Energy Efficiency Program Means No More Dim Bulbs in Jersey Schools

Tom Johnson | July 13, 2012 | Energy & Environment
Upgrading antiquated fixtures could cut electric bills by 30 percent, and give students a better look at what's going on

The Christie administration is setting aside $6 million to help public and private schools in New Jersey reduce their energy bills by replacing antiquated lighting.

The initiative, financed out of the state’s clean energy program, will be available to participants on a first-come, first-served basis. It will cover the entire cost of the upgrades, including materials, labor, permitting, and proper disposal of the lights, known as T-12 fixtures. Incentives range from approximately $100 to $500 per fixture, depending on the type, and are offered in association with complete fixture replacement

All public and private schools that pay electric bills through one of the state’s four electric utilities are eligible to participate. The clean energy program is financed by a special surcharge on gas and electric bills known as the societal benefits charge.

“Lighting efficiency was not a priority when most schools were designed,’’ said New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Bob Hana. “On average, lighting represents more than 30 percent of a school’s electricity usage, making it an ideal choice for efficiency improvements.”

Hanna also said the proper lighting in the classroom will enhance learning at the same time as advancing the state’s goals to reduce energy consumption.

The state’s newly revised Energy Master Plan calls on New Jersey to sharply curb how much energy businesses and residents use. The quickest way of saving consumers and businesses money is on electric bills, which traditionally rank among the most expensive in the nation.

That plan, however, has come under fire from environmentalists because it retreats from the previous goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent by 2020. The administration also has raided the clean energy funds repeatedly since it took office to help balance the state budget.

This initiative serves as a supplement to other clean energy programs — such as a smart building lighting incentive — and other programs aimed at reducing energy use. Many school districts have replaced the T-12 fixtures, the most inefficient type of lighting now available, but some school building still use them.

State officials say this is an offer that all qualifying schools cannot afford to refuse. With most schools closed during the summer, it is perfect timing for school officials to make energy efficiency upgrades with no cost to the district.