Pine Manor Gets Help with Energy Savings

From Brookline TAB

A Chestnut Hill college looks to potentially save at least $350,000 in operating costs due to a partnership with Citizens Energy Corp.

Pine Manor College announced the partnership on June 26, and expects the program to help alleviate the current rising cost of energy, as well as plan for the college’s future.

The partnership comes at a time where the current economy has sent heating and gasoline bills skyrocketing, with no immediate end in sight. So, like homeowners across the nation, Pine Manor is looking for ways to save money where it can.

“Last year, for fuel oil, natural gas, electrical and water, the campus spent $1.4 million,” Vice President Bettina Espe said. “With this partnership, economic and social good are coming together.”

Citizens Energy, which was founded by former Congressman Joe Kennedy, has spent almost three decades helping the elderly and the poor heat their homes, and started solar projects in Jamaica and Venezuela. This is the corporation’s first partnership with a school.

There are four elements to the partnership program: check the energy levels of existing mechanical systems at the school (and to determine if they have to be replaced); change the lights all over campus to compact florescent lamps; a solar project that will put solar panels on three or four buildings; and an investigation into how the college can conserve its water use.

“Partnering with the school makes sense,” Citizens spokeswoman Ashley Durmer said. “It’s an area where, just by making a few small adjustments, can make a very big difference.”

In fact, Durmer said that Pine Manor stands to save $60,000 to $70,000 by just changing the lights.

The program has completed the first two elements by placing sensors in all 15 buildings of the 60-acre campus, and begun to replace all the lights on campus. Espe said it’s the hope that by the fall, the installation of the solar panels will begin.

“The energy hogs on campus are the athletic complex and the student center,” Espe said. “It’s an evolutionary process. We’ve never looked at the demands of a population by building, and then looked at the ability of the equipment to reach those needs.”

For example, in the past, the athletic building’s blowers would be on all the time for the entire day. Through this program, Pine Manor looked into visitor patterns, which will help determine when the blowers can be off or less powerful during the day.

As for the lights, the old mercury vapor lights are being replaced by CFLs, which are more expensive, but last three times as long.

But more important than saving on bills is educating people about energy conservation. President Gloria Nemerowicz said the Pine Manor students have been involved in the issue even before the partnership with Citizens was discussed.

“We can change mechanics, but we need to change people,” Nemerowicz said. “At the press conference, Joe Kennedy spoke and reminded us that the energy crisis is more than how much you’re paying at the pump. This energy crisis is the lack of policy to pursue the immediate future and is an underlying economic and security issue.”

Citizens is addressing that issue by incorporating interns from the college to implement the program and make assessments of other areas the school can cut energy costs.

“We’re looking to make energy conservation an educational experience,” Durmer said. “This is about the future, getting the best and brightest, and realizing energy conservation has to be part of a national energy policy.”

Francis Ma can be reached at