Pastry maker gets sweet savings

Over the past year, demand for the sweet treats produced by Gizella Pastry has grown even sweeter. The Vancouver-based manufacturer, which primarily supplies the casual dining, retail bakery, and club store markets, has grown its production by an impressive 20 per cent.

That's great news for the maker of cakes, cheesecakes, bars, and crumbles. Even better is that they've grown output without an increase for a key cost: electricity.

More cake, less cost

The secret ingredient in Gizella's stable electricity cost has been several energy retrofits at its 50,000 square-foot plant. The company took part in the Energy Manager program through BC Food Processors Association , which provided it with an energy study funded by BC Hydro. From there, the company undertook a lighting upgrade and added refrigeration controls, making use of Power Smart incentives to defray project costs.

"From a strategic standpoint, we have a core value that refers to our carbon footprint, so this made sense," says Tom Spicker, Gizella's general manager. "We've taken a position that where we can give back or do better, we will make those choices. We have customers that have green initiatives who care about our work on this sort of thing. So it fits our strategies, and our values — plus, there was the financial incentive there to do it."

New lighting, refrigeration controls

Gizella's lighting retrofit switched out 400 watt metal halide lamps for 200 watt T5 fluorescents — cutting electricity use in half and improving the atmosphere in the workspace. Gizella's staff report that it's actually made the plant brighter and better for production workers.

The new refrigeration controls were added to the company's 14 freon compressor systems. Unlike the old system which defrost on a time clock every six hours, the new system will only defrost when it's required. The new system also shuts down both fans and compressor when the freezers have reached temperature.

Energy savings exceed estimates

Energy saving estimates for the two projects total 118,600 kWh per year — a savings of $6,000 per year and enough electricity to power over 10 B.C. homes for a year. With a cost of about $56,000 (the company's maintenance department did part of the labour, reducing costs), an incentive of $31,681, the project was expected to payback in four years — and provides ongoing savings after that, despite the increase in bakery production. With the new conservation rate in place, however, the company is now seeing credits on its bill due to its savings — bringing payback time down. The successful project has inspired a similar lighting retrofit at sister company Golden West Bakery in Delta, and ongoing improvements at Gizella.

"We've installed what we call our second 'free heater,'" says Spicker. The heat exchanger captures waste heat from the freon refrigeration systems, and uses it to pre-heat incoming city water from about 5 degrees to 18 degrees Celsius, reducing the energy needed to heat it for cleaning and dishwashing.

Spicker says while the company's core values around environmental performance helped launch Gizella's energy efficiency projects, it also seems one project just leads to another. "You spend the time, and learn about all of this, and you can't help but say, 'Well, what else can we do?'"