On Thursday, November 16, the Renew America’s Schools Program hosted a webinar entitled The Power of Partnerships to highlight how K-12 schools can partner with different types of stakeholders to bring energy improvement projects to fruition. Panelists discussed a variety of partnership models, including collaboration with community-based organizations, with energy service companies, with universities, and with utilities. School leaders and their partners discussed real-world challenges that often hinder project success, highlighted the advantages of working with partners to overcome obstacles, and provided high-impact suggestions for other school districts interested in pursuing energy improvements.
In case you missed it, here are the top takeaways from the discussion:
1. Partnerships are for districts of all shapes and sizes
Panelists came from public and public charter schools across the country. They demonstrated how partnerships can benefit districts across the spectra of size, geography, and population density. From Katy Independent School District – a suburban district in Texas with over 80,000 students – to White River School District – a remote, rural district in South Dakota, serving just over 400 students – project leaders shared perspectives and strategies for building partnerships to meet the unique needs of their communities.
2. Selecting the right partner means identifying your district’s needs
Panelists discussed a variety of partnership models, from both the public and private sectors and a from variety of industries. Whether districts partnered with an energy service company (ESCO), college/university, nonprofit, utility, or other type of organization, they demonstrated that different types of partnerships can address different types of needs, and highlighted that finding a “best fit,” means considering the respective goals, capabilities, and constraints of both the district and a prospective partner.
3. Partnerships can be long-term, sustaining relationships
Panelists from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – a Better Buildings and Better Climate challenge participant – and from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LA DWP) discussed how their partnership has evolved over the past 10 years. They highlighted the importance of establishing mutual trust, and identified specific ways that their partnership has led to success in achieving decarbonization and workforce development goals.
4. You don’t have to start from scratch
Panelists from the DOE highlighted a variety of programs, resources, and tools to help districts pursue energy improvement projects, including:
- The Schools Teaming Partner List (please note that DOE is not endorsing, sponsoring, or otherwise evaluating the qualifications of the individuals and organizations that are self-identifying themselves for placement on this Teaming Partner List):
- The Efficient and Healthy Schools Program: School districts can join as participants and have access to the Supporter list, a group of vendors and contractors who have self-identified as willing and able to assist with school facility upgrades.
- State Energy Offices: School districts can connect with their State Energy Offices to receive various types of assistance, including help finding local funding and savings opportunities, and help identifying local vendors with the potential to serve as project partners.
5. You can and should “dream big!”
The Department of Energy (DOE) recognizes that districts across the country are working hard to meet ambitious energy goals, whether prompted by their infrastructure needs, or in response to local, state, and federal regulations. The Power of Partnerships webinar was designed to demonstrate that local education agencies don’t have to make these efforts alone. By collaborating with organizations that can enhance their capacity and expertise, schools can achieve significant energy savings, increase health outcomes in their buildings, and prepare students for careers of the future.
The Renew America’s Schools team would like to thank the school districts and partners who took part in this webinar, and we invite stakeholders across the country to watch the full discussion to learn more about partnerships that may benefit your communities. For more information about the Renew America’s Schools Program, and to learn more about upcoming funding opportunities, please visit our website and join our mailing list.