Consider a physics department for example. Does each lab get metered and pay its own bill in the United States, or does the department itself cover overhead? Do energy leaks get noticed and managed? Do you get yelled at for leaving the lights on?

What's the norm on who foots the energy bill?

  • 3
    Given some equipment in physics labs you can leave the lights on for 50 years and it won't be noticed.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 6:40
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    I think this will be closed as specific to the regulations of an institution. A better question might be: Do grants pay utility bills? Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 8:41
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    Years ago one hot July day in New Jersey, I was in the accelerator lab running an experiment. The building folks came on the PA system and said that Con Edison had asked us to cut back on power to help prevent a brown out. The lab owner looked around the lab, stared at the ion accelerator for a bit (perhaps 25kW), and walked over to the door and turned off the room lights. That was our contribution...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 14:24
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    Interesting question, I am curious to know the answer. To me, it feels relevant to academia SE. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 16:44
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    Many grants include a negotiated overhead rate, which covers things like office space and electricity. But I am curious about whether ultra-high-energy equipment like GPU farms and particle accelerators are metered separately.
    – cag51
    Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 0:38

1 Answer 1


At the institutions where I worked in the US, a fixed overhead from grants, negotiated with the granting agency usually (e.g. X University takes YY% from all NSF grants held at X) went to those kinds of costs. I do not know of any exceptions, but we were more likely to be running refrigeration units and ovens than ion accelerators and each individual institute may have special exceptions. You would have to inquire directly.

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