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March 12, 2015 Volume 36, No. 23

MU became a model of energy efficiency under retiring director’s leadership


Gregg Coffin, left, and Paul Hoemann stand by gas turbines in the MU Power Plant. With Hoemann’s retirement March 6, Coffin became the new director of Energy Management. Photo by Madeline Beyer/MU Operations.

Paul Hoemann was “incredibly innovative,” colleague says

Twenty-eight years ago, Gregg Coffin interviewed his future boss, Paul Hoemann, for the open position of director of Energy Management. On March 6, almost to the day of the initial interview, Hoemann retired and Coffin assumed his previous boss’s role.

“I feel very confident handing the baton to Gregg,” Hoemann said. “He’s a very capable leader. It helps me a lot knowing that there is someone of his caliber stepping in and continuing on with the successes we’ve been able to achieve.”

Hoemann leaves an impressive legacy. Last year, MU won a Green Power Leadership Award, given out annually to organizations that advance green power sources. The award is co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“I attribute our success to the talented and dedicated energy management staff,” Hoemann said.

Hoemann’s first day on the job was March 1, 1988. The first improvement under his direction was upgrading lighting with more efficient systems. In 1995, the improvements were recognized through the Green Lights Partner of the Year award. MU was the first Big 12 university to receive the honor.

The next step was to make heating, ventilation and the air-conditioning systems more efficient. Through metering all the buildings on campus in the late 1980s, Energy Management was able to measure the inefficiencies of each building. By 1990, administrators knew exactly which buildings used the most energy. For both lighting and temperature control, the team installed motion sensors that turn off lights and adjust the thermostat when rooms are unoccupied.

Because improvements in energy conservation are always happening, constant updating is necessary. “The technology continues to change every year,” Hoemann said. “Even the lighting we put in five years ago — there’s more efficient lighting out there now.” Hoemann said the team is looking to upgrade.

When Hoemann and Coffin started working at the Energy Management office, many campus buildings and almost none of the residence halls had air conditioning. Now almost every building has it.

The department has also developed an alternative to traditional air-conditioning systems. The district-cooling system distributes cold water from satellite chiller plants to campus buildings through underground pipes, a method that is more reliable and efficient.

Energy conservation has saved more than $66.7 million of utility costs for the university since the 1990s, Hoemann estimated.

“The administration had enough foresight to see that if we were first [in energy conservation] and took the initiative in some of these areas, there would be a payback for the campus down the road,” Hoemann said.

Coffin said that Energy Management would continue to focus on renewable energy, energy conservation and reducing greenhouse emissions through projects like the wind and solar energy demonstrations and biomass boiler — projects initiated by Hoemann.

“From my perspective as part of his staff for 28 years, [Hoemann] is an incredibly innovative guy,” Coffin said. “He doesn’t just take things for granted. If there’s a way to improve something, if he doesn’t have the idea, he at least spurs on other people to come up with the idea.”

— Alaina Lancaster