Modern Energy Management

How Wylie ISD Energy Team's Quick Response to COVID Saved Them Tens of Thousands of Dollars

April 23, 2020 Amber Artrip & Nate Nilles Season 1 Episode 18
Modern Energy Management
How Wylie ISD Energy Team's Quick Response to COVID Saved Them Tens of Thousands of Dollars
Modern Energy Management
How Wylie ISD Energy Team's Quick Response to COVID Saved Them Tens of Thousands of Dollars
Apr 23, 2020 Season 1 Episode 18
Amber Artrip & Nate Nilles

Many of us are impacted by school closures throughout the country, Energy and Facilities Managers are no exception. Tune in to this episode to learn how Marcia Coker, Facilities Manager at Wylie ISD in Texas, shares how they quickly reverted to holiday setbacks which resulted in 30% month over month energy reduction. We discuss other important considerations facilities managers are dealing with because of school closures and how districts are taking energy dollars saved and reinvesting those dollars towards distance learning costs. Marica explains the power of having this type of data at your fingertips and provides advice to other leaders who are looking to do the same.

Checkout Wylie ISD's Energy Dashboards here

If you like our show, tune in and subscribe at and please leave a review in the Apple Podcast App. 

Questions, Comments, or if you'd like to guest star on the show please email [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

Many of us are impacted by school closures throughout the country, Energy and Facilities Managers are no exception. Tune in to this episode to learn how Marcia Coker, Facilities Manager at Wylie ISD in Texas, shares how they quickly reverted to holiday setbacks which resulted in 30% month over month energy reduction. We discuss other important considerations facilities managers are dealing with because of school closures and how districts are taking energy dollars saved and reinvesting those dollars towards distance learning costs. Marica explains the power of having this type of data at your fingertips and provides advice to other leaders who are looking to do the same.

Checkout Wylie ISD's Energy Dashboards here

If you like our show, tune in and subscribe at and please leave a review in the Apple Podcast App. 

Questions, Comments, or if you'd like to guest star on the show please email [email protected]

spk_0:   0:02
Hello, everyone. And welcome to the modern energy management podcast. This is the podcast for energy managers, sustainability leaders and facilities operators to share their stories of modern energy management out in the field. My name is Amber. Our trip. And I'm the producer and co host of the show. And as always, it is a pleasure to do this show every week with my co host, Meet Nellis.

spk_2:   0:28
Thank you, Amber. I hate to say it, but we're still living in covered 19 podcast world. Let's keep rolling.

spk_0:   0:36
Yes, we're still recording this podcast from our homes. So bear with us if you hear anything in the background. This is the new normal on the show with us today. We have Marcy a coker from Wiley. I s D. Thank you so much for joining us on the show. No, thank you. I'm honored to be a part of your wonderful but podcast. And how do you all from white? Awake? Wiling So, Marciel, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into this industry and your ruler? Wiley, I have been

spk_1:   1:11
with Wiley eyes d for 22 years. Um, the last five years have been in the Energy Management Facilities Department. Um, they created a position facility manager whose sole role is to manage the energy portions of our of our well, you know, utilities is a big cost to manage the cost and usage as well as I coordinate the district wide scheduling of all of our facilities. And those two seemed to work really good together. And I've been doing that for the last five years. So and I love it. Love it.

spk_0:   1:51
And before that, you were in a different rule. So how was that transition? Well, um, it started in

spk_1:   1:59
the communications Department. I work part time for the superintendent in part time for the Community Relations Department. Ah, component of community relations department was a community education program where, um, 20 years ago, while it was just a little bitty spot on the map. And there's a lot of, um, resource is that we were able to provide by using our facilities, such as computer classes for seniors, a men's basketball program, dance classes. So those would all come through the community, um, education coordinator, which I was that was one of my roles, and then So I was familiar was setting up schedules, making sure h back is turned on. Extra custodians were provided, and I just that kind of stuff with me. Even though I was writing press releases and and working on the website, the district website, this kind of, um was the second arm to what I was doing. So it when the position came hope and it just I just brought all that with me and it just made sense.

spk_2:   3:07
So do you find personally your very passionate about sustainability Then on that side is that you and your personal life is well, is your professional life?

