Christmas came a little early for the Jones Center this year as CEO Ed Clifford and Chief Operations Officer Mike Gilbert accepted a $78,155 energy rebate check from Source Gas, which was more than double the amount expected.
The rebate comes of the heels of a complete overall of the Jones Center heating system which took place over several months earlier this year.
“This really dates back to the $3 million grant that the Walton Family Foundation made in 2012 to help the Jones Center become more energy efficient. We were able to use those funds to covert from a steam boiler system to a hot water system for heating this entire 220,000 square foot building,” Gilbert said.
He said the Walton Foundation several years ago asked the Jones Trust to provide it a copy of its three-years operating budget which included several years of deferred maintenance items.
“They agreed to give us $3 million — a million per year — if we would address every energy conservation item in the budget. We raised an extra $1 million and began working to find cost savings in the operations budget which led to a complete overhaul,” Gilbert said. “The Walton Family Foundation wanted us to become more energy efficient so that more of our budget could go toward our programs.”
The Jones Center was eating up nearly $570,000 in annual utility costs. The lights alone burned through $30,000 per month. Gilbert said they began by addressing lighting costs which were reduced by approximately $150,000 annually. The gas consumption savings, which resulted from the heating system overhaul, will be a minimum of $60,000 annually.
He said steam is very expensive to produce as the center ran two large boilers which required around the clock maintenance personnel. The conversion trimmed about 2,500 hours in personnel costs and include substantial utility savings as well.
The rebate check represents a gift that will keep on giving, he said.
“This is money that we can now pour into programming for the next two decades. We will also be getting a rebate for the electrical efficiencies that we made this year with SWEPCO. That check is expected to be $35,000, but it could be more,” Gilbert said.
Being good stewards of the resources it receives is a priority for Clifford and the Jones Trust Board.
“The long term effects of these savings will mean more services to the local community. For example, being able to offer $4 per-square-foot rent at the Center for NonProfits, or helping to keep our corporate lease and growing membership rates low and competitive in this market place,” Clifford said.
The Jones Center worked with Source Gas and SWEPCO in addition to Clear Energy of Fayetteville, who conducted the entire energy audit from an engineering and energy conservation standpoint. Stan Green, and Paul Hill, founders of Clear Energy, said they work on about 10 large energy efficiency audits per year. The duo first began working with the Jones Center team in 2008, when the Jones Trust took over the Center for NonProfits in Rogers.
Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Foundation again stepped up to the plate providing $2.5 million of the $3.56 million spent toward an entire energy makeover for the Center for NonProfit in 2008. The city of Rogers also provided $200,000 toward the energy conservation measures at the former St. Mary’s Hospital site.
“Clear Energy worked with this us on that program too. We were very pleased with the energy savings generated in that building. So we then looked at the JTL Shops facility for more savings potential. The biggest job was the Jones Center because of the unique and diverse operations — making ice at one end of the building and heating water at the other end, all year long,” Gilbert said.
Mike Brennan of CLEAResult also worked with Gilbert and the others as a third party consultant tracking the progress and savings after the investments were made. Clear Result measures the effectiveness of the efficiencies and looks for any and all rebates and savings measures that can be applied to the overall rebate from the energy provider.
It was CLEAResult that told Gilbert the savings generated from the boiler and heating system overhaul were more than originally expected. Gilbert and the Jones Trust expected to receive a rebate from Source Gas in the $45,000 range, but the check presented totaled $78,155.
Hill said the biggest barrier many companies and nonprofits face to moving ahead with energy conservation investments are the upfront capital costs. Green adds that when the savings are big enough like those generated by the Jones Trust in the multiple projects completed since 2008 the investment over time provides a sound rate of return.
“It is an investment, no doubt, but the returns over time can be huge, particularly when energy costs are apt to rise over time,” Green said.