As the winter temperatures continue to drop, campus utility bills are rising. Each year, the college allocates about three percent of the total annual budget to cover utilities, which for 2014 was about $1.26 million.
According to vice president for finance and administration Tom Meyer, the utility budget will likely be exceeded this year.
“It’s been colder, so we’ve had to use more natural gas, and the rates have been higher,” Meyer said. “Year to date, we’re running ahead of budget in total by about $25,000.”
Costs have also been higher this year because the college has run for a total of 120 hours this year on fuel oil instead of the natural gas normally used, according to Mike Wajer, who runs heating, ventilation and air conditioning on campus.
“Two times now this winter we’ve been asked by the gas company to burn fuel oil instead of natural gas,” director of facilities Frank Hughes said.
The college’s energy service plan is interruptible, meaning that in exchange for generally cheaper utility rates, the energy providers can ask the college to occasionally interrupt service and move to backup sources of power, Meyer said.
According to Hughes, the college has not been asked to interrupt service and switch to fuel oil since 1995, but the switch was made for a few days this year due to the regional natural gas shortage.
“Producing our own power is far more expensive than buying power from Xcel Energy,” Hughes said.
While operational costs have seen an increase due to the cold this year, the overall impact of having interruptible services saves money.
“It saves us in the long term because by us having that flexibility, we get cheaper utilities,” Meyer said.
Students can also help keep energy costs low by being cognizant of the energy they’re using, according to Meyer.
“I’ll go into some apartments, and they’ll be up to 80 degrees in the winter time,” Wajer said.
ASA president Matt Anderson, who has spent time studying energy usage and efficiency on campus, said that he’d like to see students be more conscious about the energy they’re using.
“What we’re using on campus, though we may not see it, really does matter,” Anderson said. “Even if one person takes the initiative to use a little less energy, a little less water, it will make a difference.”