spk_1:   3:16
Yeah, I drive my family crazy most of the time because I'm harping on, you know, turn off the lights. It's it's too cold. It's too hot in here. And you know, so, yes, I'm very passionate about it. My dad was a civil engineer, and this is kind of being into my head at a very early age. Um, so it is very common sense stuff, and so, um, yeah, that that's I'm very passionate about it. Um, and I think that it's nice to see that when you're using taxpayer money, you can really spend a terrific story and communicate out to that taxpayer base that, hey, thank you for blessing our school district. But see, here's how good stewards were being with it.

spk_0:   4:06
That's great. And just out of curiosity, how maney buildings you have under your school district umbrella, we have but 21

spk_1:   4:15
campuses and then four auxiliary buildings. That would be like our transportation center, our administration building my building, which is the service center. And then we have a, um oh, it's kind of ah, more like a cottage which ensure its venture portables that we call it a community annex area, that a lot of our ah, like our diagnosticians, are our physical therapist or speech therapist or have a house down.

spk_2:   4:49
So I definitely want to dig in a little bit more about some of the things you've been doing in this change that we're in. Obviously probably you mentioned earlier, a little strange one of like three people on campus today while you're working. But I didn't want to lose that. We got our first how dio on the intro of this podcast, and we're gonna have to do more of these in Texas

spk_0:   5:10
right? Yes, I agree. I love it.

spk_2:   5:13
So one of the things that, um, you know, Amber and I we were looking at some of your dashboards and noticed. Ah, really impressive response to resource optimization following. You know, this nationwide shutdown of schools. And I was hoping you could walk us through that experience, right? How is the covert 19 impacted your facilities role. And, you know, how are you using modern tools to really make that impact?

spk_1:   5:39
That's a great, great question. Um, ironically, this, But I don't notice. And I run. Irony or not, we started, um, this whole process coming off of our spring break every time our district goes on a extended holiday, I communicate out through my energy committee shutdown protocols for each of the buildings, and these were communicated to their colleagues, and this could be via email or paper, but it just gives him a checklist that as they exit the building for a holiday, please remember to do all these things like and turn off your monitor. I'm plugs much. Um, plug load that you confined power down things. And so we were already in our what we call our holiday setback when we got the news that we wouldn't be returning to our buildings, so we were already at least of the advantage. We didn't have to go back in and and do that in such a rush. Most of our buildings were already prepped for an extended shutdown. We will do this again, Um, like at the end of school year. Excuse me, but we will do this again at the end of the school year. We have a long Thanksgiving break in two weeks at Christmas. This basically gives our chance as a chance to really put our buildings on rest and and can measure What are very minimal load is so now that we haven't returned and light, and we just got the news today that we won't be returning until the next school year. Our buildings are already prepped and ready to go. So what we do is we put it on what's called a setback. Um, unless the temperature outside reaches 85 or above. We don't run in the air war lights. When it reaches that temperature, we will pre cool the buildings for three hours in the morning, usually from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. Um, and then where events need to take place. They need to be placed in special scheduling system, and we will prove air for those locations. What's nice about having that come through the facilities and energy teen is that I liken tell which building will probably be more cost effective for them to have those meanings than to just let them randomly pick one that they want. Because we have four campuses that are chilled water plants and for those of you up north and no, there's chilled water. Plants are wonderful, but they're not very easy to work with. When you only have 50 people in one room, you have to run a whole building sometimes, and that's not very cost effective. So we try to strategically look at each of our campuses uniquely and when we schedule meetings, events, um, we tried to encourage them to pick one that's gonna be the most cost effective for the district.

spk_2:   8:40
And before, when you were doing all that was, was everything done mostly through email and spreadsheets or, you know, is it

spk_1:   8:48
we have A We have an online platform where they can make a reservation that is directed to me on Ben. I will go in and either approve, uh, the H V A C requests or all down the phone and call them and, um then have a nice conversation, maybe talk him into another location. Now, when we did get the notice that we weren't turn returning to school right away, we did do a couple of things because we went to virtual learning for our students. So we did have to operate some areas of each of our campuses the week following our spring break to allow the campuses to do curbside distribution of those. And we are running one building, which is our admin building. We run it 8 to 5 because they'll all rotate staff in each department to be on hand to Obviously we have to pay bills on. Do we have to run our technology? And our administrators be quite frequently to talk about how things were going during this virtual learning episode and Cove in 19 guidelines

spk_2:   10:03
virtual learning. I can tell you, having three kids at home on the virtual learning that has been an experience in itself.

