Nearly two years after starting a project to save on energy costs at Lenoir City Schools, Trane Energy Services representatives gave Lenoir City Board of Education good news Thursday.

LCBOE entered into a partnership with Trane to upgrade existing hardware at the three city schools at a cost of $4.8 million, Nancy McBee, Trane representative, said.

“It’s a whole lot of LED lighting, heating and air conditioning replacements, plumbing upgrades, a whole lot of stuff to upgrade the energy efficiency in the school system,” McBee said. “… When we started this project, the school system was operating at about $2 per square foot. What we’ve done with this project is bring you all down to $1.23 per square foot. That’s $319,000 a year in utility savings, which is very nice.”

Despite extensive upgrades, no tax increase was required because Trane guarantees the $319,000 yearly savings will cover costs, McBee said.

“We were successful in getting a loan through the Tennessee Energy Efficient Schools Initiative at 1.5 percent to pay for this,” she said. “Any savings that we achieve over that $319,000 just comes back to the school system. If we don’t meet the $319,000, we have to write a check for the difference.”

The first annual report on energy and cost-savings was made available to the board 1 1/2 years after construction.

A reconciliation report is compiled annually, which totals all the utility bills to calculate savings and deficits.

“Every year for the next 15 years that reconciliation process has to stand alone,” Chuck Barnett, Trane representative, said. “We’re technically starting with zero at year two and will accumulate savings or lack thereof. … Once we go into the year one guarantee period, the utility clocks start ticking, we start accumulating savings or deficits.”

For the first year, Lenoir City Schools saw an excess of savings at $401,823, which gives the schools $82,823, according to the agreement with Trane.

Trane also works to actively locate and fix problems that may cause excess utility usage. For a few months in the last year, there was a spike in natural gas usage.

“We did have a deficit in natural gas,” Barnett said. “Part of what we do for you guys is we drill down on that and try to find out what caused that deficit. This particular one, we chased to the middle school, and we’ve got some legwork to do to try to figure out the necessary adjustments to correct that. Luckily, it didn’t have a big impact on there, but it is something we’re working at.”

Another important factor to the project is the positive environmental impact, McBee said.

“In one year, the improvements reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2,840 metric tons, which is equivalent to reducing 7,046,804 miles driven by average drivers in the community,” according to a Trane release.