Polk County Public Schools: Leading the Way in Florida with Low Tech Solutions

  • Mark A. Lester
Keywords: Polk County Public Schools


Conservation isn’t sexy, but it is the simplest and best solution out there currently. It works, one can start today, and it makes a big impact. Solar, wind, nuclear and other energy alternatives may play a large role in years to come, but we cannot dream of technology saving us in the future; we need to learn to conserve today. As I once heard it said, “The most efficient energy molecule is the one which never gets created.”

It should also be recognized that conservation doesn’t have to involve complicated, expensive energy management systems. Polk County Schools has cut its energy consumption by 30% and consistently leads all school districts in Florida, year after year, using some of the simplest and cheapest technology available./p>

It goes without saying that the nature of one’s organization will influence how an energy program should best be run. Certain needs and even deficiencies may be different in a school system than in a hospital or a corporate building. In fact, an organization operating around the clock and with deeper pockets may actually be better served using the most up-to-date control system available./p>

So with the above in mind, I am not advocating that all organizations should always manage energy with the same approach as Polk County Schools. I am suggesting however, that in some applications, our low-tech approach may be worth looking at, especially if an organization has similar operating hours and struggles to fund and maintain more complicated and expensive energy management systems. I would also promote the idea that any organization can get started saving significant energy, no matter how simple their engineering or controls may be./p>

If one is interested in our program, I believe eight practices and/or philosophies are worth examining. As somewhat of a disclaimer, I cannot state for sure that all eight are equal in importance, or even that they all work to the degree I suspect. But after conferring with other energy managers, both in other school districts and in other industries, I feel these philosophies stand out as practices that may differ from the norm.


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Author Biography

Mark A. Lester

Mark Lester, CEM, taught American History with Polk County Schools for 17 years until 2007, when he was a hired as an energy manager for the school system. Under his leadership, Polk has led all school districts in Florida in energy efficiency for the past 5 years and avoids an estimated 30% in energy costs, translating to around $8 million annual savings. In 2012 he spoke at the World Energy Conference in Atlanta and shared the virtues of simplicity and individual responsibility when it comes to energy management. Mark Lester can be reached at mark.lester@polk-fl.net.