spk_1:   10:10
Hopefully, teachers will get big raises.

spk_0:   10:13
People definitely appreciate teachers more than ever before,

spk_2:   10:17
man. We were just talking about that. My wife and I this morning thinking, Wow. You know, you just don't realize what you're getting for those taxpayer dollars way spoke about before. So I think it's a whole new appreciation for sure

spk_1:   10:30
that I was a substitute teacher for a couple of years and it takes it. It just takes a Demi

spk_0:   10:37
gone to to that kind of work. Yes, it does,

spk_2:   10:41
especially with my two little ones. Is there anything else unique when you think about, ah, your specific I s d and you think about, um, you know, maybe we'll pretend we're not in the cove it 19 world, but is there anything else unique from a modern energy management standpoint that you all will use that word have been doing in your I S t as it relates to energy and sustainability?

spk_1:   11:07
Well, we like to communicate. Are are great efforts. And one thing you'll know about Wiley is you get to know more about Texas area. We don't like to be last in anything. They always want to be the first or the on the cutting cutting edge of of any kind of education or communication tools. So what we did was, um we do have a platform that houses are utility billing, and I like the the lucid building IOS so as more of a communication tool for our stakeholders. So we placed the, uh, dashboard of each campuses usage on their individual web pages. There campus web pages So that, um, parents could see how they compare to either e either across the district or, um, how there how that campuses performing on a daily basis. And then I always have a link back to our facilities department. So if they ever have any additional questions, um, to me, that is a very helpful tool because I think people tend to be very visual. It's a nice, friendly, easy to read graphic. They can scroll through electricity, natural gas, irrigation and domestic use of water and see quite quickly where their dollars are being spent and how Wiley is doing their best to maximize those dollars and then using using them very efficiently.

spk_0:   12:39
That's so great If it's OK with you, I'd love to share those links in the in the description of this podcast for any listeners who want to dive deeper into that. Absolutely, I'm just remember,

spk_1:   12:50
I I should that story with you. We had a contractor cut one of our data fiber Actiq that aligns and said, Three of our buildings may look a little weird for a few couple of weeks that feel free to share this. That's absolutely my pleasure.

spk_2:   13:03
I love how you brought competition into it. Of course, in Texas, right? Competitive. We're gonna have to get you in some competition against some of the other eyes D's out there and really, really raise the stake.

spk_1:   13:13
You know, we'll find out. Texas still District's I'm a part of an organization called the Texas Energy Managers Association. Um, and it's a pretty just pretty new we've been in that. I think we've been around about 10 years, but it gives us a chance to really network regional issues because you'll find that here in the North Texas area, we're in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Our energy challenges are a lot different than what you would see. The Gulf Coast, like Houston, Um, and a lot different than San Antonio and obviously a lot different than West Texas. Have you ever been out West Texas, So it allows us to break down regionally and address those as a region on. Then we have a guiding office in in Austin, Texas. Um, that handles kind of pulls at all in together and shares that out. So that has been a huge resource for us. Because when we were ever stumped on a particular issue When it comes to energy management or if we are in, we're researching any kind of technology to demonstrate. And how's all that information we can? Sure that with one another.

spk_2:   14:27
Yeah, that collaboration is nice. Speaking of West Texas, my dad worked for the USDA in do Miss Texas. And I visited her once and a whole lot of cattle. Whole lot of a lot of dry.

spk_1:   14:39
Yes, Absolutely. Absolutely. We just recently, um, team have recently started a regional office in the Old Paso area. Well, that climbing out there so different than what he would see even going up to do, Mr Love IQ and then all the way across the state. Um, I have a son that lives in Arizona, and I had made the mistake one year of driving out to Arizona I do longer you know Texas than it did you get here. So it's Ah, it's interesting that it gives us a real good chance toe share ideas and this and collaborative work. In fact, Arlington, I s d right here. Um, you know, in our Metroplex was the one that introduced me to the the lucid dashboards, which I really liked, because I know they use them in in school kiosks quite a bit.

