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Saving on energy brings in the green for Gainesville schools
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Most people may associate schools with energy — energetic children, energetic teachers.

But Gainesville City Schools’ John Kemp wants nothing to do with that image.

“I ... check all the units at nights and weekends,” he said. “When I’m in there alone and it’s quiet, it should be dark and cold. That’s what I do.”

Kemp has been the school system’s energy education specialist for nearly two years, carrying on an efficiency program instituted in 2008.

“The economy was becoming very challenging moneywise,” he said. “Our school board and superintendent took it upon themselves to adopt this policy that we were going to run our buildings as efficiently as possible and at the minimum cost possible.”

Those efficiency measures are very similar to what homeowners know: Change out lightbulbs, purchase energy-efficient technology and be mindful of indoor climate settings. All of this has added up to saving more than 272,000 kilowatt hours.

“They changed out many lightbulbs,” Georgia Power representative Cathy Parker said at the Monday work session of the Gainesville school board. “(They put in) occupancy sensors. I mean, they have been to work here for this school system saving some energy.”

Those measures have added up to cash through the electric company’s rebate program. The school system was given $12,000 Monday for those energy-saving efforts.

Kemp said usage today, even with more people in the buildings, is comparable with where it was in 2007.

“Looking at the electric bill and utilities, it appears we just all ran out of the buildings back then and probably just left everything on at once,” he said, laughing. “Even (in 2013), we have more employees and more students in our buildings then we did back then, but we still are using less kilowatt hours in electricity, less kilogallons of water and less amounts of gas. Our usage is still down.”

Kemp plans to continue emphasizing energy-saving measures, particularly with water. He also said there are opportunities with the older buildings in the system to bring in newer, more energy-efficient technologies.

“We don’t want anybody to be miserable with it,” Kemp said. “If kids are in the building, we want everyone to use what you need. Be comfortable, be efficient, be successful to serve the kids.

“And then when school’s empty, that’s where we come in and make sure everything is down and turned off, as much as possible.”