Oregon upgrading schools’ energy efficiency
Oregon’s schools are about to get a lot cooler. Under the state’s new “Cool Schools” legislation, many schools will receive energy upgrades, and residents will get new jobs as part of an ongoing program that is expected to continue for the next four years.
Oregon’s HB 2960, signed into law in June by Gov. John Kitzhaber, establishes the Clean Energy Deployment Program (CEDP) and the Clean Energy Deployment Fund to provide grants and loans to support energy efficiency or clean energy projects in Oregon. The money allows school districts to fix leaky roofs, upgrade lighting and heating and make other improvements. Forty-three schools had applied for the program by the time Kitzhaber signed the law, and construction on those projects began this summer.
The law also directs the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) to establish and administer a four-year high-performance schools pilot program within the CEDP. “Cool Schools is a triple-win for Oregon,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “The program will bring family-wage jobs, cost savings, and better learning environments to schools in communities across the state.”
As a lead-in to the creation of Cool Schools, in January Kitzhaber directed ODOE to allocate $2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant funds toward completion of energy audits in schools. CEDP was created as a follow-up to that effort, and a different phase of the program is expected to be deployed each spring/summer.
The average Oregon K-12 public school building is nearly 40 years old, with 14 percent of elementary schools more than 60 years old, according to Kitzhaber’s office. Many facilities have leaky roofs and windows, outdated boilers, dim lighting and poor ventilation, and they are increasingly expensive to maintain. Utility bills — often a public schools’ second biggest expense — are growing 20 percent every biennium. “These outdated facilities aren’t just costly; they also make it more difficult for students to focus, stay healthy and learn,” a press release from the governor’s office states. “Cool Schools [also] puts Oregonians back to work across the state by upgrading these facilities. Every $1 million invested in energy efficiency creates as many as 15 jobs.”