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Student Involvement Within a Collaborative Focus Group

Benjamin Gage, Dr. Jennifer Pierce, Dr. Janet Kaufman, Chris Taylor, Eric Willadsen

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In 2019 the City of Boise became the first municipality in Idaho, along with 115 other cities across the United States, to vow to reach 100% clean energy consumption by 2035. However, Boise cannot meet a goal without the cooperation of schools, which can use use significant amounts of energy. In collaboration with the Sierra Club, Boise State University faculty members, and Boise School District employees, this document addresses where sustainable practices could potentially improve energy efficiency within the Boise School District. Applying recommended changes to facilities and operations could reduce energy usage per year by 5%, with a goal of 50% by 2030. The annual utility expenses could be lowered from $4.8 million spent in 2019, to potentially $2.4 million by 2030.


Schools have large buildings which necessitate a large amount of heating, cooling, and water, which can be directly related in the form of a utility bill. This outright cost can be reduced by implementing sustainable practices and scaling back use. The School District faces challenges in addressing sustainability due to structural policy and lack of funding. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct research that examines energy efficiencies and promotes a solution to align with the City of Boise’s effort to reach clean 100% energy.

Potential Utility Reduction

Line chart
BSD Utility Costs in millions of dollars projected between 2020 and 2030. 2020 costs roughly 4.8 million. With no targeted reductions, estimated costs will increase to close to 5 million by 2030. With 5% utility reductions per years, estimated costs decrease to about 2.4 million by 2030.

Modeling From Success

Twin Falls – South Hills Middle School

The school uses energy efficient equipment and strategies that will provide 459,752 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or $34,000 each year. Some measures the District received incentives for include: interior and exterior light load reduction, occupancy sensors, efficient heating and air conditioning units, a reflective roof treatment, an energy management control system, efficient laundry machines and efficient dishwashers

Carson City School District

2 mW of power being produced, 90% of energy needs met by solar, cost of solar implementation covered in three years, saving over $400,000 / year on utility bills. Because of Carson City School District’s dedication to sustainable practices, they were recently awarded a large grant from Tesla to expand efforts with additional partners.


5% Reduction in utility costs annually

  • $4.8 million spent on utilities for district in 2019, potential for ~$2.4 million spent in 2030.
  • In 1997, the Boise School District Resource Conservation Office was formed. As a result, from 1997 to 2015, the District accomplished a 15% in utility reduction
  • In 2016 three schools within the Boise School District began an effort that resulted in a combined 15.6% kWh reduction.


Energy reduction can be accomplished by addressing infrastructure, both present and newly proposed. The Idaho Power Project performed a risk and opportunity register which brought engineers to diagnose where energy efficiency could be improved within facilities. These areas included addressing heating, water, waste, and energy use from electronics. Three pilot schools (Fairmont JRHS, Hillside JRHS, and Boise HS) adopted no-cost recommended changes and found a reduction of 14.06% kWh in 2019.

Possible solutions to accomplish a 5% reduction per year range from low to no cost by reducing light bulb concentration, all the way to installing new HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) systems which can cost upwards of $150,000 per school.

Student Role

Supporting the development and future implementation of small scale sustainability efforts within the Boise School District by assisting the North Jr. High student Green Club in developing a realistic and scalable composting program for their school. Currently, composting systems are prohibited within the District due to policy that requires food waste to be disposed into trash. To allow compositing within the District, it is necessary to develop a community petition to present to the BSD Board of Trustees and the Sustainability Committee that provides realistic and attainable examples of successful composting efforts.


As the low cost solutions are addressed within the first several years of implementation, a need for additional funding may arise in order to accomplish a goal of 50% utility reduction. In spite of reduced annual costs, a dedicated budget will most likely be required to fund costly projects such as solar panel procurement or HVAC installation. The results from implementing a district wide energy reduction effort would be a valuable tool to garner support for a possible bond, supported by the State of Idaho, the Boise School District Board of Trustees, and members of the public.


Community Partners: Eric Willadsen (Sierra Club), Janet Kaufman (Boise State University), Christopher Taylor (Boise School District), North Jr. High Green Club.

Additional Information

For questions or comments about this research,  contact Benjamin Gage at