, explains Mann. During the program, she worked with three other employees to develop a project that could benefit UNC campuses, proving a sense of teamwork and networking with university and community leaders could meet campus needs. After some discussion, they titled their project "Green for Green" and focused on saving money through energy conservation.
There are a number of ways for individuals and departments to conserve energy, explains Mann. As an example, she says the law school can save money simply by reducing the use of heating and air conditioning on weekends and holidays when the buildings are empty.
Mann's team included Mark Obenshain, associate director of HVAC systems; Christine Stachowicz, serials access librarian in the E-Resources and Serials Management section of the UNC Library; and Ratna Jena, instruction technology specialist at N.C. Central. Pooling their resources, they began to identify areas for energy conservation on campus - and key opinion leaders and administrators who could help implement their plan.
When the team began talking to administrators about their concern that money saved through conservation would ultimately be lost to departmental budgets, they learned through legislative contacts that a bill to protect that money had been proposed and discarded in the 1970s. It was reinstated this year, two years after Mann and her team began to outline their project.
"Our team was so ecstatic that something really came to fruition," says Mann. "So often you work on a great idea and it doesn't go anywhere. When we saw the news that the bill had passed, we were thrilled."
For energy conservation ideas, visit UNC Energy Management.
-August 30, 2010