Efficiency Maine Helps Brighten More than 50 Maine Public Schools with Incentives to Support Lighting Upgrades

More than 50 Maine public schools are upgrading the quality of their interior and exterior lighting through a special Efficiency Maine initiative.

The principal goal of Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit initiative is to reduce electric energy consumption from Maine K-12 municipal schools and to accelerate the conversion to efficient LED lighting. The offer supported project work for electricians and encouraged schools to complete the lighting conversions over the 2020 summer while school buildings are unoccupied.

“We were very glad to see broad participation stretching from Kittery to Calais to the County,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust.

Eligible electrical efficiency lighting retrofit projects include interior and exterior lighting upgrades in classrooms, hallways, lobbies, entryways, stairways, auditoriums, libraries, cafeterias, offices, gymnasiums, parking lots, and public restrooms.

“This grant program will help 50 schools across the state to have better lighting while conserving energy and reducing costs,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This initiative not only helps our state meet its energy goals, but it allows schools to use the savings to support students and teachers in other important ways.”

Limestone Community School in Limestone is among the schools that has benefited from the incentive program. The school received more than $38,000 in incentives to upgrade lighting in its classrooms, auditorium, library, offices, bathrooms and parking lot. The school will see an estimated annual savings of more than $19,000 (129,975 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.3 years.

 According to Superintendent Bill Dobbins, they are elated with the results and already have received inquiries from other district schools interested in pursuing similar projects.

“We viewed this project as a way to create a better atmosphere for the educational growth of our children,” explained Dobbins. “Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit program enabled us to combine and accelerate two projects that our budget alone couldn’t accommodate in the same year. We were able to complete it using less money from Limestone taxpayers and while the children weren’t in school. We’re hoping the new brighter, uniform lighting will make it easier for them to do their schoolwork. In the meantime, we’ve already heard from our local police department that it’s easier for them to patrol the school grounds because the exterior lighting is so improved.”

St. John Valley Technology Center in Frenchville is equally satisfied. The school contributed approximately $20,000 to the project and Efficiency Maine contributed $13,000 to upgrade lighting in its entryways, hallways, and gyms. The school will see an estimated annual savings of nearly $7,000 (46,163 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.8 years.

“There’s no question, improving lighting enhances the ability of students to learn,” said Kevin Lavoie, director of St. John Valley Technology Center. “We’re reducing our carbon footprint because LED lighting is more energy efficient. This program also has reduced the tax burden on our community and has created jobs for Maine’s workforce. That’s a triple win as far as we’re concerned. In addition, we’re especially pleased we could complete the project this summer.”

Songo Locks Elementary School and the Educational Services building for the Lake Region Vocational Center in Naples have brighter futures, as well. Together, the schools received more than $10,000 in incentives to upgrade exterior lighting and will see an estimated annual savings of more than $5,000 (39,481 kWh).

 Andrew Madura, director of Transportation, Facilities and Food Services for Naples schools, is confident the projects will help the schools save money and energy. Two years ago, Madura managed an interior lighting project using incentives from Efficiency Maine, which resulted in a 20% to 25% reduction in energy consumption for those measures.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient,” explained Madura. “With a limited budget, this program was very helpful. We were able to complete both projects without allocating additional capital funds. It has particularly benefited the Educational Services building, which houses our buses and equipment. The exterior lighting at the building is on constantly in the evenings for security purposes, making the energy consumption fairly high.

“The nighttime staff have noticed and appreciate the improved lighting,” said Madura. “Aesthetically, it’s much more attractive. It’s also more controlled lighting, ensuring that our residential neighbors don’t experience light spill. Overall, we now have better lighting that requires less maintenance and uses less energy. To me, that’s an efficiency trifecta.”

Louis DiFrederico, facilities manager for the Millinocket School Department, managed projects at Stearns Junior – Senior High School and Granite Street Elementary School. DiFrederico already is a firm believer in the savings he can derive from Efficiency Maine initiatives, having managed a similar lighting upgrade 10 years ago with incentive funds. This time around, the projects improved lighting in the gymnasiums and corridors at the high school and upgraded lighting in the elementary school classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, and lobby. By matching Efficiency Maine’s incentives, DiFrederico estimates the school department will save $7000 a year for the elementary school and $6000 a year for the high school.

“Given the nature of limited school budgets and funding, I had to look for creative ways to get the job done,” explained DiFrederico. “This was a relatively easy process that was readily available and translated into real dollar savings up front and long-range. Without Efficiency Maine’s incentives, I would not have been able to complete these projects.”

DiFrederico was especially keen after he did the math. He calculated that by upgrading the lighting in all the elementary school classrooms energy load dropped from 1100 watts per classroom to 400 watts. Together, both projects will save an estimated 87,000 kWh annually.

“It used to cost $1.33 a day to light each elementary school classroom and now it costs 48 cents,” he said. “The new LED fixtures not only provide better light, but they look better, and provide a modern update to the buildings. Teachers and staff have also thanked me for brightening their classrooms and the building. To me, those benefits are a win-win for the district.”

Efficiency Maine accepted applications for the School Lighting Retrofit Funding Opportunity Notice (FON) between February 10, 2020, and June 1, 2020. The funding opportunity is now closed. Funding was calculated based on the amount of electricity saved by each project in the first year and was subject to caps of 80% of the total project cost and $100,000 per school district.

Efficiency Maine’s Prescriptive Program, which funded the school initiative, offers fixed incentives to reduce the cost of projects and to improve energy efficiency for businesses, municipalities, schools and higher education facilities, manufacturing and other industrial facilities, other non-residential facilities, and multifamily and condominium buildings with five or more units.

To learn more about the Efficiency Maine Prescriptive Program and how to maximize its benefits visit https://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-work/ci-prescriptive-incentive-program/.

About Efficiency Maine Trust
Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator for programs to improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine. The Trust does this primarily by delivering financial incentives on the purchase of high-efficiency equipment or changes to operations that help customers save electricity, natural gas and other fuels throughout the Maine economy. The Trust is a quasi-state agency governed by a Board of Trustees with oversight from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Visit www.efficiencymaine.com for more information.