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The Alachua County Commission signed a five-year contract with an energy conservation company to reduce its carbon footprint and spending on utilities.
On Jan. 1, Cenergistic will begin to implement a plan to reduce the energy used by county buildings. The commission hopes to reduce energy spending by 20 to 25%.
Tommy Crosby, Alachua County Assistant Manager for Budget and Fiscal Services, said Cenergistic only gets paid if they save the county money on utilities.
“The estimates are that every five years, we will save about $3 million,” Crosby said. “We’ll share those savings with the company, so we’re looking at about a million and a half dollars worth of reduced need for taxes to go towards utilities.”
In other words, the contract is for $1.5 million, but Cenergistic would only be paid that if it saves the county $3 million over the five-year span.
According to the contract, the county has 131 facilities that will be monitored. Crosby said the company will hire a local point person to audit energy spending and implement the plan.
“Why are the lights on in the middle of the night? Was the air conditioner running?” Crosby said, explaining examples of what Cenergistic will do. “[Cenergistic will] start troubleshooting and identifying those areas where we’re using energy, and then work with our maintenance staff to fix those issues, or work with our staff on how their behavior is.”
County Commissioner Mike Byerly said trying to use people within the county to do this hasn’t succeeded in the past. He’s been working on it for 15 years and feels optimistic about trying something new.
“Bringing in an outside entity that we’re contractually obligated to allow to do certain things I think is the next thing to try and see,” Byerly said. “They’ve had a lot of success with their business model around the country and there’s virtually no risk to the county and allowing them to try.”
Steve Jones, regional vice president for Cenergistic, said he is hopeful the county’s example will get more private sector companies involved who are interested in saving money.
“We’re going to look at the way that the energy is being used within the county, not to degrade the comfort of the facilities, but to enhance the efficiency with the taxpayer dollars. At the end of the day it’s the taxpayer paying the utility bills, and we feel like we need to be a good steward of that money,” Jones said.
A third-party company will be used to determine how much the county will pay Cenergistic during the five-year contract. After five years, a flat amount will be negotiated rather than 50% of savings.