Resources For School Districts
This page includes resources and examples of school districts in PA that have set clean energy goals, developed climate action plans and taken action to reduce their carbon footprints over time and increase the demand for clean energy in PA.
Schools are a major user of energy and fossil fuels in all of our communities, and have the potential to significantly reduce their energy consumption and GHG emissions. Energy efficiency and a shift to renewable energy will also be cost saving for the local taxpayers.
A list of school districts in the SE Pennsylvania region can be found here.
School districts should consider at least 3 big areas for improvement and the relative value of each will depend on the particulars of a specific building or school district.
Building efficiency. Many of our schools are old and do not adhere to more recent energy efficiency standards. Most burn oil or natural gas for heating and windows are not energy efficient. Improvements can range from changing out lighting to LED fixtures, improving windows, doors and insulation, to replacing HVAC systems to heat pump technology, which can provide efficient heating and cooling. Energy benchmarking (ie. a simple comparison of your school's energy usage compared to other similar buildings) can be a quick way to understand if your building is operating efficiently. In addition, a more comprehensive building energy audit can identify the major areas for improvement and will often pay for itself in energy savings in a very short period. These can be performed by an energy manager or Energy Services Contract Organization.
Bus fleet electrification. ICE school buses are expensive to operate and maintain, and it has been shown that school bus exhaust is damaging for student health (asthma and other respiratory conditions, cardiac conditions and reduced athletic performance). Electric school buses are available now; they have a much lower cost per mile to operate (lower fuel costs and lower maintenance). They can also serve as battery back-up for buildings. A Suitability Analysis for a school bus fleet electrification is shown here, and illustrates the type of savings that might be seen. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has allocated up to $5 billion for school bus electrification. Schools can apply through wri.org.
On-site Solar Electric. Many schools are ideal for rooftop solar because the roofs are large, flat and have full exposure to sunlight. Flexible financing is usually available, and it may be possible to go solar with no cash outlay. The savings in cost and GHG emissions can be very substantial, and ensure price stability for 25 years or more. A generic rooftop cost analysis for a local high school is provided here.