Savannah River Remediation will expand a cost-saving effort to Barnwell County schools that already has provided an estimated $200,000 in savings to Aiken County schools, Gov. Nikki Haley announced on Wednesday along with representatives from Savannah River Remediation.

SRR in 2010 provided its expertise in Six Sigma to Aiken County Public Schools to use as a tool to reduce energy usage throughout the district. After reviewing various areas that might yield cost savings, Aiken County schools and SRR agreed that some of the largest savings could come from the cost of utilities, specifically electricity usage.

SRR will now partner with Barnwell School District 45, Williston School District 29, Blackville School District 19 and the Barnwell County Career Center to help the schools cut utility costs.

“We can save money in the schools more than we can ever give them by writing a check,” said Dean Campbell, SRR spokesman. “For instance, in Aiken, we saved nearly $200,000 a year in utility costs for them, showing them how to save money. What that amounts to is, year after year, a school district can have more and more savings. Therefore, they can put that back into classrooms.”

SRR employees known as “black belts” will go to the schools and examine energy practices and habits and find cost savings, according to Campbell.

In 2010, savings were found in multiple areas in Aiken County schools, including placing reminder labels on light switches to encourage conservation, installing programmable thermostats, holding summer programs in the most energy-efficient schools and minimizing square footage of schools used during summer school.

The total implementation capital costs for Aiken County were estimated to be about $10,000, and those costs were mainly associated with more energy-efficient lighting and thermostat changes.

Gov. Haley said, “To be here with SRR and to see what they have done with rural South Carolina, and school districts in South Carolina, goes to the heart of what we're trying to do with education. To see what they've done, to see how they started in Aiken and said, 'We're gonna put this Six Sigma process in place, saving $200,000 annually,' that $200,000 now goes to ... technology, books, whatever they need. That is $200,000 more that they have in their district. They went to Allendale, and now onto Barnwell.”

Campbell said Six Sigma is not unique to SRR.

“Other companies use it,” he said. “We've used Six Sigma for years at the Savannah River Site. In the past four years, we've saved $132 million using Six Sigma process on all the things we do related to tank cleaning and tank closure.”

After Aiken County, SRR took the parntership to Allendale County schools in 2011, which saw a reduction of at least 5 percent in electricity usage, translating into an $18,500 annual savings for the district.

Sam McKay, director of the Barnwell County Career Center, said energy savings is important, especially for older buildings such as the Career Center, which was finished in 1970. He added that in addition to the cost savings in energy, the school also saves money from not having to hire a private firm to analyze the building's energy use.