STILLWATER — A program designed to cut energy consumption has saved Oklahoma State University $20 million over the past five years, university officials said.
The program, launched in 2007, relies heavily on behavioral changes by students and university employees, including simple changes such as turning off lights in unoccupied rooms.
The university also has installed energy-efficient lights, replaced outdated equipment and has begun shutting equipment down at night.
OSU President Burns Hargis made the announcement last week at a meeting of the board of regents for OSU and the A&M Colleges. Hargis said the program frees up money that had been devoted to utilities.
“As a publicly funded land-grant institution, it is important Oklahoma State University do all that it can to save money,” he said. “Because of these savings, the university has been able to focus more dollars on academics and enhancing the students' educational experience.”
In February, the state Corporation Commission approved a deal between OSU and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. that would place a new 60-megawatt wind farm near Blackwell to provide power to the university.
OSU officials said the project would allow the university to take down its 62-year-old cogeneration power plant near Hall of Fame Avenue and Monroe Street. Officials estimated the wind farm would save the university $20 million to $30 million and reduce OSU's carbon footprint by 66 percent over the 20-year life of the project.
OSU's program has been cited as a model for other institutions. In a Jan. 9 letter to the state Regents for Higher Education and presidents of Oklahoma's public colleges and universities, Gov. Mary Fallin asked public colleges and universities statewide to implement plans similar to that of OSU.
Fallin said 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.
Later, Fallin signed a bill into law directing all state agencies and higher education institutions to cut their energy costs by at least 20 percent by the year 2020. The measure, which Fallin estimated could save the state up to $500 million over 10 years, took effect this month.