spk_0:   15:34
That's right there. They're a good partner of ours. Well, I would love to talk a little bit more on what you're seen with the current changes as far a savings because we were able to calculate some numbers, but I'd love to hear it. Um, from you on what you're seeing. Oh, I I'm loving this. What I'm

spk_1:   15:56
seeing is fabulous. I'm gonna log into that real quick cause I haven't had a chance to pull up my dashboards. Um, what's nice is I can pool all of my buildings into one district report, and that's usually the one I go to the most. Uh, it's my, um, utility district district utility profile, But it allows me to see which campuses because I ranked the campuses and allows me to see where my highest energy users are versus my lowest energy usage. And then it also lets me know how much I'm down. It looks like right now, my percentage is 25% down from the same period last year, which is huge and really aligns with the E P A s, um, gold to get large commercial size district's buildings universities to reduce their energy consumption. By that much, I think the State of Texas initially started out Just say OK, trying to reduce 5% every year. So this is gonna have a huge impact, as those monies and those dollars saved can be transferred back into the academic component of what we do, which is teach kids. And, um, to see these numbers is I'm gonna catch a snapshot so I don't forget

spk_0:   17:21
them because I have a feeling

spk_1:   17:23
when is when this is all said and done? Everything will start spiking back up again. Yeah,

spk_0:   17:28
I think we calculated Dylan and I looking at your chart from even just 30 days. A total of 30% reduction in some 25 K and dollars savings, which is incredible. So How powerful is it to have that data at your fingertips? And how are your your colleagues? How are they doing that? Well, it's nice toe have that information. I

spk_1:   17:55
think most of my colleagues have some form of of pooling in that information. But it's so important to send that to your school board and to your, um, your sleepers, because we don't know what kind of hidden expenses they've had to incur by going to a virtual learning, um, environment. Sure. And so every dollar saved him be obviously earmarked for those emergency type purchases they had to make. And so I'm pleased to know that I have the tools in my hand that to hey, Aiken, Snapshot two or three of these charts and Aiken, I can pull reports that show real clean, easy to read information, and they can say, Oh, yeah, hey, that's That's quite a bit of money that we're not gonna have to pay in utility bills because of you know, the buildings are occupied at this time. And, um, that's when I think that's one of the missions of our school board, and our administrators is obviously demonstrating some fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers and saying, Hey, because of this, we were able to transfer all this money from the utility budget into putting more chromebooks in our kids hands and more hot spots for those that need to have virtual learning or supplemental e. They're learning with some kind of only call soft, soft learning, which means they may have to have packets sent home while you're gonna have to run a lot of paper. Teoh copy off all those lessons and get them distributed. So, to me, is a very powerful, powerful tool. And I'm looking forward to seeing, um, what happens from here till August. I know we will. I still don't know what we're gonna be doing this summer until, uh, they figure out what kind of guidelines we're gonna follow. But we're getting into the hot Well, we started to get into the hot months in Texas and especially July, August and September, so that will be huge. Another thing that we're probably gonna be looking at is we get we get a hidden charge from our utility, provided this in the deregulated market, and it's based on your demand, and I'll be excited to see that we'll be able to eliminate some bar demand or ratchet charges if we're not operating our buildings at 100%. So that's also a huge savings that we may not see immediately that will see it on next year's bill, cause the way it works out in Texas. They charge you a ratchet fee for your load on the system. And then during the months of June, July, August and September, which of the four hottest months they will calculate what your highest demand IHS. And if you aren't able to shed load, you still pay 80% of that charge on your next year's billing cycle.

spk_2:   21:06
Yep, the demand charges were being able to mitigate. That is a huge, huge savings.

spk_0:   21:11
That is where you see most of your

spk_1:   21:13
charges now, because utility costs, I mean the actual cot. For KGB agent, it is ridiculous. It's under three cents. But when you look at your utility bill and see that probably 60% of your bill

spk_0:   21:28
is going to demand, these is

spk_1:   21:31
is is tortured swallow and it's hard to control. It really is

spk_2:   21:38
utilities air like insurance companies, they always get a good game to win. You know.

