New Hires

Three new hires and repositioned technician are dedicated strictly to combating utility waste and misuse of energy

Within the last year, M&O has radically ratcheted up its oversight of the District’s energy consumption, most decidedly on reducing waste and increasing efficiency. The practice of curbing energy waste is not at all new to the District and its hundred thousand facility occupants. However, improvement is doable and the following dedicated positions will collaborate in intensifying the energy education program that promotes a conservation culture, and in identifying every speck of energy waste and eliminating it.

Conservation Specialist / Energy Educator

Formerly a teacher with APS for 21 years, energy guru extraordinaire Robert Lazar took over the reins of the APS Energy Conservation Program in June 2015 following the passing of the District’s first and long-time head of the District’s conservation efforts, Ron Rioux. Mr. Lazar most recently taught history and energy at Cleveland Middle School while he simultaneously served as the Sponsor of the Energy Club. He is also involved with the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project Training Team. Considered the District’s master energy educator, Lazar focuses on teaching students the importance of creating and sustaining a culture of energy efficiency and savings. In meeting this objective, he strives to create opportunities that stretch students’ imaginations in identifying energy solutions. Under his tutelage, Cleveland Middle School won the NEED National School of the Year for Energy Student Leadership five times between 1998 and 2013. In his new role he will emphasize energy behavior modification at schools throughout APS.

Mr. Lazar facilitates and nurtures a culture of conservation at the schools that incorporates education/curriculum; raising conservation awareness that results in energy saving behavior; and identifying and leveraging internal and external resources — including outreach to communities, APS vendors, and industry partners — to aid in these efforts. He works with the schools in creating and effectively managing energy teams (“Kids Teaching Kids” and “Building Buddies”) consisting of students, teachers, custodians, and administrative personnel. The teams are accountable for developing a school culture that focuses on energy literacy and are committed to working toward meeting the District’s water and energy conservation objectives. In students developing a comprehensive Energy Management Plan for their school, they are required to engage and utilize the ecosystem and incorporate conservation strategies into their lesson plans. Mr. Lazar is also charged with implementing a compelling awards and recognition program for the students and schools participating in conservation efforts. He is currently working with the M&O Executive Director in implementing an incentive rebate program that returns electrical cost savings back to the schools, estimated to be about 25%. The schools can apply these funds toward the purchase of energy conservation curriculum materials.

Mr. Lazar is a frequent invited speaker at community energy events and has served on the National Energy Education Development board of directors and currently serves on NEED’s National Teacher Advisory Board. In recognition of Mr. Lazar’s unfaltering commitment to local and national conservation training programs in energy education, he was honored with the 2015 Distinguished Service Award presented by NEED.

Senior Facility Usage Specialist

Like other urban school districts, APS is not just about providing Monday through Friday formal class instruction. APS school sites have become community hubs throughout Albuquerque and the surrounding rural communities. In every school site also serving as the community nucleus, area residents use schools’ libraries, civic centers, gyms, Performing Arts Centers, cafeterias, sports fields, and classrooms. Even church services have been held in APS classrooms, as well as many of the University of New Mexico’s Continuing Education classes. Schools house numerous ‘before’ and ‘after’ school programs (APS sponsored and otherwise) and some school sites even have full community health clinics. Parent groups, concerts, movie nights, and family reading, math, and science programs have all been successful in driving parents’ engagement and participation in their children’s off-hours school activities. APS is eager to welcome parents and all taxpayers to the sites that they in fact financially support, but it has come at a cost that M&O is not budgeted for.

Monica McComas, the newly hired Senior Facility Usage Specialist, is responsible for scheduling all ‘before’ and ‘after’ school, as well as weekend, indoor and outdoor activities throughout the District. She strategically designates groups to specific locations within each school site in assuming tighter control of water and energy use. She assures that many activities converge at a limited number of schools and spaces within selected campuses that are appropriate for groups’ purposes, rather than scattered throughout the District. This calculated scheduling eliminates the need to heat, cool, and light an entire facility to accommodate a group congregated in but one area. Ms. McComas is truly dedicated to her position and the need to conserve energy. She understands her vital role as the scheduler of facilities use and how it factors into energy conservation.

Ms. McComas manages the APS Facility Usable Program via a web-based registration, rental fee collection (if applicable), and scheduling methodology. This involves regularly collaborating with other members of the WECC energy management team to identify opportunities that optimize/consolidate facility and ground utilization to best conserve resources. The Program has generated $750,000 in rental fee revenue since it was initiated in the 2012-13 school year. It is not intended to make money, however, merely to recover costs. Information and scheduling regarding fees, use categories, and available facility space is accessed through the APS website at

Utility Analytics Specialist

As reducing energy use within a large school system without conceding educational quality isn’t an option, the focus is on reducing waste. Brock Winter, the Utility Analytics Specialist, is responsible for tracking/monitoring and analyzing utility data (electricity, natural gas, water) District wide and reporting his findings of energy use and misuse to management and WECC. The uncovered data drives actionable energy efficiency measures (EEMs) applicable to general work orders and pre- and post-correction performance of equipment.

Mr. Winter also manages utility rebate incentives for all energy saving projects including retrofits and upgrades; directs cross-functional coordination of EEMs; and follows-up with all pertinent parties to ensure timely progress is achieved on identified saving measures. For example, he works closely with WECC and the HVAC Shop in accessing where nightly shut-downs of heating systems can be carried out safely without the risk of pipes freezing. He closely scrutinizes energy bills ($12 million annually just for electricity) and questions all peak charges (via newly established communications protocol) to address the occurrence of spikes in electrical use at schools and how to address them. He performs optimization of lighting and HVAC controls, such as timeclock schedules to ensure that lights and equipment turn on and off on a set schedule − not too early in wasting energy but not too late in disrupting school scheduling. Mr. Winter also monitors automated controls in confirming that they are correctly programmed and operating efficiently. In summary, Mr. Winter manages the electricity lifeline to APS facilities.

Grounds Department water resource specialist (WRS) repositioned to WECC

Responsible for overseeing the proper functioning, scheduling, and programming of the District’s computerized irrigation system, the WRS, Jerry Lee Ebner, is now also an active member of WECC. While he will continue to address irrigation failures immediately to prevent the browning and dying of grass, of equal importance is doing so without wasting a precious drop. The WRS monitors and analyzes water utility data District wide and disseminates information that drives actionable water efficiency measures.

Approximately 182 acres of natural grass is irrigated with an annual cost of $470,200, representing 13% of APS’ water budget − $3.6 million annually. A mere seven of the largest school sites are responsible for 49.5% of the District’s water expenses! As the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) has advised the District that focusing on irrigation is the best application of time and effort in reducing use, WECC and the WRS will start by concentrating water conservation efforts at these top water consuming seven schools. The WRS will also start managing utility rebate incentives for qualifying projects, such as irrigation controls optimization and reclaimed ‘grey water’ channeled to irrigation systems. (See chart on bottom of page 26.)

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