FM nods to campus for conservation successes

For the last three summers, Facilities Management staff has confronted rising energy bills and mounting demand pressures by working with the university community to reduce electricity consumption during June, July and August. That challenge dawns again this year.

“Western is a recognized leader in managing energy demand,” said Beverley Ayeni, Western’s sustainability manager. “Facilities Management plays a large role. However, much of our success is a result of the engagement from our building occupants.”

As in years past, Facilities Management staff will lead the campuswide conservation effort.

With campus electricity demand closely associated with outdoor air temperature, Facilities Management focuses its efforts on temporary reduction of air conditioning in as many buildings as possible. These slight temperature shifts in buildings at the end of select days have led to big savings, Ayeni said.

In previous years, this strategic approach has saved more than $1 million.

In addition to this major effort, Ayeni stressed small, individual acts of conservation in your area of your building can impact energy consumption by as much as 15 per cent.

“Fifteen per cent doesn’t sound like much,” Ayeni continued. “But when applied to a multi-million dollar utility, it has a significant impact.”

Some simple ways to contribute include:

  • Lower blinds to prevent the sun from beaming into a room;
  • Turn lights off when a room is not in use;
  • Avoid ‘phantom power’ by unplugging electronics/appliances when not in use;
  • Set your computers/laptops to energy-saving mode; and
  • Turn off computers, monitors and printers when you leave for the day.

“The combination of engagement from building occupants and Facilities Management’s mitigation strategy continues to raise our profile,” Ayeni said. “We are often consulted on the factors for our success – the answer always points to the hard work of Facilities Management staff and the buy-in from our building occupants.”

Conservation efforts from previous summers have earned a number of accolades, including Quality & Productivity Award-Ontario Regional Prize, presented by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers, in 2013, and the Environmental Award of Excellence, presented by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, earlier this year.

The monumental conservation task comes in response to the government-applied Global Adjustment (GA) tax, embedded within the university’s utility bill. Last year’s tax was more than $5.7 million (approximately 20 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 1,400 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, Ayeni said, Western needs to have good consumption practices during those hours when the peak demands in Ontario could potentially be measured.