Green Wiki

This manual explains how school districts can install renewable energy and efficiency at no cost to the schooldistrict or taxpayer.

Renewable technologies such as solar power, wind,or geothermal eventually generate enough energy to pay forthemselves. Energy efficiency upgrades such as insulating or replacing light bulbs reduce energy expenses,and like renewable energy can generate enough savings to pay for itself. By coupling energy efficiency upgrades which immediately yield energy savings with renewable energy installations that generate free energy,school districts can recoup the cost of the initial investments within 10-15 years. However,often the initial investment can seem un-manageable, especially when school districts struggle to maintain basic services under a reasonable tax burden. Rebates and tax credits from LIPA,NY SED and the federal government can help to overcome that barrier,but forschool districts that are reluctant or unable to finance the upgrades, energy service companies can reduce the expense to ZERO. That’s right! School districts can upgrade to energy efficient equipment, install renewable energy, and not pay a penny! Schools can even make money!


The energy service company (ESCO) inspects the school district’s facilities and recommends energy efficiency upgrades that will generate the largest energy savings. Renewable technologies are selected based on site-specific building characteristics and school district preference.The auditor then calculates the monthly savings generated by the efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, and the length of time for the work to pay for itself. The school district can take out a municipal lease,and the lease is structured so that the monthly bill charged to schools is slightly less than the predicted monthly savings for the work. This lease does not go against the debt services for the district.The contractor gets paid for the work,the cost of the loan is paid by the upgrades,and the school district nets a savings every month. Many ESCOs will guarantee that savings will exceed the cost of the loan payment, and will make up the difference if the savings fall short.

LIPA can offer many of the same services as an ESCO,but schools will have to arrange more of the contracting and financing on their own,and there is noguarantee,so the lease may be structured as a debt.A list of ESCO’s and more information can be found at [1]

If your schools is in Michigan, be sure to look at the Michigan Renewable Schools Program. The program offers financial and technical assistance to K-12 schools statewide designed to lower energy costs, install renewable energy systems, and educate the next generation so that they can fully contribute to meeting and exceeding 2030 and 2050 carbon reduction targets. The program is funded by a $3.5M grant from the State of Michigan and is administered by Energy Works Michigan, a non-profit organization. For more infor visit:


Carle Place school district negotiated with energy serv-ice company Johnson Controls for the installation of 49kW distributed over five photovoltaic solar systemsin its three schools. The solar panels qualified for a $200,000 LIPA rebate, and lowered the district’s annual electric bills by more than $10,000. Johnson Controlsrecommended 17 energy-performance changes for dis-trict buildings. The largest single cost-saving measure was the replacement of 5,000 light bulbs to more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. According to Dan Sabia, the director of facilities and operations for the district and the guiding force behind the installations,$2.5 million in work was done at no expense to the tax payer. After payments the first year, the district had about $17,000 in surplus savings. Over the 18 years of the contract, the district expects to save nearly $500,000. As for the value providing a hands-on education in renewable energy for their students while reducing future CO2 emissions- that’s priceless.

How LIPA can Help Your School

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) can offer schools several important types of assistance-

  • Planning
  • Financial assistance with project modeling and commissioning.
  • Rebates

Planning for Existing buildings

LIPA can perform energy audits at no cost and help in selecting energy efficient and renewable measures. LIPA can also examine your existing building upgrade plans to look for ways to maximize efficiency.

Planning for New Construction or Renovation

Financial assistance with energy modeling and commissioning.
  • Energy Modeling- LIPA will work hand in hand with building owners and their design teams to choose energy-efficient measures and equipment that integrate building envelope and operating systems to design a betterbuilding. For new construction and major retrofits.
  • Commissioning- LIPA will assist in funding commissioning- documented confirmation that building systemsmeet intended criteria and satisfy the owner's operational needs. Benefits of commissioning include optimized ef-ficiency of energy consuming systems, better operation and maintenance, fewer construction deficiencies, greateroccupant comfort, and reduced construction costs.

Rebates on renewable energy, energy efficiency installations, including LEED green building incentives.

