Powers, committee plan to reduce UT water and energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020

Julia Brouillette

UT Facilities Services’ Energy and Water Conservation Program recently launched several initiatives to decrease energy spending over the next seven years, totaling roughly $43 million annually.

UT President William Powers Jr. appointed a committee to reduce UT’s water and energy consumption by at least 20 percent by 2020. According to Stephanie Perrone, one of Facilities Services’ four energy stewards, UT is well on its way to reaching that goal. 

“We need a 12.2 percent reduction over the next seven years, which seems really possible,” Perrone said. 

Since the program formed in 2009, UT has lowered its energy use by 7.8 percent and saved over $2.3 million in energy costs. 

Perrone said the reduction can be attributed to several variables, including increased capital renewal and replacement projects, Utilities and Energy Management efforts to reduce steam and chilled water, the Replacement and Renewal program realignment to replace antiquated systems and increased maintenance efforts.  

“Typically, our usage increases by 3.8 percent every year because we’re always growing the campus,” Perrone said. “But last year was the first year it actually decreased — even with the growth on campus.” 

The bulk of funds UT spends on energy goes toward chilled water and steam, which are used to heat and cool the buildings.

“About half of our energy use at UT goes directly to air conditioning and about a quarter of it goes to heating up the buildings,” energy steward Matt Stevens said. 

Chilled water, electricity and steam for every building on campus is supplied year-round by the Hal C. Weaver Power Plant. The plant burns natural gas to produce electricity and uses the heat produced in the process to generate steam.

Facilities Services is working to expedite the decrease in energy consumption by involving students in its efforts. Stevens said students help by taking part in initiatives such as Longhorn Lights Out, a campus-wide event where participants turn off lights and power down equipment for one hour on a specified date and time. 

“We have about 40 student volunteers who go around and turn off lights for us; that’s one of the best ways students can help out,” Stevens said.

Another new initiative, Conservation Conversations, is a series of speaker events designed to educate and engage the community on issues relating to sustainability.

“The more communication we have with the public, the more we’re going to see people change their energy consumption habits,” Perrone said.