Cool Schools in Oregon: State Funds for Renewable Energy Upgrades

Going green, Green kids — By Stephanie on June 15, 2011 at 6:46 am

Here in Oregon, school is out for the summer in most cities, but school districts could soon have some “green” homework of their own!

walnutbend elem1 Cool Schools in Oregon: State Funds for Renewable Energy Upgrades

Cool Schools to help fund renewable energy upgrades of schools in Oregon

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is pushing an initiative called “Cool Schools,” which would help fund renewable energy upgrades and retrofitting of older school buildings.  Not only will that save cash-strapped districts a lot of money over the years through lower electricity and heating bills, but it will also create green jobs to help boost the economy in this area hit heavy by the Recession.  The state would allow low- or no-interest loans to fund the renewable energy upgrades and then, with the money saved on energy bills, schools can pay back the loans.

Studies show that students learn better in “green schools,” so energy upgrades could also help improve test scores!

The “Cool Schools” bill (HB 2960) could be up for a vote later in the week.  The joint Ways and Means Committee approved the concept, which will now go to the House.  Existing funding and staff, including money from the State Energy Loan Program, would be used. The fund is already available for use by school districts, but the Cool Schools measure would lower the cost of borrowing by using money from other funds to offer lower interest rates.

Many school buildings in Oregon could benefit from renewable energy upgrades, as they were constructed decades ago during the Great Depression.  Simple fixes, like sealing windows and doors, could be made.  Other more expensive measures like replacing outdated boilers require more money, but are well worth the investment.

One relatively small school district in northeastern Oregon is the “poster child,” if you will, for the Cool Schools measure.  The Enterprise School District used government grants and loans to retrofit three buildings with new insulation, energy-efficient lighting and a biomass boiler.  The contractor guaranteed the school district would realize $85,000 per year in savings – enough for the payments on the project’s $1.5 million debt.

The Cool Schools measure was recently touted by Gov. Kitzhaber:

“Cool Schools puts people back to work, saves significant dollars to put back in the classroom and makes schools healthier places to teach and learn.  I urge the Legislature to pass this bill so we can get to work in urban and rural communities with Cool Schools upgrades this summer.”

Who wouldn’t want to go back to school in the fall to a “Cool School”?

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