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Energy Initiatives Will Ease Utilities Budget Deficit

November 15, 2005

Northwestern is implementing new steps to reduce significant increases in utility costs and an anticipated multi-million dollar deficit in the utilities budget.

The new initiatives, announced last week by President Henry S. Bienen, are in addition to new policies and projects implemented last year to augment the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

“Many policies and projects started last year were also aimed at reducing energy consumption and resulted in cost savings for the University,” Bienen said. “However, unforeseeable and dramatic increases in fuel costs have led to significant increases in our utility costs.”

To further Northwestern’s commitment to sustainability, the University will purchase Renewable Energy Certificates for 5 percent of the electricity that Northwestern uses. The University also has committed $2 million of its endowment to a private firm that invests in companies producing alternative energy technologies or providing services and products related to these technologies. These two steps will promote continued development of clean energy sources, Bienen said.

Bienen directed Facilities Management to take all practical steps to reduce utilities expenditures.

Effective immediately, indoor temperature settings in all spaces controlled by the University’s energy management system will have a heating set point of 68 degrees during the heating season and a cooling set point of 76 degrees during the cooling season. These set points are the temperatures expected to be maintained versus the range of temperatures that had been previously established as policy. These set points are supported by the International Mechanical Code; the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); and City codes and ordinances.

During off-hours and on weekends and holidays, the temperature in most non-residential spaces will be allowed to drop to 55 degrees before heating occurs and will be allowed to rise to 86 degrees before cooling occurs. However, heating and cooling will be provided for academic, research and student program purposes as needed during off hours, weekends and holidays. Deans and vice presidents have been asked to provide a list of those areas and times to Facilities Management. The off-hours, weekend and holiday changes will be instituted Dec. 9.

“Our objective for all student residences is to maintain temperature at 68 degrees 24 hours a day during the heating season,” Bienen said. “In some of the older residences, in particular, achieving this objective may not be immediately possible because of the nature of the equipment and design of the facility but changes will be made over the near term to accomplish this goal.”

Bienen asks that those persons who control the temperatures in their spaces assist the University in its energy management program by using these set points. Facilities Management is taking steps to reduce costs, including reducing steam pressure; using electric driven chillers (versus our steam driven chillers) as the first source of cooling (since our cost of electricity is less than our cost of steam/gas to produce the same effect); optimizing the efficiency of the steam and chilled water distribution systems; installing sensors that automatically turn off lights when a space is not occupied; reducing the number of light bulbs in some rooms; and adopting water conservation measures.

Facilities Management is also examining other measures, such as decommissioning unused fume hoods, reducing ventilation rates in over-ventilated spaces, etc., that will lead to additional energy savings. I urge your cooperation and support in the implementation of these new measures as they are put in place.

“We anticipate that all the measures described above will save Northwestern approximately $1 million per year,” Bienen said.

Individuals can help by turning lights off in rooms when they are not in use; activating energy saving features of computers or turning computers and office equipment off when they are not in use; and reducing the use of hot water.

Persons who have suggestions for other energy conservation measures should contact Senior Vice President Eugene S. Sunshine at e-sunshine@northwestern.edu or Associate Vice President Ronald Nayler at r-nayler@northwestern.edu.

(For more information on Northwestern’s commitment to environmental sustainability, go to http://www.northwestern.edu/fm/environmental_sustainability.htm.)

Topics: University News