Real Energy and Cost Savings. Right Now. Here, in Texas.

2015 Climate Corps fellow Phoebe Romero and her supervisor sitting near a solar-powered phone charging station on the Huston-Tillotson campus.
2015 Climate Corps fellow Phoebe Romero and her supervisor sitting near a solar-powered phone charging station on the Huston-Tillotson campus.

We are nearing the end of another successful season of EDF Climate Corps, the 8-year-old program run by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that “embeds” grad students inside companies to find ways to save energy and money and lower carbon emissions.

Over the course of its history, EDF Climate Corps has developed into something of powerhouse from both sides of the energy sector: enterprising students (called “fellows”) discover a passion for sustainability through the act of finding efficiencies in the energy systems of their host organizations, and the hosts benefit from these energy savings while jumpstarting or contributing to their sustainability goals.

This year, 12 Texas companies and public sector entities hosted fellows, and this got us to thinking, what kind of evolution and impact has the Climate Corps program had in Texas over the years? We decided it was worth a closer look and turns out, fellows have been saving Texas schools, businesses, and other organizations a lot of energy – and a lot of money.

Who, What, Where has Climate Corps been in Texas?

EDF Climate Corps fellows have engaged in a wide variety of projects in Texas since 2009, including with cities, public housing authorities, and energy companies, among others. And several of these organizations have hosted a fellow for more than one year after seeing the incredible benefit of the work.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the largest public school district in Texas, and the seventh largest in the country, enrolling over 204,000 students. A few summers back, an EDF Climate Corps fellow worked with HISD on projects in behavioral change, lighting, air conditioning, water use, and more. The fellow identified savings from upgrading lighting and air conditioning that could save the school district over $2 million and 27 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, the equivalent to powering over 2,500 homes for one year. That’s real savings — money that could be spent on essentials like books, teachers’ supplies, and technology.
  • Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), has developed an ambitious target of a 50 percent reduction in campus carbon emissions by 2030, aiming to be one of the most sustainable HBCUs in the country. EDF Climate Corps is helping them reach that goal. Last summer’s fellow found savings of 250 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by uncovering energy and resource efficiency opportunities within individual buildings as well as campus-wide systems. The University was so happy with the results they signed on another fellow for this summer who is currently looking into additional potential energy and water savings across campus.
  • PepsiCo engaged an EDF Climate Corps fellow in 2010 to analyze its Plano facility’s energy performance while charting a roadmap for LEED certification, an accreditation related to the construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings. The findings revealed attractive energy efficiency opportunities that would enable the company to achieve a return on its LEED certification investment. In total, the projects identified could amount to 1.9 million kWh saved annually along with $1.2 million over the project lifetimes, equivalent to over 3.1 million miles driven by the average American driver.
  • At the El Paso Housing Authority in 2012, the EDF Climate Corps fellow proposed three air conditioning and chiller projects that could save 1 million kWh every year, enough to power 95 average homes for a year.
  • The University of Texas Medical Center in Dallas hosted a fellow in 2014 who focused on identifying water savings along with energy. She quantified water usage and identifying water efficiency savings in research labs, thermal energy plants, and through water reuse projects. In addition to the estimated 36,625,000 gallons of water that could be saved annually, 3 million kWh and more than $300,000 would also be saved due to the high energy needs of water.

Why does this matter?

For these EDF Climate Corps hosts, saving money is a large factor, but they are also cleaning up their energy, water, and carbon act. Private companies who support climate initiatives outside their walls can now walk the walk. Cities can focus on providing essential services with money they would have otherwise spent on utility bills, simultaneously improving their energy and water footprints. School districts, community colleges, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions and HBCUs can concentrate on educating future leaders, while contributing to sustainability goals.

EDF’s motto is “Finding the Ways that Work” and, in that context, it is imperative that we are inclusive of all levels of our society—from the most vulnerable to the most successful heads of business, and everyone in between. EDF Climate Corps are our boots on the ground, allowing fellows from different educational backgrounds to see the impact sustainability has on people and institutions through practical applications of knowledge. In doing so, we’re already seeing that the program is shaping the minds of future political and business leaders who will bring Texas – and the entire U.S. – into a more sustainable future.

This post originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

This entry was posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
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