UB Launches $18 Million Energy-Conservation Projectin Partnership With Niagara Mohawk, Ces/Way And SUNY Project to Cut Energy Bills By 15 Percent; Savings to Help Fund Academic Programs

Release Date: October 31, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has launched an ambitious $18-million energy-conservation project that is believed to be the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by an American university.

The project will cut energy costs while reducing harmful emissions to the environment, making buildings a more comfortable place to live and work, and improving lighting in and around buildings.

At the same time, the entire energy project is being funded at no cost to New York State taxpayers.

The project is the result of a unique partnership between UB, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., CES/Way International Inc., a Houston-based energy-conservation company, and the State University of New York (SUNY) Construction Fund.

UB will receive a $4.3 million incentive from Niagara Mohawk under the utility's "Power Partners Program" with CES/Way.

"This is the single largest energy-efficiency project Niagara Mohawk has been associated with," said Alan C. West, Niagara Mohawk's regional general manager in Buffalo. "Our commitment to the customer is to provide the best quality service, and that includes helping them use our product in the most efficient manner possible."

The energy-conservation project was designed partly in response to Gov. Cuomo's executive order calling on state facilities to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by the year 2000.

In sharp contrast to less expensive, "quick-fix" projects, this package of energy-saving measures takes a comprehensive approach.

Once completed in 1996-97, the project, affecting virtually every one of the 45 buildings on UB's North (Amherst) Campus, is expected to result in savings to UB of at least $3.2 million per year, or about a 15 percent reduction in UB's $19 million annual energy costs.

That annual reduction for this single project will amount to as much energy savings as the university has achieved over the past 10 years through important, but piecemeal, efforts.

"This is by far our biggest conservation endeavor, and probably the largest of any university in the country," said Robert J. Wagner, UB senior vice president for university services.

"Given that state resources will remain tight, this project gives us an opportunity to reallocate on-campus money that would otherwise be required to pay our utility bills," he added. "It's a total win-win."

Wagner said savings from the project could free up about $50 million over 15 years that will be allocated to academic and other programs.

"We're true partners with the state in this," said Ronald Nayler, associate vice president of university facilities.

A critical ingredient in the project was an agreement with the state that allows the savings to be kept on-campus. Nayler said that previously, UB's energy budget allocation was based on the average of the bills for the previous three years; savings that UB experienced as the result of energy conservation were therefore subtracted from the amount budgeted by SUNY for UB.

"This project starts saving UB money from the very first year," said Nayler. "It is self-financing."

Approximately $13 million of the project is being funded through loans.

Energy savings from the project cover debt service and produce an immediate positive cash flow.

After the project is paid for, all energy savings will stay on-campus to be allocated for academic and other programs, as necessary.

"The state's resources are declining and there's historically been a deficit between what SUNY allocates for UB's utilities, and what our bills are," Nayler added. "This project gives UB a way to eliminate any structural deficit."

The financing of the project was extremely advantageous.

The key component is the one-time incentive from Niagara Mohawk, without which the project would not be possible.

Because of the $4.3 million incentive, the energy payback of the project is only four years.

Niagara Mohawk's incentive program is funded by small assessments on all utility customers, creating a pool of money available for energy conservation.

Under the program, the utility has agreed to pay the incentive money to UB for every kilowatt of reduced electric demand. The incentive depends on guarantees from UB and CES/Way that conservation measures will stay in place at the university for a minimum of 15 years.

• Install systems that recover and reuse heat from buildings with high ventilation requirements, sharply reducing energy costs.

• Install new, more efficient electric light motors, fixtures and computerized energy-management systems.

• Install variable-speed drives, which modulate speeds of electric motors so that they run efficiently, and state-of-the-art sensors that measure indoor air quality in a building and adjust ventilation accordingly.

• Convert some building space- and water-heating systems so that they are fueled by natural gas instead of electricity.

• An annual 15 percent reduction in UB's energy-related air emissions, including about 70 tons less of sulfur dioxide and 107 tons less of nitrogen oxide, prime components of acid rain.

• Enhanced indoor air quality.

• Brighter, more efficient lighting inside and outside office, classroom and dormitory buildings, on walkways and in parking lots, and more natural-looking indoor lighting.

• Better temperature control, making for comfortable temperatures in areas in buildings that have been too cold in winter.

"This is the largest demand-side management project in the U.S. that we know of," said Bhoopendra Tripathi, senior vice president for CES/Way.

Demand-side management occurs when a customer implements energy-saving measures, often with economic incentives from a utility company.

"UB is taking a very progressive, proactive approach in energy conservation," Tripathi added.

Walter Simpson, UB's energy officer and project coordinator, said that during the past decade, UB has instituted more than 300 energy-conservation projects.

When New York State experienced a budget crisis, the university continued to implement conservation measures, but they were limited to those that had little or no capital cost, he noted.

"We asked the staff to save energy," Simpson explained. "We lowered acceptable temperatures in the winter and raised them in the summer. We implemented the December holiday curtailment."

Officials knew, however, that the university would have to undertake capital projects if more comprehensive energy savings were to be achieved.

UB was approached by several energy-service companies that were bidding on a demand-reduction project by Niagara Mohawk, to be funded by a special one-time incentive to be offered by the utility.

After several discussions with CES/Way, the company that won the contract from Niagara Mohawk, the advantages of the project became clear.

"UB has lots of engineering talent on-board," Simpson said. "But as it turns out, our ability to devote resources to a project like this are extremely limited. It was very helpful to have CES/Way work with us to help us solve our problems."

The project strategy was developed over the past two years by facilities staff at UB and personnel at CES/Way. All of the project's subcontractors are from Western New York.

Some of the individual measures will change how campus buildings are heated.

For example, the project includes a heat-recovery component. Laboratories in Cooke and Hochstetter halls are the largest energy-guzzlers on campus because of their many fume hoods and ventilation ducts. With retrofitting, exhaust heat normally lost to the atmosphere from these buildings will be recovered and recycled to heat them. Once retrofitting is complete, annual utility costs for the two buildings are expected to drop about $500,000 from the current level of nearly $2 million. Heat recycled by an underground chilled-water system also will be used to provide warmth for Cooke and Hochstetter.

Lighting will be improved and made more energy-efficient. Some 50,000 fixtures will be retrofitted. High-pressure sodium bulbs that produce more light, while using less energy, will replace mercury-vapor and metal-halide bulbs in outdoor fixtures, including those by dormitories and in parking lots. Inside, new fixtures and bulbs will be installed that use less energy and provide more light and better color clarity. The total number of bulbs to be recycled: 100,000.

New carbon-dioxide sensors in many buildings will allow for the automatic adjustment of ventilation air flow, based on the level of occupancy in a building at any time and resulting in better air quality and significant energy savings during times when occupancy is low.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager
Tel: 716-645-4605