Meeting high energy conservation expectations in North Vancouver

Steve Jenkins, Energy Projects Manager for the District of North Vancouver

Community residents have high expectations from their municipalities, including great schools,up-to-date community recreation centres, well-lit streets and efficient waste management. More and more, residents also want their communities to be environmentally responsible and sustainable.

Added to that, municipalities across the province are trying to achieve highly ambitious greenhouse gas targets. For the District of North Vancouver, those targets are eight per cent by 2020, 13 per cent by 2030 and 21 per cent by 2050, compared to a 2007 baseline.

The solution lies in energy efficiency

For North Vancouver, the solution to meeting all those high expectations (at least in part) lies in working with BC Hydro's Power Smart Partner program.

"Energy efficiency is central to our goals," says Steve Jenkins, whose position as the District's Energy Projects Manager is partly funded by the program. "BC Hydro has been helping us over the past couple of years to develop a Strategic Energy Management Plan that we began implementing this past year and a half."

Central to that plan, Steve says, is the idea that "conservation is 100 per cent efficient" — which means the District began by looking not only at ways to incorporate new energy-saving technologies, such as highly efficient LED and CFL light bulbs into new buildings and renovations, but also at where municipal spaces might have been overlit in the past. "If you don't need a light, for example, why have it there? You save by not buying and installing a fixture where it's not needed, and you save because it's one less light bulb using energy."

Encouraging employee involvement

However, Steve says, you have to be careful about exactly where and when you change lighting: you do not want municipal spaces such as public libraries and recreation centres to feel dim and dingy or worse — unsafe — because of a lack of illumination. This is why the District's energy team has made sure that the municipality's building operators have been closely involved in all recent lighting renovations.

"With BC Hydro's help, we've been working on lighting retrofits for 47 of our municipal buildings, including the Municipal Hall, libraries, the recreation centre and even some houses we own," says Steve, "and we decided that, in addition to bringing in energy consultants to help us, we should work with the people who know these spaces the best. We wanted to engage the building operators in the retrofits from beginning to end. They understand their lighting needs better than anyone and helped us tweak the design to maximize the energy savings potential without compromising the usability of the space."

At the same time, Steve's consultations with building operators allowed him to educate them about the latest in energy-efficient lighting technology and lighting controls. "I could show them how we could illuminate a space just as well while reducing the wattage or number of bulbs, and then we could together figure out where to conserve."

Some surprises in store

These consultations also brought about some "really, really useful" ideas. At the Municipal Hall, for example, says Steve, "we engaged the key maintenance guy in the lighting retrofit and he said 'What about the fans?' There are 144 fans there, running 24/365. By adding one switch, we now shut them off for six hours a night, saving a lot of energy and probably prolonging the life of the equipment too."

In all, between lighting retrofits and mechanical upgrades, the District of North Vancouver is generating electricity savings of approximately 800,000 kilowatt hours a year, enough to power 72 homes and save the municipality $45,000 annually — money the municipality is happy to devote elsewhere.

Next steps

Now, says Steve, "we're looking at all our buildings again and moving into the continuous optimization phase, where we ensure the retrofits we've done continue to work at their best. We also recognize that we've been project-focused up to now and that we will need to ensure we have high levels of employee awareness, too. The day-to-day operation by building users is vital, but we've got things in place now that really make people really stand up and pay attention."

Motion sensors, for example, he says, have really caught employee interest. "People say 'Oh yeah! Those lights don't need to be on all the time.' It makes them aware they can do more, too, if they just think about it, and we need to more aggressively pursue those savings."

Big gains for a municipality

Angela Massey is the BC Hydro Key Account Manager working with the District of North Vancouver, and she's impressed with the way the municipality prepared the groundwork for their Power Smart Partner projects and the energy savings they have started to realize.

"This is a big accomplishment for the District of North Vancouver," she says. "It's more challenging for municipalities to make really solid energy savings because they don't have a lot of big buildings. It's in the big buildings where you change thousands of fixtures and can make huge gains. But they've been able to make big gains with their small buildings, too. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next, especially in the area of employee engagement."

About the Power Smart Partner Program

The Power Smart Partner Program is dedicated to helping commercial, government and institutional organizations that spend more than $250,000 a year on electricity to integrate long-term energy management into their day-to-day operations.

The program includes tools — such as an Energy Study and an Energy Management Assessment — to identify your organization's energy-saving opportunities, as well as support for a full-time Energy Manager and financial incentives for implementing energy-efficiency projects.

To become a Power Smart Partner, contact your BC Hydro Key Account Manager or call 604 522 4713.