WMBF Investigates: HCS claims energy savings after televisions removed

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County School District saved thousands of dollars on energy costs from 2015 to 2016, but it cannot pinpoint one specific reason costs went down.

In January 2016, the district removed old televisions from all classrooms. The work cost $75,000, but the district said it could save $100,000 to $200,000.

"One of the things we identified when we were doing the TV project was that we looked at those old CRT televisions as being big energy hogs," said Greg Sponseller when we followed up with him more than a year after the project. He's the sustainability analyst for HCS. At this point, he hasn't gone back to check the estimate.

"We do want to check it in some capacity," he said, "but that is honestly a very very small component of the total electrical load that we have throughout the district."

In working to do the math, WMBF News ran into an issue. The district posts transparency spending reports every month. In March 2015, those reports stopped including Santee Cooper. Sponseller says he doesn't know why the reports don't list the agency. We asked the district why the reporting changed. We haven't heard back for two weeks.

Sponseller said Santee Cooper makes up the largest chunk of the district's energy spending. He says electricity costs are at $9.5 million, that's nearly $5 million more than the posted reports.

"Anything we can do to drive those costs down is going to be particularly valuable," Sponseller said of the TV project. "If we're looking at an elementary school, it varies depending on the month, but it could be a couple hundred dollars a day just to run a building."

Ultimately, the district did spend less money on energy in 2016 than it did in 2015. Most of those savings happened in February, when the district spent nearly $500,000 less with Horry Electric Co-op and Duke Energy. By the end of the year, the total saving was actually closer to $90,000.

"I can't specifically attribute it to the televisions," Sponseller said. "We have seen it go down. But again, it's a small project that we did, we were looking at a return on six months, seven months in some cases. It's based on estimations, but we can say we did reduce consumption in the buildings."

See a complete breakdown of the district's energy spending over the last two years below. Click here to download the view the PDF file in full-screen.

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