Abbotsford saves energy by combining technology with education

Image of Victor Pankratz, City of Abbotsford
City of Abbotsford's Victor Pankratz says getting people engaged in energy conservation creates momentum and achieves energy savings.

Strategic plan helps keep a city-wide focus on conservation targets

With everything from ice rinks to an airport to look after, the City of Abbotsford's Victor Pankratz is a busy man.

Pankratz wears two hats, as the energy manager and the civic facility manager for the municipality. His work cuts across multiple areas, including parks and recreation, the convention centre, City Hall, and police and fire facilities.

To achieve energy savings across such a diverse portfolio, Pankratz uses a Strategic Energy Management Plan and other energy management tools available through BC Hydro's Power Smart Partner program. These tools help maintain a city-wide focus, ensure that the right staff are informed of energy conservation initiatives, and track project savings and payback.

Energy saving projects result in $130,000 annual energy savings

This year, Abbotsford completed upgrades at the Tradex convention centre that included recycling, rainwater harvesting, and a lighting retrofit (relamping plus occupancy sensors to ensure lights are off when not needed).

"Lighting is a great upgrade," says Pankratz. "Everyone can see it, and with Power Smart incentives, it has an excellent payback."

The Abbotsford Recreation Centre received new lighting, occupancy sensors for the heating and ventilation system, and variable speed drives on the refrigeration pumps that reduce their speed.

"If you reduce pump speed by 20 per cent, you save 50 per cent of the energy," says Pankratz.

Several of the City's newer buildings have been built with LEED features, including the Reach Museum, which has geothermal heating and LED lights, the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, and the recently completed Firehall No. 8.

The grand total? Energy saving projects have helped Abbotsford reduce its energy use by 1.6 GWh per year, enough to power about 150 homes. Pankratz says the City is already realizing $130,000 per year in reduced energy costs.

Engaging people pushes savings further

Working across so many City departments, Pankratz is able to learn firsthand about needs and challenges in different facilities, and improve the City's efforts on subsequent projects.

"When I first started, my thinking was all about getting [upgrade] projects done so the savings would come — which has happened," he says. "But now I look more at goals and plan how we will get there. It's not always projects, it's more about people and behaviours."

As a result, one of Abbotsford's energy efficiency goals for this year is education: to ensure all City employees understand how their behaviour affects overall energy use, and how small changes can add up to big savings.

Here are a few ways Pankratz gets people on board:

  • Sharing the City's energy plans and progress at quarterly staff meetings
  • Establishing green teams that operate at several facilities
  • Involving BC Hydro in events such as tours through the Matsqui Recreation Centre to see the energy saving upgrades, and at information booths at a number of barbecue events

Pankratz sees engaging people as key to achieving energy savings. With enthusiasm and support, projects gain momentum. And that engagement helps overcome obstacles to change.

"Sometimes you hit walls when you're changing the way things have been done in the past," he says. "It's not always easy, and there can be many people involved, but then we work together to ensure the new products are effective, as well as energy efficient.

"It makes a difference to include people in the process from the beginning, and hear their recommendations."