Eastern Illinois University’s sustainability efforts over the past 15 years have been numerous, and a significant portion of those measures has been taken through the use of performance contracts rather than asking students or taxpayers to cover the cost of upgrades. In order to understand how many of these upgrades came to exist, it’s important to understand how these performance contracts work.
In a nutshell, the university hires a firm to make upgrades on campus under the condition that these more efficient upgrades pay for themselves through energy or resources savings over a specified period of time. EIU’s first contract was in 1995 under Gov. Jim Edgar’s pilot initiative of this new practice. Working with Energy Masters, EIU enjoyed around $2 million in upgrades designed to pay for themselves over a 10-year stretch.
After EIU's first performance contract was successful, in 2000-01 Eastern sent out a request for proposals for a second contract. That “bid” eventually was won by Honeywell International — it was a $10 million overall project that later received a $2 million addendum.
By the time you take into account those two performance contracts, there have been $14 million in installed measures on campus. Together they’ll all save at least that same amount of money by the end of their respective 10-year periods. The countless aspects of these contracts ranged from somewhat small-scale improvements — replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents and replacing toilets, faucet aerators, showerheads, and washing machines with water-conserving fixtures — to measures affecting a much wider swath of campus. The addition of several buildings to the university’s chilled water loop is a prime example.
That brings us to Eastern’s newest — and biggest — performance contract. Awarded to Honeywell International in 2008, this $80 million deal included an extended allowable payback time of 20 years. The other significant inclusion? Eastern’s brand new Renewable Energy Center, which is set to replace the rapidly failing coal-burning plant the campus has utilized since 1928.