Seeking ways to reduce electricity consumption

With a utility bill more than $25 million last year, Western’s Facilities Management staff are seeking new ways to reduce the university’s electricity consumption this summer.

Embedded within its utility bill lies Western’s government-applied Global Adjustment (GA) tax. Last year’s tax was more than $6.5 million (approximately 25 per cent of the entire utility bill). By reducing electricity consumption this summer, Western will not only lower its utility bill, but it can also significantly reduce its GA tax.


The GA is an initiative created by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a not-for-profit organization established by the Government of Ontario. The IESO is the body within Ontario responsible for making payments to electricity generators and suppliers.

Every five minutes, the IESO forecasts consumption throughout the province and collects best offers from generators to provide the province’s required amount of electricity. In order to prevent electricity shortages, a reserve of approximately 1400 megawatts (MW) is always on stand-by. Since the IESO over-estimates Ontario’s need for power as an insurance policy, they must make up for the extra money that they are paying electricity generators each day.

This is where the GA comes in.

The GA is the difference between the IESO’s total payments made to contracted or regulated electricity suppliers and the total market revenues within Ontario. Consumers are taxed a portion of this GA depending on which class they fall under.

‘Class A’ customers, such as Western, are those with an average electricity peak demand over 5 MW. The tax for these customers is based on the percentage that their electricity demand contributes to overall system demand during the peak hour of each of the five peak days of the year.  For example, if a business’s demand is assessed to be responsible for 1 per cent of peak demand during the five peak hours of the year, they will be charged 1 per cent of Ontario’s total GA costs for the year.

The challenge is that it cannot be predicted when the peak hours are going to be. For this reason, Western needs to have good consumption practices during those hours when the peak demands in Ontario could potentially be measured.

“Traditionally, these peak hours occur in July or August, sometime between 3-5 p.m.,” said Paul Martin, Western’s director of business operations. “This is when electricity usage, particularly from air conditioners, is at its highest.”

However, with elevated outdoor temperatures and rising humidity this week, Ontario may be in the midst of an annual peak and Facilities Management will be working to minimize Western’s electrical load as early as June 21.

According to the IESO, outdoor temperatures tend to have the most impact on electricity usage. Each degree over 16 degrees Celsius creates an additional demand of around 280 MW, which is like adding a city the size of Burlington to the grid.

Facilities Management’s solution for mitigating the impact of the GA is to reduce the air conditioning in as many buildings as possible from 2-6 p.m. beginning today until the end of August this summer. The department acknowledges that certain areas of research and study require climate standards and every step will be taken with those groups to maintain that service level.

“Staff, faculty and students probably won’t notice any significant temperature changes, but it’s still something we need to communicate,” Martin noted.

The changes that will be made this summer won’t be difficult to implement or strongly felt, but their positive impacts will be significant. Along with saving large amounts of money, the changes will also help the campus reduce its environmental footprint. Western is committed to embedding sustainability into every facet of daily life and has pledged to minimize its impact on the environment.

The key is to gain support from Western’s staff, faculty and students. It is anticipated that reducing the air conditioning during peak hours will save Western at least 2.5 MW of electricity and $500,000 each year, but there are also other ways that everyone can help out.

“Something as simple as lowering your blinds when the sun is beaming in can help reduce the amount of work air conditioners need to do,” said Beverley Ayeni, Western’s energy and environment manager. “If everyone made sure to turn off the lights when they left their offices, it would make a significant difference in Western’s electricity consumption.”

Everyone can do their part to pitch in.

Keeping windows closed when air conditioners are running, dressing in light layers, unplugging appliances when not in use and setting laptops and computers to energy saver modes can greatly help reduce Western’s electricity demand.

“Trying to reduce our utility costs is the right thing to do, and makes good sense in our tight budget climate. The money saved from reducing electrical consumption this summer could be used to reinvest in other areas within the university,” Martin said. “The fact is that every Class A operation out there is going to start cutting back.

“If we’re the only one who doesn’t, we’re going to be hit even harder.”

Stefanie De Adder, BSc, MES student, is environmental project coordinator, Facilities Management.


For more information about the scheduled air conditioning changes occurring this summer, contact Paul Martin, Western’s director of business operations, at or ext. 85421.