spk_1:   21:41
I know they let us deregulate market then all of a sudden that Oh, but just kidding. We're gonna find a way to get our money. Somehow. I think

spk_2:   21:51
you made a comment that really resonated. That I think is huge and k through 12 and that you know the money. It's kind of a double win, right? You're saving on resource consumption, which is good for us who are into sustainability. But you're also able to repurpose that into academics and things that really matter for the taxpayers in the district. And, you know, you mentioned Chromebooks and I thought about it even here in this cove in 19 1 of the amazing pieces, because they've been able to do that here in my town is every kid was able to go home with a chromebook for virtual learning. So it's those little things that where the investment really does helped tremendously.

spk_1:   22:30
And another thing that yes, very much so. And another thing I like about this is that community it internally, it's It gives me an opportunity to watch trends for certain buildings. Um, you know, where I let's say, normally very high, efficient, energy efficient building all the stud and start spiking were times, um, it gives us an opportunity to get on the front end of investigating and seeing what that problem ISS. And so that's helpful in not wasting too much energy to light. In other words, we can get on the problem immediately. Fortunately for Wylie, Texas, I don't know if you were, uh, heard the news in 2016. We were the unfortunate city that got hit with a horrendous hailstorm. And I'm talking to the size of grapefruits, um, which eviscerated all of our H back units and roots.

spk_0:   23:32
Oh, man, that's crazy. Uh,

spk_1:   23:35
it was crazy. It was to the tune of $55 million in damage. Oh, my goodness. So and we were in the middle of a $96 million bond, so we had a very challenging year, but turned out to be kind of a great year to start of that kind of a baseline again. Start over on your baseline because we had all Brenda units, Brandon roofs and, um, were able to take some of that, um, insurance money That wasn't, um, that may have already been being addressed in a bond and bond money. We were able to do some really cool energy upgrades because of that. So 2016 15 now, I guess 2015 my base year. And then we have this magic thing that happened in 2016 so that helps us. We know where our new equipment came in. All of its news that we can actually start measuring and can hopefully prevent any wear and tear as much as possible through coordinates, sketch schedule coordination and H Vac scored a h back coordination. But we can also watch trends. And that's that's what I was alluding to I can see now as this machinery starts to age. Maybe there's a problem going on in this building that we need to go ahead and get on the front end. So

spk_0:   25:01
yeah, on that No, I'm wondering if you know, I know you have plans to take some of the savings and, you know, put it into the academics. But do you have any plans to take any of the savings and reinvest in energy conservation measures? That

spk_1:   25:20
is a terrific question that every school district in Texas would love concern. Um, I think ideally In an ideal world, everything goes back into our general funnel savings. All rebates, um, go back into a general fund. Can we? As projects are presented to us, can we sometimes get the additional funding we need? Yes. What we try to do is do everything primarily out of our operating budget first, and then look at low cost, no cost methods of securing funding for projects like comets. Can we do in house? Can we? Can we Can we phase it in, uh, stages where we can go back and do lining retrofits? Um, when we have construction, which we have a lot now because we're doing some expansion on considerable buildings, we can, um, in the building design, capture those ideal in energy efficient equipment and systems up front and then maybe go back and retrofit the older parts of the building. So, ideally, I would love to have the savings 100% come back to the Energy Department, but realistically, we go back to the General Fund, and I don't think we've ever been denied a whole lot of projects that we put out there. Um, unless they're just, you know, unless someone is all of a sudden put a solar panel on something that might get a little cost costly for them. But, um but I think most school district spark are start challenged with that, especially the energy management Department. They work and work and work to try to preserve and conserve and and save that money. But we are in the education business. So Premier Li, that money needs to first address education needs and educational support, and we work out the rest makes perfect sense.

spk_2:   27:26
So do you see in, like, a lot of these changes Have you been in this role for a while? Have you seen the mindset change? Obviously, you talked about communication tools and being able to show the benefits of the things that you're doing in your department group as the mindset changed across other stakeholders and that they're getting more excited about the easy ems that you're rolling out and the savings that are going to the general fund and, you know, instead of just facilities Hey, uh, it's it's broke. Fix it, you know, manage these bills. Are they seeing it in a more strategic view of things that your group,

