BC Hydro lends energy measurement equipment to customers

Nina Winham

"There's that old saying that you can't manage what you don't measure," says Robert Raymond of BC Hydro. "That's the thought behind MILL – if you don't know what kind of power you're wasting or how things are operating, you can't make the changes to fix it."

Raymond is the manager of BC Hydro's MILL program – Metering and Instrumentation Lending Library. Just as it sounds, the library consists of a variety of measurement tools for all sorts of industrial applications. Eligible BC Hydro customers can borrow the tools for free to assess their production processes and figure out where opportunities for efficiency lie.

"Our goal is to get equipment in the hands of people who may not have access to equipment of their own, or may have to rent it and it may not be a priority," says Raymond.

"Everybody's running on tight budgets and it's tough to make the case for measurement equipment because there's no guaranteed payback time or savings associated with it – even though we all know you will identify issues, and the equipment will pay for itself. MILL gives people the opportunity to borrow the equipment – and then they're off to the races."

The Metering and Instrumentation Lending Library includes:

  • Electrical meters
  • Ultrasonic detectors for air leaks
  • Process flow meters
  • Stroboscopes
  • Infrared thermometer
  • Infrared thermal camera
  • Data loggers

Equipment is available to any BC Hydro customer that spends more than $200,000 on electricity annually (companies with Key Account Managers). Loans are made for an initial three months and may be extended for another three. You can browse the list of equipment available for loan in the MILL online catalogue.

Raymond says the program has been popular, with some customers borrowing more than 45 pieces of equipment in the first year.

 "The most borrowed items are power meters," he says. "We also have many types of loggers that can tell you how long a piece of equipment has been running, or lighting loggers to measure lighting in the facility.

"You can track activity against periods of operation, so for instance if things aren't getting shut off when they're supposed to, you can put a power meter or logger on the equipment and you can say, 'We were shut down for eight hours right here – so why is this thing still running?'"

Customers also influence the type of equipment in the MILL. Says Raymond, "Based on requests from several customers, we've recently started the process to add some small Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) to the program. Customers will be able to borrow a VFD, install it temporarily on a motor and measure the power savings. If the savings are significant it will enable the customer to build the case for purchasing their own VFD."

Raymond says customers are expected to have metering equipment installed professionally on their own – but BC Hydro is available to offer support in terms of using related software, and providing some engineering expertise. BC Hydro has also developed some of its own guides on how to use the equipment.

"Usually, our work starts with a problem," says Raymond. "The customer will have a piece of equipment that continually fails, for example, which usually points to something not running efficiently. In general, people are becoming more savvy – they borrow equipment and it starts an identification process that leads them to our other initiatives, such as having a pump study or compressed air study done. That's what we want – to help people get the right information as a first step toward improved efficiency."

Benefits of MILL

  • Identify energy saving opportunities
  • Make informed decisions
  • Measure energy consumption
  • Quantify process opportunities
  • Avoid cost of purchasing and maintaining equipment.

For information about MILL, or to obtain a Tool Request Form, contact your Key Account Manager, or contact Customer Care at 604 453 6400 Lower Mainland; 1 866 453 6400 elsewhere in B.C. – or by email.

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