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EDF Climate Corps Fellow Uncovers Energy-saving Opportunities for Local Schools

Suggests organizational plan for energy and cost savings at Austin ISD

Austin ISD hosted 2015 EDF Climate Corps Fellow Maxwell Sykes this summer to help the district better manage its energy use and costs. Sykes presented his findings at a community showcase on September 17 where he outlined a plan for achieving estimated annual energy cost savings of $1.7 million to $5.2 million per year. 

Sykes undertook a two-part study to (1) assess the district’s energy use, cost, and performance relative to other school districts and (2) outline a plan for achieving annual energy cost savings. Sykes’ work will help the district better organize for and act on energy-saving opportunities. His research will also be used to set energy reduction goals as part of the district’s first sustainability plan. 

To achieve the estimated savings, Sykes suggests the district adopt five foundations of an effective energy management program as gleaned from interviews with other districts across the country: 

* People – Building an energy team to analyze and act on energy-saving opportunities 

* Data – Adopting a data management system and near-real-time metering technology to assess ongoing energy performance 

* Commitment – Securing high-level support with champions at all levels of the organization 

* Design & Equipment – Investing in high-efficiency buildings and equipment upfront and ensuring ongoing efficient operations through protocols and standards 

* Engagement – Building a culture of conservation at the district and campus level 

Sykes is a graduate student at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management. The fellowship has been funded thanks to a community grant from Google. 

“Energy use is a large contributor to Austin ISD’s environmental footprint and an area ripe for conservation opportunities,” said Jennifer Cregar, Austin ISD sustainability coordinator. “Maxwell’s work is helping us take the next steps in our ongoing efforts to reduce our resource consumption and associated economic and environmental costs.” 

EDF Climate Corps, Environmental Defense Fund’s unique program, pairs fellows—top graduate students from the nation’s leading universities—with companies, cities, schools and public institutions to identify, measure and implement high-value ways to save energy, carbon emissions and money. 

“Austin ISD is a great example of how local organizations are taking the lead in their communities on energy efficiency,” said Liz Delaney, Program Director, EDF Climate Corps. “Maxwell’s project will provide the district with essential tools and information that will ultimately lead to lowering energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.” 


About Austin Independent School District 

Austin ISD is the largest school district in Central Texas, serving more than 83,000 students at 130 schools. Follow AISD on Twitter at @AustinISD or on Facebook at

About EDF Climate Corps

EDF Climate Corps ( taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered $1.4 billion in energy savings. For more information, visit Read our blog at Follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at 

About Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.