Saving Electricity is a Bright Idea

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Oct. 21, 2013

Saving Electricity is a Bright Idea

Trinity University joins other schools in agreeing to curtail power use when temperatures rise

By Susie P. Gonzalez

VP for Finance and Administration Gary LoganSAN ANTONIO - Building on its track record as a leader in sustainability, Trinity University joined two other institutions of higher learning and three public school districts in the San Antonio area by agreeing to conserve energy last summer when temperatures rose in unison with demand for electricity.

As a result, the area served by CPS Energy experienced no power outages during a summer that saw more than 40 days with temperature readings of 100 degrees or hotter.   

Through its Demand Response program, CPS Energy helped the colleges and school districts join 204 other commercial and industrial customers to save enough energy to provide power to 17,000 homes served by the utility. During a ceremony at Trinity, CPS Energy officials thanked the educational partners by paying them a collective rebate of $336,845. In addition to a check for more than $5,600, Trinity received a crystal Energy Saver award in recognition of its extensive efforts to help the environment.  

"As a leader in sustainable energy in the higher education area, Trinity University was looking for ways to reduce the amount of power we use on a daily basis on our 117-acre campus," said Gary Logan, vice president for Finance and Administration at Trinity. "When CPS Energy approached us about participating in the Automated Demand Response program on a pilot basis, we saw it as a concrete way to reduce our energy consumption, save money, and help the environment in the process. We are proud to be part of this program."

In addition to Trinity, the program's other partners are the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Alamo Colleges and the Fort Sam Houston, Judson, and Northside Independent School Districts.

Trinity is completing its first year in the program, which was implemented in August and was only in effect for two months. But with the computer software now in place, the University is poised to participate in all of next year's Demand Response cycle, which runs June 1 through Sept. 30, said Jim Baker, associate director of Facilities Services at Trinity.

During the fall and winter months, Baker plans to continue some of the energy reduction measures that require less electricity to heat and cool 34 buildings on the Trinity campus that are linked to a central heating and cooling plant.

For many years, buildings on the Trinity campus were heated and cooled by three chilled water plants. Two years ago, those facilities were consolidated into one plant that is now adjacent to the Bell Athletic Center. The control system is housed in a huge room, but through sophisticated software, temperatures can be established or changed at a remote location, including a desktop computer, a laptop, or even a smartphone.  

Frank Almaraz, VP for Corporate Planning at CPS Energy presents a check to Gary Logan, VP for Finance and Administration at Trinity.Baker can log onto the system to determine if the software is working or whether a specific room in a specific building is too hot or cold. Adjustments can be made accordingly to ensure the comfort of the employees, if the building is an academic setting, or students who may be in a residence hall. During the two months when Trinity participated in the program, Baker said there were no temperature complaints.

In addition, Baker said he wanted to honor the intent of former Trinity President John R. Brazil in signing the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007, a pledge to promote environmental sustainability and to reduce Trinity's "carbon footprint" by ensuring that its practices and operations are sound, socially constructive, and economically viable.

CPS officials were pleased with the program's energy savings. "Providing affordable electricity to our customers is a priority for us," said Frank Almaraz, CPS Energy's vice president of Corporate Development and Planning. "Our Demand Response programs play a vital role in allowing us to achieve that through energy conservation efforts, which delays the expense of a new power plant."

Susie P. Gonzalez is director of public and media relations at Trinity University and can be reached at