spk_1:   28:03
I think I think it's getting better. To be honest, I think that the younger of the younger generations that are coming up through the system and get it they're much more, um altruistic and much more environmentally sensitive. But it's very hard at times to get them excited when you don't see the dollar signs flying out of that electrical outlet, Um, you can see a water faucet dripping and you can see a water leak. Um, but when you don't see the number of dollars a command and there's really not that personal connection, Um, but I think it is getting better. I think I think as a whole is becoming a global conversation. Um, and I think more. We are connected through the Internet, through technology, through television. I think those conversations are getting much more, I think much more. Uh, I guess approach for nines. It'll be interesting at the end of this, Um, hand dammit, What kind of data can come through all of our energy managers like, Hey, guys, do you realize if we didn't do because we did this, we were able to do this? And could we Maybe next time we try to schedule something could you really listen to the Energy Department? Next? Um and and I'm also a little leery to say it is Mm. It's not this high priority as we'd like it to be still, but I had, like this that I worked with some great kids from the University of Texas of North Dallas. I worked with some sustainability kids, and to see their passion for sustainability was just so infectious that I would love to see that trickle down to the K 12 level. Um, I think our teachers we're getting better at it. They're younger. The the h of the teachers are getting younger, so they're they're fresh out of college. And this topics, they're still very much topical for them as well. But, um, yeah, working with

spk_0:   30:24
K through 12 kids, they just don't get it. I know we do find that the more you're able to visualize the learning, the better able you are to get that message across in the more effective sustainability programs are. So you're doing all the right things. Yeah, and it doesn't, and it doesn't happen overnight. Um, we, uh on

spk_1:   30:46
this is this is so funny. When one of the first projects that they handed to me, and our Energy Committee was somehow get recycling. We didn't have recycling here on campus in any of our campuses, and it's something percent. But you see how visual recycling is him is very okay. I know. I need to put this here, but that there, um, So it's a very visual, um, exchange and engagement. They know that their oh, they feel better. I recycled this today or I used or reuse this, and they don't realize that that very practice itself is a sustainable practice when it comes to things that are unseen. Um, I think that continues. It continually needs conversation. Um, and right visualization. Show them a chart. Show them the dollars, um, and let them know in credit, just something relevant. Like number of cars, you've eliminated the carbon emissions, eliminated How many trees could have been planted? You know, I think there's a very emotional, um, investment when she give them that equation. But like I said, unless they see the dollar signs flying out, you got it. You got to show another way.

spk_0:   32:07
Yeah, well, thank you so much for coming on. This shows has been won a great podcast, one of our favorites, and we love to wrap it up with a device to our listeners who are also energy and sustainability professionals. So what advice would you give to those folks?

spk_1:   32:25
I think I would just say, Don't give up. Um, there's good days and bad days and Energy management nurses in any job. It's It's very frustrating. I am. I was getting ready. Case in point. I was getting ready to implement a recycling program at both of our high schools, as it does with her cafeteria waste. And I I was very discouraged because it was it. They just want to eat and go. They just don't pay attention to any of that. But at the same time, I was writing a grant for some, um, foursomes supplemental supplies to help that program and found out that we we got the Grant and I was about ready just to ditch the whole program that started all over. So sometimes it takes just you got to take your little winds and make them big wins. So don't give up, um, and try to engage everybody on a very, you know, figure out what They're emotional. Um, hook is to sustainability. Whether it is environmentally, whether it is, how much money can I say? Um, find that hook and then find the tool to communicate that message and stay with it.

spk_0:   33:47
That's excellent advice. Thank you again so much, Marcy A for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. Thank

spk_2:   33:54
you so much. That was awesome. Finds you get excited about

spk_1:   33:58
it, but I know. Too bad they couldn't see me talking with all my hands. I'm very passionate about it. So

spk_0:   34:03
you're gonna have to come back and do a webinar with us so we can see all of your animations. Oh, my God. And my face is, uh

spk_1:   34:12
it was great visiting with you and thank you so much again for this wonderful opportunity. And whenever you're in Texas stopped by Wiley, we

spk_0:   34:21
will we will year Awesome. Keep doing the hard work. The good work. We really appreciate it. You got it. So all the listeners out there Thank you for tuning in. This is the modern energy management podcast. Don't forget to tune in and subscribe every week. We have a new episode for you. You can find it at modern energy management. Darko also, if you liked you like what you hear, don't forget to share it with a friend or leave us a nice review on the apple podcast app. We appreciate that. Thanks again for tuning in will be back next week with another great story for you. Take care.