Although some South Carolina school buildings have received negative attention for their poor conditions, as featured in Bud Ferrillo’s 2006 documentary, “Corridor of Shame,” the Palmetto Green Schools Initiative is making progress in solving the problem of aging and energy inefficient schools.
In 2007, South Carolina passed the Energy Efficiency and Construction Act, which mandates that all public entities, including school districts, develop energy conservation plans, submit annual energy consumption reports to the South Carolina Energy office or be labeled as “non-compliant” to the General Assembly, and use these energy conservation plans to decrease their energy consumption intensity by one percent annually by a total of 20% by year 2020 compared to 2000 levels. Over the last two years, the Palmetto Green Schools Initiative, working with the South Carolina chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, has assisted schools to comply with this mandate and to increase support for energy efficiency projects.
The Initiative focuses on grassroots efforts through school district visits, energy report trainings, weatherization days, and acquiring funding for schools to achieve their 20% by 2020 mandate. The first school that the Palmetto Green Schools Initiative focused on was the same school featured in a touching 2010 People Magazine article regarding the school’s failing infrastructure and the health and safety hazards posed to occupants. University of South Carolina students joined the Initiative on three separate service days where they weatherized 11 of 12 portable classrooms. The Initiative has, with the help of legislators and community members, completed many other weatherization projects at schools. The Initiative will continue to make a significant difference in the lives of SC students, having secured funding for future energy efficiency projects including over $6,000 for lighting projects in Chesterfield School District, a $500,000 dollar ConserFund loan in Chester County School District, $254,953.05 in Progress Energy rebates, over $100,000 in rebate money from SCE&G and Duke territories, 5 comprehensive energy audits totaling $12,000, and more.
The Palmetto Green Schools Initiative has also built collaboration among elected leaders. There are now 45 House and Senate members from across the aisle in the SC Green Schools Caucus and over 25 mayors on the Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools.