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Energy-saving measures give Tolko Industries Ltd. a competitive edge

Image of Tolko Industries workers
A dedicated energy manager and participation in Power Smart programs have helped Tolko Industries Ltd. save energy, create an energy efficiency culture and boost competitiveness in international markets.

Tolko Industries Ltd. works with Power Smart on energy efficiency projects

Tolko Industries Ltd. has grown from a small sawmill in Lavington, B.C., to a major manufacturer — and with that growth comes a higher electricity bill.

"We're certainly in the multi-million dollar range annually," says Tolko's Mike Towers.

Towers is the manager of energy supply and systems for the 57-year-old company, which manufactures materials such as lumber, paper and specialty wood products. Tolko has numerous locations across Canada, including 10 in B.C.

"They've all implemented projects to some degree," Towers says of the B.C. locations.

Of the 18 projects implemented in the last four years, he says, "about half of them were done with BC Hydro Power Smart cooperation."

Dedicated energy manager identifies energy reduction projects, promotes energy-efficient culture

As part of the energy savings strategy developed with BC Hydro Power Smart, Tolko created the position of a dedicated Energy Manager. As Energy Manager, Jim Thomson identifies opportunities for energy reduction projects at the company's business units, improves energy tracking and reporting within the company, and promotes a more energy efficient culture. The energy manager also coordinates with BC Hydro Power Smart on projects.

Among those projects are equipment upgrades, such as replacing older compressed air machines with more efficient newer models. In some cases, Tolko has managed to cut back on compressed air machines altogether.

"We looked at some of the places where we normally use compressed air and found that it's better to switch over to an electric motor and reduce our overall energy use," Towers says.

Since partnering with BC Hydro Power Smart, Tolko has implemented projects which have reduced annual energy consumption by over 10 GWh per year. This has resulted in over $500,000 in annual energy savings.

Power Smart projects boost competitiveness in the marketplace

The company has always had a strong focus on cost reduction through energy.

"But it was typically hard to justify electricity saving products because they cost a lot of money. When BC Hydro Power Smart factored in the cost of acquiring new power versus helping customers reduce their energy use, and came to the table with some Power Smart incentives, that's really what made the projects possible."

Many of those projects have helped increase Tolko's competitiveness in the international market.

"In the wood products industry, you're making a lot of commodity products," Towers says. "You're taking the price of the market for your products, so the way to be more competitive is to reduce manufacturing costs."

For other manufacturers considering improving energy, Towers advises they approach BC Hydro Power Smart to learn about programs and incentives. And that they hire an Energy Manager.

"It's very helpful to have someone in place who can identify opportunities, monitor and report energy use, and share best practices between operating facilities. Having an energy manager ensures we have a robust program and allows our managers and employees to focus on running the day-to-day business operations.