As one of the state’s largest public institutions of higher learning, Ohio University has made an investment in sustainability, and we focus on ways to reduce our carbon footprint whenever possible. This commitment was only strengthened when President Duane Nellis identified sustainability as a top strategic priority, and we continue to identify efforts to help pave the way for OU to emerge as a national leader in this area. 

We greatly value the interest from our community related to our various utility systems — especially concerning our efficiency improvements and overall direction towards carbon reduction. We were happy to provide information and facts to supplement the reporting in a recent article about the university’s energy consumption, but we were disappointed by the inaccurate conclusions reached in this report. 

The article asserts incorrectly that Ohio University has lost ground on energy efficiency from 2017 to 2018, which is simply not the case. As the article states, the university uses weather data to “normalize” energy usage to experienced weather. This is done by incorporating heating degree days and cooling degree days into the analysis.

Breaking that down into a little more detail, heating degree days increased from 4,596 to 5,498 from 2017 to 2018 — a more than 19 percent increase, while natural gas usage increased by 7 percent.

Additionally, cooling degree days increased from 807 to 1,242 from 2017 to 2018 — an increase of more than 53 percent, while electricity usage increased by 2 percent.

It is important to note that OU operates according to fiscal years, which run from July 1 to June 30 annually. We would summarize our recent efforts by saying that overall energy consumption (MMBTU/YR) for the Athens campus reduced from 1,168,866 (fiscal year 17) to 1,123,915 (fiscal year 18) — a reduction of nearly 4 percent. 

Meanwhile, the degree days increased from 5,487 (FY17) to 6,449 (FY18) — an increase of about 17 percent. After normalizing for weather, we realized an 11.4 percent improvement in energy efficiency.

There are even finer points to be made about these calculations, but we will reserve the full “geeking out” on energy data for the annual August presentation to the Board of Trustees.

In conclusion, it is essential to investigate the overall picture when making assumptions about campus energy usage, and weather-normalized data is a critical piece of the whole picture to deliver an accurate depiction of consumption patterns. Additionally, it is important to note that highlighting only one year of data may miss important long term trends.

Steve Wood is the senior associate vice president and chief facilities officer at Ohio University.