Energy audits can free up funds for ministry
February 5, 2018
An energy audit at the Presbyterian Foundation in Jeffersonville, Indiana, has resulted in energy savings of close to 25 percent. And according to Colby May, whenever churches or church organizations can save money on energy, they’re freeing up money for ministry.
May founded LIT Consulting, which conducts energy audits, as a way to pay his way through seminary. “In 2015, churches [in the U.S.] spent almost $10 billion on energy and maintenance of our facilities, and only $1 billion on missions,” May said. “What if we could redirect 20 to 30 percent of that $10 billion back into the $1 billion?” It’s what LIT Consulting seeks to make possible through working with congregations, seminaries and other church institutions.
May, who had worked as a certified energy manager prior to beginning theological studies, sees an intersection between his two “worlds.” He began to imagine what could be possible by using energy maintenance and savings to help fund mission and ministry.
In a pilot project sponsored by the Presbyterian Foundation, May performed an energy audit on the Foundation’s office building to identify simple ways to significantly reduce energy consumption. He also partnered with the Foundation to provide similar studies with 10 other PC(USA) facilities, including Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and New Covenant Presbytery. Studies have shown that up to 30 percent of energy used is wasted. That energy can be recaptured through low- or no-cost behavior changes, prior to making additional modifications.
For instance, May said, on weekends at the Foundation’s offices many thermostats remained on a Monday through Friday schedule, even though the building was mostly vacant. To manually reset each of those more than 20 thermostats each weekend could have been somewhat cumbersome. So LIT configured a Wi-Fi-enabled system that controls all thermostats centrally with one click.
Lighting is another big area for savings. Typically lighting accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of a building’s energy usage. “If you are out of your office for longer than 23 seconds, it pays you to turn the lights off,” May said. Additionally, many offices are “over-lit,” using three or four bulbs where one or two would be sufficient.
LIT has worked with more than 5,000 church organizations, as well as school districts, performing energy audits.
“God tells us to be good stewards — and we have to think strategically and outside the box, proactively,” said May. “We want to help churches think more strategically about their energy use and how those resources can be put back into the mission of the church.”
Erin Dunagin, Special to Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Foundation
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Loving God, we thank you for the many blessings that surround us. Guide us in our big and small decisions as we seek to be faithful stewards of your creation. Amen.