Saving energy can help keep students’ room rates lower

William Schertz

Eighty-six million kilowatts of electricity … $3.3 million … 29 million cubic feet of water … $1.5 million … 770 million cubic feet of natural gas … $5.75 million …

As one can see, Kent State’s annual energy consumption is anything but priceless, adding up to about $10.5 million in 2004 alone according to the campus environment and operations Web site.

So what does this translate to for students?

“They need to be aware that it does play a role in their costs,” Michael McDonald, director of campus environment and operations said.

Even with more energy-efficient technology at Kent State, such as the new power plant and updated building automation system, rising utility rates are spelling trouble for resident students in the form of higher room rates.

“When resident services decides on the cost of a room, a major thing they look at is utilities,” McDonald said. “When you’re not looking at it month to month you’re not as likely to react. What they need to think of is in terms of keeping that room rate lower and trying to reduce the increases they see each year because of things like utilities.”

McDonald said greater energy efficiency at the university has saved the school anywhere from $750 thousand to one million dollars, but the national rise in gas prices and the city of Kent’s storm water utility have taken their toll on the university’s checkbook.

“At this point we’re cost avoiding,” McDonald said. “As we gain in efficiency at one end, we’re getting clobbered on the other end for fuel and new utilities.”

Additionally, fewer and fewer state taxes are being used for college funding.

These factors make it more necessary for university students, especially residents, to be more responsible with the amount of energy they consume.

McDonald estimates the amount of energy wasted in the dorms costs the university hundreds of thousands of dollars on a yearly basis, something he attributes mostly to students not thinking about it.

Many Kent State students do not take the time to think about energy conservation on the basis that they are not making direct payments on utilities.

“They just pay one lump sum for housing so it doesn’t matter how much energy they use,” said Katie Talbott, sophomore visual communication design major. “It’s not like they’re paying an electricity bill and a gas bill and a water bill.”

Still other students simply do not care how much energy they use.

“They figure they pay to live here, they pay for the education here, so why’s it matter how much they cost the university in energy and water consumption?” said Josh Carter, sophomore philosophy and sports management major.

McDonald said he feels like it matters a great deal if students wish to keep their room rates at a minimum.

McDonald said that the department has done several things to try and make students more energy conscious, including running free tours of the power plant, passing out fliers about the benefits of saving energy and establishing the “Wasting Energy? Watts up with that?” campaign, that allows students to send in their energy saving tips to be posted online.

“We’re open to doing any kind of program that would help reduce costs,” McDonald said.

Other students said they felt that different methods would work better.

“They could have us clock in and out of the showers,” freshman exploratory major Jenny Clouse said.

Will Schertz is the buildings and grounds reporter. Contact him at [email protected].