For the past five years, Oklahoma State University cut millions of dollars in utility costs by taking relatively simple steps to save energy.
Now, Gov. Mary Fallin wants to see other colleges and universities across the state do the same.
In a Jan. 9 letter to the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education and presidents of Oklahoma's public colleges and universities, Fallin lays down two proposals to help schools cut costs.
In the letter, Fallin says higher education “accounts for the largest energy consumption in the state,” meaning colleges and universities have a major role to play in cost-
“It has been my goal since I took office to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, to maximize efficiencies and streamline government,” she said.
“Higher education costs continue to rise due to many circumstances out of our control; however, there are areas in which we can realize dramatic savings for the state.”
OSU has saved about $17.5 million on utility costs since the university implemented its energy savings plan in 2007.
Rick Krysiak, the director of OSU's Physical Plant, said the university has realized much of that savings by doing things like shutting off lights and equipment at night.
Typically, when a large institution tries to cut energy costs, it does so by buying more energy-
But when university officials began to talk about an energy-
Instead, the university brought in a consultant to help try to change behavior on campus with regard to energy use.
Some of those changes included mapping out which classrooms were in use at what time of day and using that information to shut off electrical systems in empty rooms.
The consulting firm also made changes to small details of campus buildings, such as replacing certain less energy-
Krysiak said he thought OSU's system could be replicated at other universities. The amount of money universities could save would likely depend on the sophistication of their control systems, Krysiak said.
In her letter, Fallin said the plan would include setting benchmarks for all state buildings and conducting energy audits.
Fallin estimates the state could save $290 million over 10 years by implementing a statewide energy-
Creating a job
Fallin proposes the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education office create the position of chief information officer for higher education. Fallin spokesman Aaron Cooper said that officer would cut costs by consolidating certain services.
A similar office was created on the state level when Fallin signed the Information Technology Consolidation and Coordination Act into law last year.
The law calls for cutting costs by consolidating technology systems and services. Fallin estimates the measure will save the state $166 million over seven years.
Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, said the agency had already taken steps to make the change.
“We have been in discussion with Gov. Fallin, members of the legislative leadership, our regents, and our college and university presidents regarding the creation, under State Regents' policy, of a chief information officer for higher education position within the State Regents' office,” Johnson said.
“The response has been uniformly positive, and we are in the process of implementing this change.”