Summit School District joins effort to get county’s biggest energy users to go green

Solar panels like these are planned to be part of a broad initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Summit School District buildings.
Joe Moylan/ | Summit Daily News

Summit School District is one of the largest consumers of energy in the county. In an effort to further its goals of reducing carbon emissions and going green, the school district board has signed on to the Summit Climate Action Collaborative.

The High Country Conservation Center introduced the initiative as a way to get local governments, businesses, ski areas and other partners to work together on figuring out ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Summit.

Summit School District Superintendent Kerry Buhler said that she and the board of education were impressed by the presentation offered by Jennifer Schenk, executive director of HC3, at a board meeting last Thursday and felt it was important to sign on to the collaborative.

“We will buy in to the collaborative, and think it’s a great opportunity,” Buhler said. “We already have some great collaborations with HC3 and we would love to build up on that.”

“The energy navigator has allowed them to save tens of thousands of dollars, as it’s allowed the district to find out areas where energy is being wasted, like if something can be turned off during the summer when it’s not needed.”Jennifer SchenkHigh Country Conservation Center executive director

Schenk said the collaborative is meant to get some of the biggest energy users in the county to reduce their carbon footprint by implementing energy-saving practices and being more aware of their energy use. She said that an energy monitoring system called Building Energy Navigator is one tool making energy users smarter about their usage.

“The energy navigator has allowed them to save tens of thousands of dollars, as it’s allowed the district to find out areas where energy is being wasted, like if something can be turned off during the summer when it’s not needed,” Schenk said.

The energy navigator tracks energy usage in real-time across Summit school district buildings and identifies areas of concern.

According to the latest data from the energy navigator, accessible at, Summit School District racks up an annual energy bill of almost $600,000. Summit High School uses the most energy, with an annual energy bill of $205,091, a drop of 1 percent from the year before.

Buhler said the navigator has helped the district reduce consumption quite a bit over the years.

“The system helps us track our energy usage, as well as helps with scheduling. Sensors have been installed on lights to detect when they need to be turned on and off, as well having more control over water boilers and heaters,” she said.

Buhler said that Tracey Carisch will be the board’s representative for the collaborative, while Summit facilities manager Woody Bates will be the district representative.

Buhler said she also wanted principals and teachers involved in the effort, as they have the most local control of energy usage.

“What happens in the individual schools every day makes the biggest difference,” she said.

The district plans to reduce energy usage in the future through various means, such as completion of a multi-million dollar project to replace all of the district’s lights with LED bulbs, looking at ways to build solar panels on campuses and use more alternative energy sources, as well as attempting to reduce carbon emissions from the district’s massive transportation fleet.

Schenk commended the district for taking initiative on climate issues.

“They want to be a leader in the community, and they want to work with governments and citizens on climate change,” she said. “They’re also looking at ways to get students involved and educated on science issues, such as with their recycling and composting programs.”

Schenk estimated that the collaborative would start meeting in April, and come up with a formal climate action plan by the end of 2018 or 2019.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.