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UC San Diego Cuts Energy Use
by $210,000 Over Holidays

January 12, 2010

By Rex Graham

Photo of
During the recent holiday break, UC San Diego engineers slowed ventilation fans, used computer controls to adjust thermostats in the Natural Sciences Building and 89 other campus buildings to reduce unnecessary energy usage. (Photo / Kim McDonald, UC San Diego)

UC San Diego cut its energy costs $210,000 over the recent holiday break by putting most of its 90 buildings (excluding hospitals and clinics) in “unoccupied mode” for 16 days compared to 10 days last year. During the annual holiday, the university is routinely closed weekends, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. But during the most recent holiday the campus remained officially closed for 16 continuous days beginning Dec. 19, 2009.

Utilizing centralized heating and cooling controls routinely used when campus buildings are in weekend or holiday “unoccupied mode,” engineers with the university’s Facilities Management Department slowed ventilation fans, used computer controls to adjust thousands of thermostats to energy-saving settings and took other steps to reduce unnecessary energy usage.

In addition, on their final work days before the break, students, faculty and staff helped by turning off lights and personal computers and idling other energy-consuming appliances and equipment. Most full-time employees (other than those delivering patient care and services) took four holiday days off plus a combination of six days of non-paid leave, furlough or vacation leave during the two-week period.

The university is considering the implementation of a holiday break similar to this year’s for future years based on suggestions received from members of the campus community.

“Energy conservation has become ingrained in every part of campus operations and is built into new buildings, major renovation projects, transportation programs and other campus operations,” said Gary Matthews, vice chancellor for Resource Management and Planning. “The significant energy savings over the holidays is further demonstration that our investments in energy efficiency are helping the university when it is being challenged by state budget cuts.”

The magnitude of the holiday energy savings is noteworthy because the university added three new building projects since the previous year: the 1,060-bed Village at Torrey Pines West student apartments, the Conrad Prebys Music Center, and an expansion of the San Diego Supercomputer Center that doubled its size. All three building projects include stringent energy-efficiency technologies in order to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver.

In addition, 514 older computer servers at the Supercomputer Center were replaced with 270 new energy-efficient models that perform the same functions as the older servers, but with about half the energy consumption, saving the university $680,000 annually.

 UC San Diego and its Medical Center spend $41 million annually on energy to operate 13 million total square feet of classrooms, offices, administrative facilities, labs, libraries, medical facilities, residence halls and other buildings. Minimizing energy consumption in those buildings is crucial to the university’s financial health because economists expect energy costs to rise 8 percent annually over the next several years.

An example of one technology that reduces energy use every day on campus is motion sensors that automatically shut off lights in rooms that are unoccupied. Roughly 25 percent of the campus’s lights are controlled this way, and that share will rise to about 80 percent over the next three years.  UC San Diego also has replaced more than 55,000 fluorescent lamps rated at 34 watts each with more efficient fluorescent lamps rated at 28 watts.

 “When you install that many energy efficient lights and motion sensors, the energy savings are significant,” said John Dilliott, manager of Energy and Utility Services. “And despite their lower energy usage, the new fluorescent lamps provide the same level of illumination as the older ones. We’ve been able to make similar energy savings in hundreds of ways across the campus, and the smart energy grid we’re creating will enable us to take energy efficiency to the next level.”

 In 2006, the university completed $60 million in energy-saving improvements that cut electricity consumption by 20 percent, saving the university more than $12 million annually.

In the second major energy efficiency campaign, the university in late-2009 embarked on a $73 million program to increase the energy efficiency of 25 of its older buildings to lower their combined energy consumption by at least $6 million a year. The project won’t actually cost the university a penny in the long run to complete because it could receive an estimated $14 million in incentives from San Diego Gas & Electric over the next three years. The remaining $59 million will come from low-interest revenue bonds that UC San Diego will repay with cost savings.

For more information about sustainability programs at UC San Diego, visit http://sustain.ucsd.edu


Media Contact: Rex Graham, 858-534-5952 or ragraham@ucsd.edu

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