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Sioux Falls schools boost city in EPA ranking

Slater Dixon
Lowell Elementary School was Energy Star certified in 2012.

Sioux Falls schools boosted the city in a nationwide energy conservation ranking.

The city ranks fifth among mid-sized cities on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Top Cities” list for 2021. The list totals Energy Star certifications for each year.

Thirty-two Sioux Falls buildings were Energy Star certified as of 2021, all of which are owned by the Sioux Fall School District. The district began exploring energy conservation over a decade ago to cut costs. In 2009, it began a partnership with Centralis, a company that helps organizations decrease consumption. Bridget Imus works in the district’s Operation Services department.

“One of the things that they encouraged us to do was to apply for Energy Star certification,” she said. “We saw both on our usage in utilities and savings in dollars we were making a difference, but we also wanted that third-party verification.”

In a promotional video for Cenergistic, Imus said the changes saved the district almost $1 million the year after they were implemented. Nationally, K-12 schools make up a large portion of Energy Star certified buildings, which she attributes to tight budgets.

“A lot of school districts nationwide are really looking to save money,” she said. "A big line item in the budget is how we use utilities.”

Imus said efforts have included installing efficient lighting, adjusting HVAC schedules and working with staff to turn off lights and close blinds. Those changes decrease a building’s overall energy usage, which is compared to similar facilities in its “peer group” do determine its Energy Star rating.

“It's basically how you would think of how you would operate your home — when you leave a bedroom, you shut the light off, and we do the same thing,” she said.