CMU summer electricity costs higher than fall, winter despite closed buildings

Central Michigan University uses just about as much electricity in the summer semester as it does in the fall and winter semesters despite using fewer buildings, according to data compiled by the university's Facilities Management department.

The total cost of electricity used by CMU in summer 2013, between May 1 and Aug. 31, was $1.6 million. That’s more than $300,000 higher than the $1.3 million spent during summer 2012 sessions. There was no increase from the $1.6 million spent in summer 2011.

Overall, the total cost of electricity for CMU was $3.1 million in 2013, $3.6 million in 2012 and $3.5 million in 2011.

That means CMU spent 52 percent of its total 2013 electricity cost during the summer months. In comparison, CMU spent 36 percent of its total electricity cost in summer 2012, and 46 percent of the total electricity was used in summer 2011.

“It varies year to year,” said Steve Lawrence, vice president of Facilities Management. “Heat could have a big impact. It could add to energy costs just as real cold winters can.”

Lawrence was unable to provide Central Michigan Life with up-to-date electricity cost figures, stating that they have yet to be calculated.

Electricity for CMU comes from two different sources, Lawrence said. The first source is the university Power House, where they maintain gas and steam turbine operations to provide some of the electricity and power.

The second source for CMU is the Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative, a power plant company that helps clients meet their extra power requirements.

Wolverine provides CMU with 53 percent of its electricity needed in 2013, and helped cover 71 percent of its electricity in 2012. The company pumped 68 percent to CMU in 2011.

Through that three-year span, the company has provided CMU with nearly 30 million kilowatt hours, said Wolverine CFO Scott Frederick. Between 2007 and 2010, Wolverine provided CMU with nearly 60 million kilowatt hours before the university started to generate a portion of its own electricity.

The amount given to CMU is inconsequential for Wolverine since CMU is one of 21 member owners of the company.

“It’s all the same,” Frederick said. “There’s no burden to us if CMU does or does not run. We’re just here to help the membership."

Lawrence said maintenance issues with power management equipment prevented CMU from producing more electricity on their own in 2011 and 2012. Fixing these issues helped Lawrence and other Facilities Management officials make more electricity in 2013.

“Our goal is to have electricity made all year long,” he said. “If the cost is lower, that makes electricity cheaper.”

Energy use per building

Electricity use on CMU's campus is delegated for different types of operations in each of its buildings. This includes light functions, powering computers and anything capable of being plugged into an electrical outlet.

Almost all building on campus are used to some extent by custodians and anybody CMU employee who has an office.

Cal Seelye, director of events and conference services, said all academic building are open during the summer for classes, but several residence halls remain closed.

Residence halls closed for summer include Calkins, Larzelere, Barnes, Thorpe, Beddow, Sweeney, and Merrill.

After the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games, Emmons and Woldt Hall will also remain closed until late July when the band camps start.

Just because a building is closed, Seelye added, doesn’t mean it isn't using electricity.

“(Lights) will be on during the day,” Seelye said. “Custodians will be in there getting the rooms ready, and maintenance staff will be in there making sure all the furniture is correct.

“After hours, all of those lights should be off. If there’s nobody in there, we try to keep everything off as best as we can.”


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