Earth Hour Countdown: Energy reductions reap $400,000 for York

York has recently reaped $400,000 in energy-reduction incentives from gas and electricity utilities – mostly for changing light bulbs – and expects lots more.

By fixing leaky steam traps in the heating systems, York cut its natural gas consumption by 356, 511 cubic metres. That’s about one per cent of York’s total annual consumption. “It doesn’t sound that impressive,” says Brad Cochrane, York’s director of energy management, “but that’s a lot of gas.” The reward? A $36,000 incentive cheque last year from Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc.

The really big energy savings, however, came when York’s energy management team and contractor MCW Custom Energy Solutions Ltd. improved the efficiency of lighting systems in 14 buildings. They re-engineered lighting systems to remove 10,000 lighting ballasts (the energy boosters that kick fluorescent lights on) and retrofitted more than 30,000 mostly fluorescent fixtures. The reward? A $362,000 cheque from the City of Toronto, which administers the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) energy-reduction incentive program.

Heating and ventilation systems, computers and electricity hogs like refrigerators consume about 80 per cent of a building’s energy load. Lighting consumes about 20 per cent. “The great thing about lighting upgrades,” says Cochrane, ”is not only is the quality of light better but the savings are so predictable. There’s no uncertainty – the latest technology is always better, therefore you will save.”

Just look at Scott Library (see YFile, March 22), he says. “The lighting upgrade there achieved a 50 per cent reduction in consumption while improving the quality of light and reducing glare. And when we complete the controls, the savings will be even greater.”

These energy efficiencies are only a few of the 60 measures York intends to take as part of its $40-million initiative to reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent. Since 2006, when the Board of Governors approved the five-year energy management program, York has spent about $20 million and is more than halfway to achieving the goal, says Cochrane.

Along the way, York expects to claim as much as $1 million in gas- and electricity-reduction incentives.

How did York qualify for a $362,000 electricity-reducing incentive from the OPA? It made lighting improvements in 14 buildings – Atkinson, Chemistry, Petrie Science, Farquharson Life Sciences, Curtis Lecture Halls, Scott Religious Centre, Steacie Science & Engineering, Behavioural Sciences, Tait McKenzie, Stedman Lecture Halls, McLaughlin College, Vari Hall, Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts and Bethune College.

The energy management team has:

  • upgraded fluorescent lighting to more energy efficient lamps, often reducing two-lamp fixtures to one lamp;
  • replaced exit-sign lighting with more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) technology;
  • added lighting-occupancy sensors in the Ross Building and Tait McKenzie, which means lights go on only when a person moves into the area;
  • centralized lighting controls, which means lights shut off automatically at 11 pm. This system will soon be operating in the Scott Library and at Tait McKenzie and is already operating in some areas of the Steacie Science & Engineering Building and Vari Hall;
  • replaced incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lamps and upgraded first-generation compact fluorescent lamps in Vari Hall;
  • redesigned lighting in some Tait McKenzie gymnasiums with the latest generation of fluorescent.

By the end of May, Cochrane expects to make lighting more energy efficient in Calumet, Founders and Vanier Colleges, Lumbers Building, Physical Resources Building, Centre for Film & Theatre and Kinsmen Building. An upgrade in the West Office Building, also part of this group, is finished.

After lighting, his team plans to tackle the remaining natural gas-reduction measures and begin making changes to toilet flushing systems to conserve more water.

By Martha Tancock, YFile contributing writer