$50 Million Energy Savings Project Could Land Mt. Diablo Unified Trustees in Hot Water

Mt. Diablo Unified officials are facing tough questions over a $50 million energy savings project which may be illegal, according to watchdogs.

The company responsible for the project is Texas-based Schneider Electric. Schneider offers green, cost-cutting energy solutions to districts across the country — or so they say. 

According to the East Bay Times, “similar contracts at the crux of Schneider’s pitch to educators have been clouded by allegations of malfeasance, including criminal forfeiture of $1.7 million and a $9.3 million settlement in Dec. 2020 involving at least eight projects with the federal government.”

The ultimate cost of the project at MDUSD is nearly double the initial cost projection. In March 2023, the school board approved an amendment to the original contract that increased the cost by almost $25.1 million.

The cost is important because, under current regulations, energy saving contracts can be approved outside of the competitive bidding process as long as the savings exceed project costs. That’s what happened here. However, the projected savings of this project were only 37.7 million, and that may be an overestimate.

The school district’s Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee has been looking into the contract, but says MDUSD isn’t being forthcoming with information. The committee has now reached out to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and may send a formal letter to the county’s Civil Grand Jury. In addition, the committee has hinted it could spearhead a recall effort against trustees who approved the contract.

MDUSD Superintendent Adam Clark has defended the project’s legality, although he says he would want to know if anything is amiss.

Read more about the controversial contract here.