  • Renewable rebates
-In 2007 the solar rebate stood at $4.50/watt for schools, with a maximum of 10kW per meter. Up to 5 metered systems can be aggregated.
-Geothermal rebate - customized to project.
-Solar thermal, wind- no incentives at this time, but LIPA can help with planning.
  • LEED rebates
Up to $25k in rebates is available for specific energy related LEED points. In addition to the $25,000 and the com-missioning and energy modeling assistance, the rebate cap for energy efficiency projects has been raised to $500,000 for LEED certified buildings. Ex: Hampton Bays Middle School is LEED certified.:::*Specific rebates for high efficiency units
Specifics can be found on LIPA’s website. Rebated equipment includes high efficiency motors, pumps, HVAC, light-ing, reflective roof coatings, lighting controls, building shells. Open to Prescriptive, Custom, and Whole Buildingrebates. Schools can request an audit from LIPA at no cost.:::*Other RECAP- retrofits where ESCO’s contract directly with LIPA for rebates.

LIPA Contacts for Schools: Schools Account Manager: Robert Scipioni 631-755-5353 Schools Project Manager: Juliana Griffiths 631-755-5359


Financing is negotiated and can vary from project to project. Part of an ESCO’s performance contract is toarrange for financing. The payment/cash flow is planned to match up with the resultant savings. This structureresults in a cash neutral or positive cash flow program for the term of the agreement.
The financial loan or lease is with the schooldistrict and the financial company, whether it'sSiemens Credit Services, Bank of America, etc. Themost common thing a school district will do is takeout a municipal lease at the beginning of the project.A municipal lease is a normal loan through a bank, just one set aside for municipalities, schools, etc. The rates are based apon this.
The ESCO performs the work and is paid in fullat the time of completion of the project- i.e. paid moreor less upfront. This is usually a staggered paymentthroughout construction. The loan or lease is thenpaid off with the energy savings over time. Theschools will keep the budget for utilities the same eachyear, however, with the implementation of the proj-ect, the budget will exceed the cost allowing the district to pay the loan.
The district will receive state aid (SED or State Ed-ucation Department aid) on these projects- this too helpsto pay for the loan and helps the cash flow become pos-itive.
The lease does not go against the debt servicesfor the district. Typically, when a district does work undera capital bond project, the repayment of that bond is listedas a debt on the district's books, as opposed to an EnergyPerformance Contract, which is not listed as a debt. In thiscase, the moneys are paid from current operating budg-ets (utility/maintenance & operations) instead of from anycapital costs. It is paid for out of the energy savings andthe district does a budgetary transfer out of the opera-tional budget to the debt services budget to pay this lease.
Most ESCO’s guarantee the financial savings, thuseliminating financial risk to the district.

Income and Expenses for an ESCO project are likely to include the following

  • Energy Savings (income)- This is the difference between the projected energy costs withoutimprovements and the actual energy costs with improvements
  • SED building aid (income)- This is a percentage of capital projects the state reimburses the district.The district will take out a loan when they receive building permits from the SED. The district will realize energysavings, operational and maintenance savings (all outlined in the contract and verified by the SED) and will receive State Aid on the project.
  • Maintenance savings (income) newer more efficient systems can save on labor and service costs.
  • Measurement and Verification contract (expense) the cost charged to the district to 'measure' and 'verify'the savings. ESCOs can go in and make sure the project has actually realized the planned savings. A report isgenerated and given to the district. Districts may choose to keep this agreement alive throughout the entire 18 yearterm, or terminate it once they are satisfied that the promised savings has been realized.
  • Payments (expense) payments written to the loan agency- usually a normal bank, but sometimes to a loanagency associated with the ESCO. Payments include interest.


Today's students will graduate into a future where technical and environmental understanding of renewable energy andefficiency will be essential, and marketable. Your school can integrate the installations with on going metering and measurements into a curriculum for every grade, teaching physics, earth science, engineering, and environmental science.

Several resources exist to help you to develop curricula for your students’ needs:

  • Siemens and some other ESCOs offer course development, teacher and staff training, and more.
  • US DOE EERE has collected a major resource with curricula for grades K-12+ [2]
  • NYSERDA offers an Energy Smart Schools Program [3]
  • SEA Sound Energy Alternatives will work with your school to develop an integrated monitoring systemand curriculum [4]

This material is provided for informational purposes by the Long Island Sierra Club [5].Thanks to Keely Braud of Johnson Controls, Bill Tangney of Siemens, and Randy Spitzer of LIPA for their help.