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State Buildings Energy Conservation Program

Program Overview

The State Buildings Energy Conservation Program (SBECP) was initiated in 1989 to reduce energy costs in state government and finance energy improvement projects on state owned buildings. The program reduces utility bills and uses the savings to repay the cost of the project and eventually into other state buildings conservation projects.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality administers the program and serves state agencies, universities and more recently community colleges. Every state agency and every branch of the university system has used the program at some point in the history of the program.

The SBECP is a revolving, self-funded program authorized by state statute. The SBECP also falls under federal authority, since federal funds were used to start the program in 1989. Also, in 2009 the U.S. Department of Energy provided a one-time investment of $21 million dollars to fund the revolving aspect of the program.

State statute provides the direction for the program, including the details of how it operates. In addition to the direction provided by statute, projects are presented each legislative session for approval before the Long Range Planning Subcommittee for approval. The federal role largely governs approval of how the funds are spent.


The program is administered by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) through the Energy Bureau. DEQ coordinates closely with the Long Range Building Program at the Department of Administration. DEQ independently identifies projects where energy savings can be captured, and also reviews all submissions to the Long Range Planning Program for potential energy savings.

In 2009 an additional $3 million in general funds were combined with a one-time-only infusion of $21.738 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. This large infusion of federal dollars caused a rapid ramp-up with as many projects underway in the three years between 2009-2012 as there has been in the previous 20 years of the program.


Projects range from lighting and building control upgrades to major facility Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) change-outs. Some of the more modest investments in lighting and building controls offer excellent and quick returns on investment, thanks in part to incentives and energy auditing assistance provided by Montana’s major utility, NorthWestern Energy. Larger projects were typically approached as part of broader deferred maintenance investments that mixed federal Stimulus funding with state Long Range Building Program funds. Energy savings to the state are approximately $8.1 million annually – or more than 100,000 MMBTU.

Projects must meet payback criteria to qualify for funding and can incorporate one or more of the types of projects listed below:

  • Lighting Upgrades
    • Often the first part of a more comprehensive energy project, lighting projects can yield some of the fastest paybacks and can result in reduced air conditioning loads. Payback calculations for lighting projects are quite accurate to insure savings.
  • Solar Projects
    • Solar PV project equipment and contracting prices continue to fall; some solar projects are as cost efficient as lighting projects.
  • Tune-Ups
    • Checking out control and system functions can solve comfort problems and give facilities a priority list for future improvements. This is also called recommissioning.
  • Insulation and Infiltration Control
    • Besides saving heating and cooling costs, these projects can reduce the size of heating and cooling systems needed. This is a good measure to consider before replacing heating and cooling equipment.
  • HVAC System Upgrades
    • Heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment upgrades can include improvements to existing equipment or replacement.
  • Advanced System Controls
    • Advanced building system controls is another cost effective conservation measure when coupled to lighting and HVAC projects. In the case of lighting projects, advanced controls have reduced the energy load on LED lighting projects an additional 25 to 35%.

Benefits to Agencies

  • Comfort
    • Most energy projects produce more comfortable buildings with fewer drafts and more even climate control.
  • Quality Light
    • Lighting systems are designed to deliver optimum light levels for tasks using less energy.
  • Reduced Maintenance
    • Automated control systems and newer equipment require less maintenance; new lighting systems reduce routine lamp and ballast replacement for up to five years.
  • Zero Budget Impact
    • Agency utility budgets remain constant and in many cases the projects can be financed without agency contributions.

When to Consider Energy Projects

  • Building has not been upgraded for energy improvements in 20 years
  • Building is undergoing remodeling or renovation
  • Major equipment is at the end of its useful life
  • Comfort complaints or poor working conditions exist
  • Energy use or cost has increased more than 20 percent over the past five years

State Buildings Energy Conservation Contacts

Section Supervisor
John Dendy (406) 444-6439

Energy Resource Professional
Bonnie Rouse (406) 444-4956

Senior Energy Engineer
David LeMieux (406) 444-6574

Energy Engineer
Matthew Treaster (406) 444-2933

Procurement Requirement Information for Consultants and Contractors

Energy projects often require equipment procurement to comply with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Build American Buy American (BABA). Resources are highlighted below to assist consultants and contractors with familiarizing with the requirements needed.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)


Build American Buy American (BABA)

Facilites Benchmarking

In April 2014, Governor Steve Bullock directed state agencies to begin monitoring energy use in state buildings and to begin publicly disclosing these energy numbers online. This directive by the Governor is part of a larger commitment to smart energy use and consumption, the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation in Montana, as well as a more transparent state government. As part of the Governor’s directive, the energy office at DEQ has developed a database for energy use at state facilities. The database includes over 180 facilities, including campuses, representing over 840 buildings. The common requirement for the database is any state-owned building that is 5,000 square feet or larger. The facilities included in this database total over 18 million square feet of building area.

Natural gas and electricity data is provided by the utilities and entered into a database maintained by DEQ. Data is exported to US DOE’s EnergyStar® Portfolio Manager® which calculates the energy performance of the facility. Energy Star® scores are provided for facilities that qualify for the rating. Some factors that may affect these scores (e.g., occupancy, number of computers, hours of operation) are estimated, but should have little effect on the overall comparison for benchmarking an individual facility. To view a building report, click on the agency below and then click on the building you wish to view. The report is designed to present summary information for up to four reporting periods. All data fields are from the Energy Star® Portfolio Manager® reports. For further information on the reports, please view the Report Explanation. If you would like a report on a specific state building and cannot find it below, please contact the Montana Energy Office at 406-444-0281.

More on how DEQ will use this information to improve energy efficiency in state buildings 

DEQ's State Building Energy Conservation Program improves state facilities at no additional cost to state government. It does this by using an agency’s utility budget to fund energy improvements over time. First, a project is identified that can reduce energy costs in a facility. A technical energy study is then completed and future energy savings calculated. Savings are typically from reduced electricity and natural gas use, but may include water, propane or other utility costs.

The process of benchmarking assists program managers in identifying buildings and facilities that underperform from an energy-use standpoint. This selection process allows for the best and often-times the earliest return against the investment.

Projects are designed so that energy savings cover all financing. The DEQ funds construction and improvements for projects that provide energy savings over a baseline energy consumption level. The energy savings over the term of the project is used to pay for the project investment. This forms a revolving fund where savings are collected over time, which are then used to fund further energy projects.

The State Building Energy Conservation Program dates to the 1989 Legislature and addresses operating costs in state facilities by identifying and funding cost-effective energy efficiency improvements.  The statutory authority is under Title 90, Chapter 4, part 6, MCA.