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Lighting upgrades alone save Burnaby School District $335,000 a year

Matt Foley
Matt Foley, facilities manager and energy manager with the Burnaby School District.

Many district buildings had lighting fixtures from the 1940s and 1950s

There's a certain romance to Burnaby School District 41's buildings, most of which are at least 60 years old and some which are older than 80.

Generations of bright, eager young people — from Michael J. Fox to celebrity chef Rob Feenie and 2012 Olympic soccer star Christine Sinclair — passed through their doors and roamed their halls.

But the romance ends with decades-old lighting and high energy bills. When you're dealing with eight high schools, 41 elementary schools and eight additional buildings, the costs of wasted electricity add up fast.

"By the end of March 2013, we will have upgraded the lighting in every school building in our district," says Matt Foley, facility services manager/energy manager for the district. "Many had their original light fixtures from as early as the 1940s and 50s, maybe even the 1930s.

"They used way too much energy, plus the light quality was poor. Now, with BC Hydro's help, we've installed really energy efficient lighting, which has also given us better light quality and a better educational setting for our 24,000 kids."

Getting it done: lighting, HVAC and more

Through lighting changes alone, School District 41 will save 3.9 million kilowatt hours and an estimated $335,000 a year on its electricity bills.

Combined with other projects, such as HVAC controls and retrofitting a variable speed drive to an existing chiller at Burnaby South Secondary School, the savings are truly remarkable: 5.2 million kWh annually — equivalent to powering 472 homes for a year.

"We're the only school district in B.C. to do a redesign on a chiller," says Foley, "but it's the biggest kilowatt hour savings we've ever had in one school. Phenomenal."

Spin-off benefits

Foley says the upgrades couldn't have been done without the help of BC Hydro's Power Smart Partner Program. Energy management was always a priority for the district, but the program provided the incentives, support and technological knowledge to deliver on huge savings.

"It has allowed us to take on more projects, much faster than we would have otherwise," says Foley, who became a full-time energy manager through Power Smart's support. "And for me, personally, I've found my calling.

"I love this job. It's so rewarding to realize that you've made a difference to 60-year-old infrastructure and how these buildings will look and function for the next part of their lifecycle."

Foley's also extremely proud of the spin-off benefits from School District 41's involvement with BC Hydro. The district is now more aware of energy efficiency, to the point of getting students involved, too.

"They [students] started the Burnaby Youth Sustainability Network, an environmental awareness club, in 2010 that I am really, really proud of and really proud to support," he says.

One of the co-founders of the youth network, Burnaby North Secondary student Jennifer Hao, says she's clearly inspired by Foley's leadership and support.

"At a baseball game, you'll always have that one father who cheers the loudest for his kid's team, and that's what Mr. Foley does for BYSN," says Hao. "If I asked the average adult supporter, 'Hey, can we please have an LED light display at our DO IT GREEN conference,' most would respond, 'Sure, I'll try my best.' But Mr. Foley responds, 'Sure, and by the way, would you guys like me to bring an electric car to put in the middle of the conference? What about electric bikes?"

About the Power Smart Partner program

The program helps commercial, government and institutional organizations that spend more than $250,000 a year on electricity to integrate long-term energy management into their day-to-day operations.

The program includes tools — such as an Energy Study and an Energy Management Assessment — to identify your organization's energy-saving opportunities, as well as support for a full-time energy manager and financial incentives for implementing energy-efficiency projects.

To become a Power Smart Partner, contact your BC Hydro Key Account Manager or call 604 522 4713.