Of the many decisions we face in this division of the university, there are two that unfortunately create more complaints than anything else.
The first is the decision to close campus during bad weather. Actually, as we all know, this is ultimately the president’s call, but we have a good amount of input. To close or not to close during snowy, wintry weather is always a decision that’s going to create a lot of discussion.
The second, and the one I’m writing to you about today, is the decision to curtail energy across campus. That means shutting down the air conditioning in all university buildings for a couple hours during the hottest days of the year. And, well, it’s a decision that certainly ends up making all of us a bit hot under the collar.
We curtail energy on campus for two general reasons.
First, it saves money. Our annual electricity rates are determined based on our energy consumption on the five hottest days of the year across the grid from Chicago to New York. If we’re able to reduce use on those five days, we can save lots of money. So, over the last four years, we have cut back on electrical use across campus from two to four hours on a total of 43 days. We try our best not to curtail while fall classes are in session. In fact, of the 43 curtailment days the last four years, only seven were when fall classes were in session, including three so far this semester. There were no curtailments during Fall classes in 2016 and 2017. The savings are big — estimated between $250,000 and $1 million, annually. It’s a cost avoidance opportunity that we cannot ignore and one of the many reasons we are one of the most efficient, cost-conscious and affordable universities across the region.
Second, as a committed member of the community, state and region in which we live, we feel a responsibility to conserve where we can. On particularly hot and muggy days throughout the Midwest and East coast, the electrical grid can be under tremendous stress. In fact, many utilities will call even residential customers asking that they refrain from over-usage in those periods. By curtailing our energy, we are demonstrating our commitment to environmental stewardship and to the long-term sustainability of energy sources.
We understand that these curtailments can, without a doubt, create discomfort across campus — hot buildings, muggy classrooms, steamy offices. But the discomfort is short-lived and the benefits are quite extensive. We do our best to give fair warning when we know that a curtailment is going to occur. We will continue to explore ways to be a good energy partner across the region. And, as always, we appreciate your understanding.
Associate Vice President, Facilities
Youngstown State University