Though the heating plant was turned on earlier than usual this year due to an unpredictable cold spell, Director of Finance & Campus Services Delwin Wilson said that since the College has "locked in 90 percent of our utility pricing, we're confident that we will either meet or be below our budget."
According to Wilson, Bowdoin enlists the help of an energy consulting firm to achieve aggressive strike prices and that these utility prices are usually locked for a period of one month to one year. This year's utility budget is around $5.8 million, and of that amount, more than $2 million will be spent on heating alone. Bowdoin's energy budget has remained fairly consistent over the past few years, increasing an average of five percent each year due to fuel price increases and the gradual growth of the campus.
The fact that the increase is relatively small is good news for Bowdoin's budget, as the price of crude oil has nearly doubled over the past two years. This hike in prices has intensified the College's effort to utilize renewable energy and decrease carbon emissions.
According to Wilson, Bowdoin has decreased carbon emissions by 40 percent over the past two years.
This effort has been made in part to accomplish the goal of making Bowdoin carbon neutral, an objective mandated by the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, which President Barry Mills signed in 2007.
"Rising fuel prices along with our commitment to sustainability have caused changes in our [energy] policy," said Wilson.
Such changes include the installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems in Osher and West Halls, Studzinski Recital Hall, and the Museum of Art, the addition of Zipcars to the college's fleet of vehicles, and the conversion of three boilers to burn both No. 2 heating oil and natural gas.
"Being able to burn natural gas has been advantageous from a financial and an emissions perspective," Wilson said.
It appears that most members of the Bowdoin community have not been significantly affected by rising fuel costs. Security Administrative Coordinator Jennifer Wienckowski said that since the number of registered student cars seemed consistent compared to previous years, it appeared that high gas prices "didn't seem to be drastically affecting the student body."
Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols said that as Zipcars and other transportation services become more widely used on campus, people will be dissuaded from bringing their cars from home. Zipcar members used the two cars for 435 hours during the month of September.
A survey of Bowdoin faculty members indicated that a vast majority used alternative methods of transportation to travel to and from campus and that for most part, fuel concerns were not a primary motivator for doing so. Most respondents said they either biked or walked to campus on a daily basis.
Nonetheless, according to Tama Spoerri, Director of Human Resources, the College asked local heating oil companies to consider discount rates for its employees in order to ease worries concerning winter heating costs. Independence BioFuel responded with a message to all Bowdoin employees, explaining that they had granted a discount of 10 cents per gallon off all offered heating plans.