Energy efficiency helps Western Forest Products compete globally

Image of Western Forest Products employees
A strategic energy management plan and the help of an energy manager have helped Western Forest Products reduce costs, focus on investments and become more globally competitive.

Targeted energy efficiency improvements reduce costs, temper economic downturn

The economic downturn of recent years was felt by industries all over the world. B.C.'s wood products sector was no exception in experiencing a changed business climate. Western Forest Products, since the downturn, has positioned themselves by reducing costs, focusing on maximizing margin, and investing in their facilities.

Energy efficiency was identified as an opportunity to reduce costs. By targeting areas where it could improve energy efficiency, Western Forest Products reduced energy consumption and saved money. "All of our efforts to improve our cost structure, including energy efficiency, contributed to working through that downturn," says Makenzie Leine, WFP's Manager of Communications. With 10 flexible milling facilities, all on Vancouver Island, WFP is one of the biggest forest products businesses in the province. The company prides itself not only on its high quality goods, which are in demand in over 25 countries, but also for its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.

Strategic Energy Management plan helps identify low-cost and no-cost solutions

Part of that effort includes reducing energy consumption. BC Hydro Power Smart was an integral part of helping Western Forest Products develop a Strategic Energy Management Program to help the company reach its goals.

In the first phase of its partnership with BC Hydro Power Smart, WFP investigated "low-cost, no-cost" solutions and conducted energy studies. "We reviewed all our equipment, and our lighting and heating usage," says Leine. "We looked at billing patterns and analyzed how we were charged. And we started to better manage our energy use."

In the second and third years of the strategy, the company focused on small retrofit projects. "We identified compressed air as a major area for improvement," she says. "We installed smaller compressors where it made sense ande identified areas where we could turn compressors off when the plant wasn't running."

Energy manager seeks continual energy-saving improvements

For over five years, WFP has also utilized the BC Hydro Power Smart Industrial Energy Manager Program. Energy Manager Randy Sall helps identify and act on energy-savings opportunities in the company. So far, WFP has saved over 20 gigawatt hours (over 20 million kilowatt hours). "One of our core values here at Western is continuous improvement," Leine says. "We look at every area of our business. And of course, energy consumption is an area of opportunity."

With improved financial results, WFP is able to focus its attention on investment. "At the end of 2011, we announced a $200 million  commitment to capital upgrades," Leine notes. "Investing in the company makes us more competitive and able to run through future market cycles. This will also allow us to be a more stable employer and contributor to the economy."

Power Smart programs provide incentives, support and training

Leine would advise any business that might be contemplating embarking on an energy efficiency strategy with BC Hydro Power Smart to utilize the programs available.

"BC Hydro has some great incentives to get you started," she says. "Their team provides excellent support, training and awareness. And companies can not only improve existing systems, but they can partner on programs for capital improvements and long-term cost-benefits."

Those benefits can be enormous. "Being more efficient with a reduced environmental footprint is an important part of being globally competitive," Leine says. "Every little bit counts and Western Forest Products sees a very bright future for the forest industry."