State Buildings Energy Conservation Program (SBECP)

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.
  • 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.

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

Facilites Benchmarking

  • Click here to view benchmark reports that include energy consumption information for certain state buildings.