University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings, city collaborate on energy conservation awareness

January 10, 2011 



Tina Volek, Billings City Administrator, 657-8430
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Student interns assist on market research, website development


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — When Dr. Jenny Leonard talked with some her college students about doing work on a new website that promotes energy conservation in Billings, she knew they would develop some important information systems and technology skills.


What she didn’t know was that they would also turn into energy experts.


That was more than evident when Leonard, an associate professor of management at the Montana State University Billings College of Business, showcased a new website developed by her students over the past year. The site helps promotes Billings as an Energy Star city.


“The biggest benefit was the application of the knowledge, having the students see how it actually comes together,” said Leonard, who teaches management information systems and website development courses at the university. “But some students found they became experts in energy saving tips.”


screenshot from Blue Skies Green Pockets web siteStudents who worked on the project over the course of the past year with the city researched various energy conservation topics and websites and used them to develop a website that not only advances energy-saving topics, but raises awareness of the good work that is already taking place in Billings.


“They found it’s easy to make a difference,” Leonard said. “You don’t actually have to put up solar panels to make a change.”


The “Blue Skies Green Pockets” campaign messages and website for conservation launched this week on television and the internet.


Faculty and student interns from the communications, public administration and business programs partnered with the city of Billings over the past year to develop a marketing campaign to highlight the city’s conservation activity and encourage local citizens to look at ways to conserve energy.


The campaign involved market research, web design, and multi-media delivery of the “Blue Skies Green Pockets” message, which was created and tested by students. The students and faculty produced and starred in television advertisements showing residents simple and effective ways they can conserve energy. The commercials airing this week on KTVQ2 and KULR8 show how turning down heat and electricity can save money.


The Energy Star program is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that helps cities around the country save money and protects the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

The City of Billings is launching a series of energy conservation activities this week as part of its new role in the Federal Energy Star program.


Last October, the Billings City Council voted to accept the Energy Star challenge while taking a leadership role in conservation that will encourage residents to make energy-saving choices.

A joint venture of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star helps cities around the country save money and protects the environment through energy efficient products and practices.


As part of this effort, Billings has submitted to an energy audit that will help designate the city’s first round of conservation changes, said Saree Couture, the facilities manager for the city of Billings. The audit is paid for completely with grant money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the stimulus package under the Department of Energy for Energy Efficiency Grants. The money will provide sustainable improvements to Billings’ facilities that guarantee energy, operating, and maintenance savings.


Billings will implement these conservation steps in order to save money on utility costs while producing a cleaner environment, Couture said.


And just as important, she said, the new website will promote the positive work already being done in the city. For example, the 34 methane wells at the city’s landfill are already helping provide energy to heat 4,000 homes in Billings, Couture said, showing that the city is making strides to be more energy conscious.


While conserving energy means saving money and preserving resources, the process over the past year has been a learning experience for all entities involved.


Dr. Mary McNally, a College of Business professor who was a part of the partnership, noted , “This yearlong project involving 12 students and five faculty partnering with the city of Billings has been a great learning experience and a huge step for energy awareness and efficiency.”


PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Jenny Leonard, assistant professor at the MSU Billings College of Business, shows features of a new energy awareness website with Saree Couture, facilities manager with the city of Billings.