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Energy-efficiency savings help sustain Sandoval County costs

Dave Heil

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — In February of last year, Sandoval County “flipped the switch” on energy savings to much fanfare and many promises. So, how is this project doing?

Sandoval County made strides towards more sustainable and financially responsible operations in 2017 by signing an agreement that was planned to upgrade our facilities across the county using New Mexico’s Guaranteed Utility Savings Contract and Pricing Agreement. With annual energy costs escalating an average of 5 percent to 8 percent over the last 10 years, the county is leveraging savings from more efficient equipment to control costs and replace aging infrastructure.

In early 2019, Sandoval County invested $6.5 million in LED lighting, advanced building control systems, high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, solar systems and water conservation measures. This undertaking is an aggressive and fully encompassing energy-efficiency plan to be sustainable while saving taxpayer dollars.

This energy-efficiency project is financed through Sterling National Bank and annual savings in energy, water and maintenance cover the debt service and annual service fees.

By contracting with a local company, the county also helped create jobs and support residents and workers. Sandoval County selected ENGIE Services U.S. located right here in Rio Rancho, which hires locally.

The energy and solar upgrades have a 14.5-year simple payback, with total savings projected to exceed $10 million over the 20-year term of the savings agreement. This energy-efficiency program, once fully installed, was projected to reduce the county’s annual energy use by 40 percent and annual costs by 35 percent.

The solar installations alone in this project provide 25 percent of the electricity needed to power all county facilities.

The March 2020 Quarterly Measurement and Verification Report shows an overall savings of $169,854, which represents 123 percent of our year-to-date goal.

Out of the 37 buildings listed in the report, 19 exceeded the year-to-date goal, some by a significant amount. Five remaining facilities missed their goal by about 10 percent, and the remaining have some work to do.

The larger facilities are all overachieving. Some recalibration and thermostat management retraining needs to be done, but the year-to-date savings are 38 percent, which exceeds original projections.

At this point, it appears this program is demonstrating Sandoval County’s commitment to developing sustainable energy solutions for future generations, and its commitment to being responsible with taxpayer dollars.

(Dave Heil is the chairman and District 4 representative on the Sandoval County Commission.)

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