After a history of failed performance and poor customer service, CCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy says that its energy management contractor may finally be on track to deliver on its contract promises.
On June 22, Clarke County School Board voted to pull the plug on its $10,000 per-year energy monitoring contract with Schneider Electric (formerly known as TAC). School officials claimed that Schneider Electric was not delivering on promised technical solutions designed to monitor and control the school district’s energy usage.
Schneider Electric learned of the contract termination through a story that appeared in the Clarke Daily News (See “School Board Cancels Energy Management Contract” CDN June 22, 2010) and subsequently issued a statement denying any knowledge of previous contract performance issues (See “Energy Management Contractor Denies Knowledge of School Problems” CDN June 25, 2010).
According to Murphy, CCPS borrowed $1.5M to finance a TAC energy monitoring solution that was supposed to pay for itself through energy cost savings. Murphy asked the School Board to terminate the contract because, “It’s not clear that we have saved anything at all because of TAC.”
The threat of a terminated contract appears to have gotten the attention of Schneider Electric, according to Dr. Murphy.
“Schneider Electric said that the contract problems had been brought to the attention through the Clarke Daily News,” Murphy told the School Board on Monday night. “All of a sudden there were conversations and Schneider sent a team of 7 or 8 technicians that worked all day and discovered problems that went all the way back to inception of the system.”
“They have bent over backwards to help and have identified page after page of deficiencies on their part,” Murphy said. “We have been very pleased by what we have seen in the past few weeks.”
Despite the recent performance turn-around, School Board members appeared to withhold judgment as to whether Schneider Electric’s performance improvements were permanent.
“What makes you think they are going to be better now, other than free service for a year?” School Board Chairperson, Robina Bouffault, asked Dr. Murphy.
“We have made it clear that we are not the least bit interested in their energy savings calculations until they can prove that the system works,” Murphy responded.
Murphy said that there are also several tangible changes that he believes will lead to more permanent service improvements. Murphy cited Schneider Electric’s appointment of a personal contact to resolve service problems as well as a better communication approach.
“We feel like it’s the first time that they have been listening to us,” Murphy said.
Schneider Electric’s energy management solution uses proprietary software. When CCPS was considering contract termination school officials expressed concern about the impact of Schneider Electric removing its software.
“That’s great but the fact of the matter is that we paid $1.5 million for this system and it’s proprietary,” said Chairperson Bouffault.
Superintendent Murphy responded that given the available options he believes that it is worthwhile to give Schneider Electric another try.
After preliminary discussions the School Board convened a conference call with Schneider Electric representatives to iron out contract details should CCPS elect to offer Schneider Electric another opportunity to correct earlier deficiencies.
Chairperson Bouffault: “There have been concerns about your system not working properly and you have waved $10K fee for this year. If we find equipment that is not working properly will you fix it for free?”
Schneider Electric: “Yes”
Chairperson Bouffault: “How do you plan on implementing a communication system with our school?”
Todd Porter, Schneider Electric Director of Quality Assurance: “Have prepared a communication matrix that will help ensure that everyone is informed on the issues.”
School Board Member Jennifer Welliver: “Is there going to be a contract agreement or addendum to reflect this new relationship?”
Schneider Electric: “Yes, we are willing to provide that. We have also offered a zero dollar invoice for the next year in addition to addressing the action items we have discussed.”
Todd Porter: “Thank you for the opportunity to get it right. We are here to ensure that you are a more satisfied customer.”
Superintendent Murphy: “We do believe that there are energy savings to be gained with Schneider.”
Schneider Electric (formerly TAC) develops energy solutions that integrate data collection, information sharing, control systems and energy management for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings around the world. According to the company’s website “TAC has the expertise to understand customers’ different businesses and address their specific needs. TAC is the supplier of choice for building management solutions tailored to the way customers do business.
Representatives from Schneider Electric are scheduled to be onsite at school facilites next week.