Project Suggests Nonprofits May See Significant Savings In Energy Conservation

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Since 2009, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has been deeply engaged in helping the small private colleges and universities eligible for support from the Fund conserve energy and reduce their energy costs.

Earlier this year, the Fund conducted a small project to learn whether similar energy conservation efforts would offer significant benefits for community-based nonprofit organizations.

The results, in a word, were startling and suggest that nonprofit organizations may have much to gain through rigorous energy conservation activities.

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund began its energy conservation initiative for small, private colleges in response to the concerns of college presidents wrestling with growing costs and looking for ways to address the rapidly growing interest in sustainability. The Fund helped colleges take a strategic approach: assessing energy consumption to establish a baseline, building the systems and capacity to monitor consumption in detail, and identifying projects and programs to reduce consumption and costs.

“Colleges and universities are ideal subjects for this initiative,” said Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “They manage large facilities – big physical plants – where likely opportunities for significant savings exist.”

In early 2013, staff wondered whether the benefits experienced by higher education could be transferred to community-based nonprofits.

“This is a different universe of organizations,” said Katie Ensign, senior program officer for the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “Many nonprofits do not own their own buildings. Among those that do, the properties are considerably smaller than a college’s physical plant. Often, there is no staff dedicated to managing the facility.”

To learn more, staff asked Green Building Design Inc., a Jacksonville-based company, to conduct comprehensive energy assessments for properties owned by five Jacksonville nonprofits that varied widely in type and size. (Three organizations are eligible for support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund; two are not.) The energy assessments detailed the current energy performance of the buildings and offered recommendations for energy conservation measures based on a comprehensive energy analysis and field visits performed by Green Building Design Inc.’s Energy Services staff.

Each nonprofit received a written report containing specific recommendations for operational changes or building repairs and/or retrofits, the estimated cost, the potential savings and the payback period. The reports were designed to serve as a strategic guide for the organizations’ capital expenditures.

“When the CEOs of the five nonprofits saw the potential savings, they were blown away,” Ensign said.

Potential annual savings ranged from $3,403 to $50,615. Two nonprofits were projected to save one third of their current energy costs.

Large buildings with inefficient current systems, not surprisingly, showed potential for significant savings. But even the nonprofit with most efficient building (current energy consumption 37% below average) has the potential to save almost $13,000, or one fifth of its current energy bill.

Cost of upgrades ranged from about $12,000 to $260,000, with payback periods of roughly six years or less.

“While there are upfront costs to achieve these savings,” Ensign said, “these are the types of investments that are likely to be appealing to many donors. They provide a long-lasting benefit to the organization and they have the added benefit of being good for the environment.”

Beyond that, Ensign noted, these investments can help the organizations grow their capacity, by freeing resources to be directed toward support of the organization’s mission.

Almost two-thirds of the specific recommendations made to the five nonprofits were for no-cost or low-cost changes that, collectively, would save the five organizations $18,000 a year.

“Many of these are simple changes – like installing timers on certain pieces of equipment, changing lighting or adjusting and repairing vents,” Ensign said. “If nothing else, assessments such as these are a wake-up call.”

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund hopes to share what it learned in this project with other funders in the community, as well as nonprofit property owners, in the hopes that many will be inspired to conduct their own energy assessment and invest in money-saving energy-saving changes.

“All organizations – whether universities and colleges or community nonprofits – need to make the best use of every dollar,” Magill said. “Sharing this knowledge is just another way we can help them achieve that goal.”

Potential Energy-Savings at Five Jacksonville Nonprofits

Nonprofit Building Type/Size Current Energy Use per Square Foot Compared with Regional Average Cost of Improvements (after rebates) Potential Annual Savings Savings as % of Current Energy Costs Payback Period
(Years)
A Office building, 11,232 sq. ft 7% less than average $11,911 $6,726 27% 1.9
B Office building,
42,495 sq. ft.
3% more than average $139,142 $39,975 36% 3.87
C Offices and classrooms,
20,519 sq. ft.
37% less than average $71,537 $12,788 19% 5.59
D Residential quarters, 55,075 sq. ft. 53% more than average $262,275 $50,615 35% 6.1
E Historic theater, 8,148 sq. ft. 16% more than average $12,300 $3,403 17% 3.61