LSU looking for partner to modernize, run utilities plant at Baton Rouge campus

    LSU is expected to issue a request for qualifications next month for a partner to modernize and run the central utilities plant at the main Baton Rouge campus, published reports say.

    In a July 24 post, the trade publication Inframation, which operates behind a paywall, reported that the university would launch the first phase of a transparent, competitive procurement process for the campus energy system in August.

    LSU officials declined to comment and the August agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting has not yet been finalized or published.

    But the move is not unexpected. More than a year ago, LSU retained KPMG to study the university’s facilities and operations, including its aging heating and cooling system, which is inefficient and is adding to the university’s growing backlog of deferred maintenance.

    At the meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors in early March, KPMG consultant Dan Feitelberg updated the board on the study and suggested then that the board consider such a public procurement

    At that meeting, Feitelberg also said his firm had recently conducted a “high-level market-sounding effort” with 11 local and national utility infrastructure participants, all of whom expressed interest in potentially pursuing such a partnership with LSU.

    “The district energy services sector has increased significantly in recent years,” he told the board. “This is happening all over the country.”

    Feitelberg recommended LSU issue an initial RFQ and then, after reviewing the qualifications, invite a shortlist of up to three semifinalists to submit proposals, from which the final firm would be selected to engage in negotiations for a long-term deal.

    Since then, two interested bidders with existing ties to the state have reached out to LSU with proposals, according to Inframation. Those include LA Energy Partners, which is owned in part by Baton Rouge-based Bernhard Capital Partners and has a contract with the state to run the energy system at the Shaw Center for the Arts and to modernize the systems at some 30 other state office buildings, and Enwave Energy, which runs the district energy system for the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

    Enwave declined to comment, but a Bernhard official confirmed in a statement to Inframation in April that the firm had submitted a proposal to the university that would have built on LA Energy Partners’ existing contract with the state.

    “LSU, like several other state entities, asked LA Energy Partners to complete the due diligence needed to establish the specific terms and conditions of the statewide contract for LSU,” a Bernhard official reportedly told Inframation in an email. “Pursuant to LSU’s request, LA Energy Partners has submitted to LSU the information needed to include LSU within the statewide contract.”

    Bernhard Capital founder Jim Bernhard declined to comment, but a Bernhard Capital official confirmed the accuracy of the report.

    Since then, however, Inframation reports that after reviewing the two proposals LSU has decided to open the procurement to the broader marketplace, though the report notes the situation is fluid and could still change.

    Jim Bernhard was named by Gov. John Bel Edwards earlier this month to the LSU Board of Supervisors. Three weeks later, Bernhard declined the offer, possibly because of potential conflict-of-interest issues. 

    The LSU board meets August 14.

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