Managing the Perfect Storm of Irrepressible Electric Expenditures
The no-tech chalk board, fundamental to classroom instruction since the early 1800s, was the principal means of presenting the same information to the entire class until the introduction of the white board, still no-tech, in the 1980s. However, along with the rest of the nation’s schools, APS’ leap from no-tech classroom boards to the nearly all-tech classrooms of today has come with a hefty price tag. Computers were first being introduced as teaching tools at APS schools in 1988 and have multiplied in quantity many times over since, along with their accoutrements. Interactive smart boards replaced the white board in 2011 and the even higher energy using Promethean board’s introduction in the last few years coupled with all the related computer technology requires using ever more expensive electricity. The District is navigating through the perfect storm caused by the introduction of technology that necessitates not
only more electrical power to operate but also better “conditioned” air for optimal performance. Desktop computers, laptops, high tech printers, autocad systems, copy machines, and smart Promethean boards, cameras, and projectors – the list is exhaustive – all depend on controlled refrigerated air which is many times more expensive than the evaporative coolers of yesteryear.
The storm only rages on due to the fragility of the electric industry mentioned earlier in this Report caused by the shutting down of coal-fired plants (two dozen across the nation); reductions in nuclear power; a growing shift to more expensive yet renewable energy; and natural gas pipeline constraints. Fortunately, as New Mexico’s electric industry is regulated, the storm is tempered compared to other regions, yet is predicted to endure.
So though the storm can’t be tamed, navigating through it can be managed. M&O is utilizing monitoring technology in identifying high-use systems and trimming use and cost. The District’s highest 20 electric use sites are currently the focus where monitoring technology is isolating which circuit or appliance within the campus is unnecessarily draining energy so the problem can be fixed. Once the diagnosis has been completed at one school, the diagnostic “boxes” are moved to the next school. (See more regarding WECC developments in Energy Conservation section on page 31.)
Lower demand charges spikes
The District is working mightily to reduce the costly demand charges applied by PNM. As discussed in the electric forensic pilot program section on page 34, APS’ partnership with EnerNOC in monitoring electric use and more importantly making adjustments to systems, such as starting systems up slower and/ or earlier in moderating electric use during the costliest peak demand hours. It’s more simply stated than done as a chilly classroom in January is not favorable to learning.