Oregon schools move forward with energy upgrades during COVID-19


For students across the state, the new school year is underway at home. When students are able to safely return to the classroom, many in Oregon will go back to more comfortable, efficient buildings.

Several districts have taken advantage of temporary school closures to launch major energy efficiency and infrastructure projects earlier than expected. With more funding from the Oregon State Legislature, school districts have more resources to make these critical updates now.

Energy- saving investments not only improve building performance, they also create a better learning environment for students. New energy-efficient LED lighting provides better quality lighting and control and can help improve students’ concentration and performance. Updated heating and cooling systems can make every space more comfortable. As schools cut energy waste and reduce overhead costs, they can reallocate those funds toward textbooks and technology.

This year, Oregon school districts have more resources to make these important updates thanks to recent changes to the SB 1149 Schools Program. The program helps districts pay for energy audits and eligible energy upgrades, including new windows, updating heating and cooling, new hot water systems and much more. This fund, along with cash incentives from Energy Trust of Oregon, means districts may only pay a fraction of the total project costs.

Students, staff make efficiency a priority in Bend

With students out due to the pandemic, the Bend-LaPine School District in Central Oregon started several projects sooner than anticipated, including the installation of new energy-efficient lighting in classrooms—paid for in part with incentives from Energy Trust.

Bend-LaPine has worked with Energy Trust for four years on energy upgrades at its schools, including new lighting, heating and cooling systems and foodservice equipment. The district also participates in Energy Trust’s Strategic Energy Management, which offers energy coaches to organizations, including schools, to help find opportunities for greater efficiency year after year. At Bend-La Pine, students and staff participate in energy teams that make sure lights, projectors and other equipment are turned off in classrooms after school. The teams even have ‘Phantom Fridays’ when they spread out across the buildings and make sure everything is turned off before the weekend. That adds up to major savings in energy costs and more money going toward the needs of students and teachers.

Incentives help cover major upgrades in Coos County

Along Oregon’s southern coast, the Myrtle Point School District is completing work at Myrtle Crest Elementary School to evaluate and update the efficiency of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems. Once the project is finished, the district expects to save about $10,000 per year in energy costs. And thanks to cash incentives from Energy Trust, the project will only cost the district $3,000. The upgrade will pay for itself right away.

Myrtle Point also replaced more than 16,000 light bulbs across its buildings with LEDs. With Energy Trust cash incentives and energy cost savings, the project will pay for itself in less than one year. District officials say the projects will create a more comfortable, safe learning environment for students.

The work of energy efficiency is helping school districts save at a time when districts need all of the resources available due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Right now, businesses, schools and other organizations can also take advantage of bonus incentives available through December for energy-efficient upgrades. Learn more about the bonus incentives here and contact Energy Trust to find opportunities for your property.