Hands-on event helps Canfor employees see savings

BC Hydro Community Outreach representative Amanda Provencal talks with Canfor Taylor's Ross Bishop about saving energy in the workplace.

Nina Winham

Last month, employees at Canfor's Taylor pulp mill near Fort St John got a chance to lay their hands on some real value.

Energy efficiency value, that is.

Mill employees were able to take a break from work to attend a barbecue sponsored by BC Hydro Power Smart, and attended by members of Power Smart's Outreach Team.

"Our industrial customers represent around 40% of the entire electricity use in the province," says Emily Cass, an Outreach Representative who attended the Canfor event. "So we're starting to reach out more to them. We go to employee awareness events and we bring along demos, to show them things they can do to be more energy efficient."

Small changes, big impacts

The demonstration displays include a water pump, a fan and an air blower. Employees can adjust various operational settings on the equipment and see how different modes affect the energy required to do the same amount of work.

"There was a meter showing how many amps it was drawing, and you could change the position of a valve or a louver to increase the efficiency and see the amps drop down," says Jesse Smith, a Canfor millwright who visited the display. "You could see how you can move the same amount of product using less energy."

The Power Smart event included general education, such as:

  • How much the company spends on electricity each year (up to an eye-opening $16 million);
  • How much electricity a single small industrial water pump uses (enough to power 300 homes);
  • Steps employees can take to be more energy efficient.

People have to work with the technology

Representatives also surveyed employees, to see what they knew about energy efficiency and to collect any ideas they had about possible conservation measures. Smith says hard numbers, plus the chance to see how real equipment operates more efficiently, make a difference.

"It's in the hands of operators and maintenance," he says. "If the operator can see how that works, he might be thinking that way when he's sitting up there in his booth. If those guys run their machines easier, then I have to do less maintenance on them; they won't wear out as fast. And if we don't maintain this stuff – keep it lubricated and keep the fans clean – it's going to take more energy to spin it over.

"With how much we spend a year, even if we save just one percent, that's still a lot of money."

Power Smart's industrial program supports companies towards energy efficiency through a variety of initiatives, from assessments through to financial incentives for specific efficiency upgrades. Getting employees on board is part of that work.

"Our message is that it's not just technology, and it's not just people," says Cass. "It's getting people working with the technology properly that makes the difference."

She says that's why the hands-on exhibits hit home. "Especially for people who work in technical fields, when they can actually touch things and see the visuals and see how much energy is saved when they do small behaviours like opening up the draft vents, it really makes a difference for them."

For Smith, learning about energy conservation at a company-sponsored event proved something else as well.

"It's good to know about, it doesn't feel like a big corporation that doesn't really care," he says. "Maybe they're not thinking about how the efficiency actually trickles down to everyone else; maybe they just realize they're saving money.

"But it's more than that too – it kind of works out to the environment and everything else. If the company isn't using all that power then it can go somewhere else; there's more for the rest of us."

Companies interested in learning more about employee awareness and possible outreach events can speak with their Key Account Manager.

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based sustainability consultant and regular contributor to and the Current Industrial eNewsletter.