The Texas Department of Criminal Justice puts a lot of energy into saving energy. For several years, in fact, the agency has had initiatives in place to reduce the consumption of electricity, natural gas, water, and gasoline.
Still, with rising energy prices, TDCJ’s utility bills are expected to exceed $120 million this year, accounting for more than two dollars of what it costs on average to house an offender each day. That’s a big reason why the agency puts a lot of energy into its energy-saving initiatives. Reducing consumption reduces costs.
“Besides that, it’s just the right thing to do,” said Brenda Jordy, manager of planning and programming for TDCJ’s Facilities Division.
Jordy and Lee Struble, manager of the Program Administration Department within the Facilities Division, are enthusiastic about energy conservation and regularly make presentations to regional directors and wardens within the Correctional Institutional Division. And to make sure that rank-and-file employees get the message, they have produced an energy awareness pamphlet that includes an energy quiz and tips for cutting consumption. The pamphlet ends with a poignant message: “In the time it took you to read this pamphlet, the TDCJ cost for utility consumption was $764.”
Hot and cold weather, of course, affects energy consumption. Cold snaps generally cause natural gas consumption to rise because of the increased demand for heating and hot water, said Struble. Hot weather, on the other hand, tends to drive up electricity consumption because of the use of air conditioning in certain areas of a facility.
“If natural gas usage is high, electricity typically runs a little low, and visa versa,” Struble said. “Electricity drives air conditioning, primarily, and lighting. The primary driver for natural gas is hot water production for kitchens, laundries and offender showers. In the wintertime, its’ heating. Our offender count is high right now. The more offenders you have, the more showers you’re taking, the more food you’ve got to prepare, and the more laundry you’ve got to do. That drives some of our consumption data for both electricity and natural gas.”
Struble said TDCJ facilities can save energy much the same way households do. Turning off perimeter lights when not needed, limiting the times of day offenders can shower, and doing the unit laundry during off-peak hours are just a few of the practices recommended.
In an effort to further reduce energy consumption, the agency is now conducting preliminary energy audits at all its facilities and incorporating energy efficient products into repair and renovation project designs. A performance contract has been signed with a firm to conduct detailed utility audits at several units and to recommend cost-cutting measures.
In the meantime, Struble said TDCJ maintenance employees regularly replace worn equipment with modern models.
“Water heaters have become so efficient that we have removed boilers as they’ve failed and replaced them with water heaters,” he said. “They can produce hot water efficiently and quickly enough to replace the boiler. We’re doing that throughout the system.”
TDCJ also scrutinizes its utility bills in an effort to identify areas of high usage and to formulate corrective measures. And sometimes the bills themselves need to be corrected. While identifying billing errors may not reduce consumption, it does reduce energy costs.
Manufacturing & Logistics Division Director Rick Thaler said the high cost of gasoline makes it imperative that employees throughout the agency are of a mindset to practice energy conservation. Simple things like carpooling and performing multiple tasks during a single trip can make a big difference, he said.
“Gasoline consumption for the year is down, and that tells me that people are attempting to make good decisions out there in the field,” said Thaler, who oversees the agency’s fleet of approximately 2,100 vehicles, most of which are gasoline-powered. “Looking across the board, fuel consumption is down in about every division. So I think that overall, the support service divisions do a good job of trying to carpool when they go out to the facilities.”
Struble and Jordy said each TDCJ employee can make a difference in the agency’s efforts to conserve energy.
“There are a lot more men and women out there who are trying to do the right thing in reducing consumption,” Struble said. “Again, it comes back to employee awareness. Without the help of the employees within this agency, we’re never going to have any real success in reducing energy consumption.”
Energy Saving Tips That Will Make a Difference
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