B.C. food processors get a helping hand from Power Smart

Nico Human, CEO, BC Food Processors Association.

'We expect the highest quality in Canada, but it costs money'

Since 2008, food processors in B.C. have had the opportunity to zero in on potential energy and cost savings, at no cost to them.

The Energy Manager program for Food and Beverage Processing — a partnership between BC Hydro and the B.C. Food Processors Association (BCFPA) — has helped 52 companies to date, with more slated to join.

"Competitiveness is a massive issue for food processors," says Nico Human, CEO of the BCFPA. "In Canada there are so many requirements for food safety, for various regulations, for occupational safety, and so on — because we expect the highest quality in Canada. But it costs money. So our people have to be very, very switched on and know about all the ways they can save costs. Energy savings are one way to achieve that."

Under the program, food processors using greater than 1 GWh (about $50,000) of electricity per year can receive support from an energy expert, paid for by BC Hydro. The program is open to all food and beverage processors, not just BCFPA members. 

Start with a site investigation

The program offers several advantages including the opportunity to have an energy expert visit their facility and conduct a site investigation.

Following the site visit, the energy expert will create a customized plan that will help the customer achieve their energy saving goals. The customized plan will include low-cost and no-cost items that can be implemented immediately, along with recommendations on upgrades that can lead to further savings and efficiencies.

"With some companies, the initial reaction is, "We've already replaced our light bulbs,' or, 'We did something a couple years ago,'" says Connie Duivenvoorden, BCFPA's membership coordinator. "So they've done these little bits and pieces, but there's not always the understanding that this will look at their overall energy management practices.

"Once there's that awareness of how comprehensive this program is, then you've got their attention."

BC Hydro's Tony Ceh with Nico Human at FoodProWest 2010.

Power Smart offers help in sorting through incentives options

After the site investigation is completed, companies can leverage Power Smart project incentives to upgrade equipment and achieve savings.

Duivenvoorden says the program provides support at this phase as well.

"There are a lot of different initiatives and options," she says. "It's so much easier for them to pick up the phone and have one contact, someone that can help them navigate the system. It makes the process very straightforward for them."

To date, companies involved in the program together have an identified savings potential of 11 GWh of electricity. That's equivalent to the annual consumption of over 980 homes.

For BC Hydro, the partnership provides an effective channel for reaching and supporting medium-sized companies. For the BCFPA, the program helps the association meet members' needs.

"They're always looking to us to know what the next frontier is or what is coming down the pipe," says Human.

Sustainability now a basic requirement

He says consumers are increasingly focused on reading labels and gaining knowledge about food products, and retailers are similarly demanding higher "green" standards. Coupled with the ability of consumers to blog, tweet and share their experience with various products, and food processors need to be on top of best practices.

"Something like social responsibility, sustainability, that whole area is so important," he says. "You have to be a very good steward of the resources that you're using and of our planet; there's only a finite amount of resources available.

"[Sustainability] is not a competitive advantage anymore, it's the entry level. You cannot get into the marketplace and sell to certain people, if you do not step up to the plate and comply to these requirements."

Power Smart will host a booth at the upcoming FoodProWest 2012 on June 5 & 6, 2012.