Ohio State, OSEP Implement Building Blocks to Lower Energy Consumption

The Ohio State University is making investments in sustainability that are leading to tangible change and beginning to move the needle toward overall energy reduction goals. 

“We are focused on building and maintaining more efficient facilities,” said Mark Conselyea, associate vice president of Facilities Operations and Development (FOD). “We must be good stewards of our resources and energy conservation measures help drive Ohio State toward achieving its long-term sustainability goals.”

A 50-year partnership with Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP), a consortium of ENGIE North America and Axium Infrastructure, is helping the university operate more efficiently. In the summer of 2017, Ohio State transferred management of the systems that heat, cool and power the Columbus campus to ENGIE Buckeye Operations, LLC on behalf of OSEP. 

As part of the agreement, OSEP must meet or exceed a 25% improvement in energy efficiency by July 1, 2028, a target that aligns with Ohio State’s overall sustainability goals and a reduction in energy, per square foot.

“Our collaborative approach and shared commitment to energy conservation could actually deliver as much as 35% energy savings on campus,” said Francois Gressier, energy program manager with ENGIE North America.

Ohio State has already begun reducing energy use by making improvements at several heating and cooling plants across campus. The university has the McCracken heating and cooling plant, as well as two chilled water plants and a geothermal field. ENGIE Buckeye Operations and the university have modified how these facilities operate to achieve efficiencies to save energy.

Another strategy to reduce energy use in buildings is a transition to LED lighting that use significantly less wattage than fluorescent bulbs. Last year, crews replaced more than 50% of the light bulbs in Columbus campus’ academic research buildings. 

Brett Garrett, Ohio State FOD’s director of energy, works closely with OSEP and ENGIE Buckeye Operations. Together, the teams will continue to audit campus buildings in an effort to find additional energy conservation measures.

“You look at what options are available to conserve energy in the building,” Garrett said. “Ohio State Energy Partners will look at things that are as simple as changing to LED lightbulbs but as complex as modifying the building controls.”

Ohio State began a power demand management program in the fall of 2019 in 23 designated academic buildings. During times of peak demand on the regional electric grid, these buildings had their HVAC system set points automatically reprogrammed up to 78 degrees – typically for less than three hours. 

“Simply put, it acts like a smart thermostat you may have at home,” Garrett said. “By selectively raising the temperature and reducing energy use, we support overall sustainability goals and receive future cost savings.” 

The pilot program will likely expand prior to fall 2020. Each event is projected to reduce energy consumption by two-megawatt hours – enough energy to power someone’s house for up to two months. 

“Our goal with any new program is to test all assumptions to ensure they will not negatively impact building occupants and will also deliver a strong sustainability impact,” Garrett said.

Additional initiatives resulting from the building audits could include heating, air conditioning, insulating pipes and steam system improvements.