BC Hydro sweetens incentives for industrial energy efficiency

Nina Winham

If your company hasn’t begun to tackle energy efficiency,  or has more work to do,  your moment has arrived.

BC Hydro has just sweetened its programs for industrial customers, making it easier than ever to save money now on projects that will help cut costs well into the future.

“We’re not aware of any other utility in the world that has this rich an offer,” says Alex Adams, Industrial Marketing Program Manager. “And it’s certainly the richest offer ever from BC Hydro.”

The Power Smart Partner – Transmission program is designed for industrial customers who are billed under the transmission rate (Rate Schedule 1823, also called the Stepped Rate), including pulp and paper operations, large sawmills, mining operations, chemical plants, oil and gas operations, transportation and large manufacturers.

The improved support for industrial efficiency comes two ways:

  • Best-ever incentives for industrial efficiency projects – up to 100% funding for projects under $1 million, and up to 75% for those above $1 million. (Previously these incentives were limited to projects of $500,000 or less.) Incentives cover or reduce the up-front cost of retrofits or new equipment purchases needed for improved efficiencies, reducing or completely eliminating payback time.
  • Two-tiered financial support for an industrial energy manager. Customers who choose the “SEMP option” (Strategic Energy Management Plan) can get funding for their energy manager boosted to 75% of salary (up to 100% for the first three months) in return for signing up for a more strategic, long-term approach to energy management.

“Customers can take up the program in one of two ways,” says Adams. “They can participate in one or several individual initiatives, or they can take a more integrated and systematic approach to energy management.

“A strategic energy management approach offers sustainable savings, with new goals set every year and a trend of continuous improvement year over year. It’s really a gold-standard practice,” he says. “The strategic plan moves customers from one-off projects and an occasional focus on energy costs to a place where they continue to reap benefits from efficiency and innovation over time.

“There’s value there for the customer, and for us as well, so – it’s the path we want to encourage our customers to adopt. That’s why we put more money on the table if they take the SEMP option.”

Impressive list of programs

Various other industrial efficiency programs continue, including support for energy management assessment workshops, for developing an employee energy awareness program, and through access to the Metering and Instrumentation Lending Library (MILL), where tools and instruments for energy analysis can be borrowed.

Funding for studies to identify and implement the highest priority energy improvements is available too.

Why industrial efficiency matters

BC Hydro’s large (transmission rate) industrial customers represent about one third of the total demand load on the utility each year – approximately 15,000 GWh per year.

For several years, customers have been incented to improve efficiency through BC Hydro’s stepped rate program, where they’re charged a higher rate for a portion of their usage (generally calculated as 10% of their Customer Baseline – their total usage in 2005).

However, Adams says the sector has taken on the challenge – while individual companies may or may not have undertaken conservation efforts, the customer rate class as a whole has accomplished efficiencies equivalent to the 10% energy savings goal. That spells success for Power Smart programs in general, and a new challenge, for keeping up the momentum.

“The 90% of energy usage that remains is at a lower price signal, which isn’t a great incentive for making energy efficiency investments,” says Adams. “That’s why it’s important that we have a new incentive solution.”

Adams hopes the richer incentives with higher project cost thresholds will bring in larger projects – those that could save five to 15 GWh of energy apiece – though projects of all sizes are eligible. The total target for the utility is 415 GWh of energy savings over the next four years (approximately 3% of current total transmission customer usage). 

“For any company that wants to continue to cut costs and improve their processes, the time is now,” says Adams.

To learn more about the updated Power Smart Partners – Transmission program, talk to your Key Account Manager, or call the customer care team at 604 453 6400 (Lower Mainland) or 1 866 453 6400 (elsewhere in B.C.)

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based sustainability consultant and a regular contributor to