Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin asks colleges, universities to take steps to cut energy costs

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin asked state higher education officials to participate in a statewide energy efficiency plan in a Jan. 9 letter. Fallin estimates the plan could save the state about $290 million over 10 years.
BY SILAS ALLEN sallen@opubco.com Published: January 31, 2012

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-cutting efforts.

“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.”

Setting benchmarks

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-efficient equipment, Krysiak said.

But when university officials began to talk about an energy-saving plan in 2007, the university didn't have the money to replace equipment.

Instead, the university brought in a consultant to help try to change behavior on campus with regard to energy use.