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Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency projects rely on using improved technology, maintenance, and design strategies to achieve energy savings.

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    Use less energy to perform operations
    Essential to building operations, energy consumption is a major cause of climate change. Energy use and associated emissions has an impact on Chicago communities and represents an opportunity for us to mitigate our environmental impact.

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    Reduce electricity consumption by 30% by 2025 from 2019 baseline
    Reducing consumption by 2025 requires a multitude of strategies from installing energy efficient appliances, implementing energy management solutions, and encouraging smart energy behaviors.

    Reduce natural gas consumption by 20 percent by 2025 from 2019 baseline
    Reducing the consumption of natural gas requires balancing smart heating usage and ensuring equipment is tuned to maximize efficiency.

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    Our plans to use energy more efficiently include:

    • Publish program statistics from participating schools utility incentive programs on the sustainability program website 
    • Track therms (natural gas) and KWh (electricity) saved from energy efficiency incentive programs
    • Pursue incentive programs with ComEd and Peoples Gas targeting building efficiency
    • Identify other incentive programs centered on building efficiency
    • Evaluate new construction projects for net zero energy potential
    • Track LEED certifications
    • Share project status and success amongst ongoing projects
    • Identify other incentive programs centered on building efficiency
    • Track impact of VCx on energy consumption
    • Analyze impact of energy efficiency upgrades on building energy consumption
    • Create database of retrocommissioning projects and track energy savings post commissioning

Schools can waste up to 25% of their energy use and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that schools possess $2 billion worth of energy efficiency nationwide.

Program Details

Energy is key to power school operations, heating and cooling buildings, and fueling equipment. Energy efficiency is one of the strategies CPS pursues to mitigate emissions and save money. These strategies seek to use less energy to perform the same tasks, such as installing LED bulbs.

The chart below identifies the impact of various end uses on a school’s average energy consumption. Heating, cooling, and lighting are the largest energy consumers in schools. As a result, we are taking steps to reduce wasted energy and achieve significant energy cost savings, starting with heating, cooling, and lighting. These investments will produce environmental, economic and educational benefits.

Electricity Natural Gas
Water Heating
Office Equipment
Other (Plug loads, etc.)

Building Energy Use Analysis and Assessment 

Meeting energy goals first requires understanding current building energy use. Energy use intensity (EUI) is a helpful measure in understanding how much energy is used by comparing energy consumption to building size. Comparing EUI throughout the district enables us to evaluate buildings against the commercial building energy consumption benchmark (CBECS BM). We plan on expanding our use of EUI to better target facilities for energy efficiency projects. 

Energy Efficiency Upgrades to Existing Buildings

Energy efficiency projects rely on using improved technology, maintenance, and design strategies to achieve energy savings. Our primary avenue for pursuing energy efficiency is through engagement with utility energy efficiency programs such as the ComEd Smart Ideas and Peoples Gas energy efficiency programs. These programs provide funding for equipment  and operational improvements that save energy. Collectively, these programs save us millions in avoided energy costs and associated emissions.

Building Commissioning 

Some buildings may be planned to meet high standards and performance levels but don't operate at those levels once construction is complete. Commissioning is the process of ensuring that a new building is designed, built, tested, and operates as planned. In practice, new building commissioning involves meeting with project stakeholders to review and verify engineering and planning documents against actual construction. When construction is complete, commissioning outlines operating procedures and testing to ensure buildings are operating at maximum efficiency.

In addition to commissioning for new buildings, we engage in retrocommissioning and virtual commissioning activities across the portfolio to improve building efficiency. In existing buildings, these activities often result in energy use improvements. These strategies are important not only as a sustainable practice, but for the financial benefits arising from operating buildings how they were intended. 


Retrocommissioning is a comprehensive check-up for existing buildings to ensure they are operating as they were designed and identify technical measures to improve energy efficiency. With retrocommissioning, energy managers are able to isolate and understand the energy impacts of different end uses against the building or campus as a whole. This practice helps energy managers ensure buildings are operating as designed, which is especially important before investing in efficiency improvements. As a result, the retrocommissioning process frequently results in no- and low-cost measures for improving energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and ventilation. 

Virtual Commissioning (VCx)

We are also actively engaged in virtual commissioning (VCx), a process where energy managers monitor high-level building energy use and trends remotely. This results in recommendations to facilities staff on how to improve operational efficiency. Using the VCx process, ComEd remotely analyzes energy data from our smart meters to improve performance in real time. With VCx systems deployed at all our schools, this level of management can be made possible district-wide, achieving significant cost and energy savings.

Monitoring-based Commissioning (MBCx)

Monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) leverages the use of available data from meters and sensors on the building systems to analyze energy use in real time to optimize equipment performance and efficiency. ComEd partners with us to provide MBCx at select schools across the district. This level of monitoring enables building engineers and energy analysts to tailor efficiency recommendations and increase savings.

Energy and Sustainability Programs

View more sustainability programs that are helping to reduce consumption of energy and increase the renewable resources used throughout the district.