With raised awareness of the environmental impacts of energy use, the University of Northern British Columbia has committed to minimizing its environmental impact by reducing energy consumption, and showcasing renewable and efficient energy systems that are of particular interest to northern and remote communities, while supporting its mandate of teaching and research.
In addition to minimizing the environmental impacts of operating UNBC facilities, decreasing energy use and switching to renewable energies stabilizes operating costs and reduces the impact of increasing energy rates. For example, over the past five years electricity prices have risen 40%, however due to the Energy Management initiatives UNBC decreased electricity use by 13% which resulted in just a 16% increase in electricity costs.
UNBC's Energy Management Program is largely supported by BC Hydro. BC Hydro provides funding for a dedicated Energy Manager, incentives for energy efficiency projects, and access to a large network of Energy Specialists, Managers and consultants in BC. The UNBC energy portfolio covers all UNBC owned and operated facilities including the Prince George Campus, Terrace Campus, Quesnel River Research Centre, and Wood Innovation Research Lab in downtown Prince George, a total of 22 buildings. The total annual energy costs in fiscal year 2020 were $1.64 million.
UNBC has completed dozens of energy efficiency projects over the past 11 years which have helped us reduce our electricity use by 40% and natural gas consumption by 24% from the 2010 baseline, resulting in utility cost savings of $3.2 million and $2.6 million respectively.
From 2010 to 2015 we implemented dozens of lighting retrofits, including upgrading all of our T12 linear fluorescent lighting to T8s, and upgrading much of our high intensity lighting to LEDs (see a list of the projects below). We have also installed motion sensors in some areas for added savings. By switching to more efficient lighting, we are saving over 850,000 kWh of electricity per year, this is enough electricity to power 77 average BC houses each year. In dollar terms, we are saving roughly $68,000 per year.
- Reef Fish Tank
- Teaching Lab mechanical room
- Prince George Campus exterior pathways (bollards and globes)
- Quesnel River Research Centre
- Northern Sport Centre field house
- First Nations Centre
- Medical Building lecture theatres
- Wintergarden atrium
- Facilities Department
- Teaching Lab Recessed Lighting
- Shipping and Receiving Warehouse
- Terrace Campus (interior)
- NUSC Event Space
- Residence suites and hallways
- Agora lecture theatres
- Charles J. McCaffray Hall atrium
- Bentley Centre
- Enhance Forestry Lab Cold Storage
- Northern Sport Centre gym
- Canfor Theatre
- Residence exterior
- Green Centre
- Thirsty Moose
In addition to replacing inefficient lighting, we have installed a daylight sensor which is used to turn off unessential lighting when there is sufficient natural light from outside. The daylight sensor currently controls the atrium lighting in the Charles J. McCaffray Hall, Wintergarden, and Teaching and Learning building, as well as the lighting in the hallways of the Agora and Charles J. McCaffray Hall. By using natural lighting, we are saving 70,000 kWh of electricity per year, equivalent to powering 6 BC households each year. In dollar terms, using natural daylight is saving us over $5,000 per year on electricity costs.
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Projects
We have completed several projects around our HVAC systems including a boiler replacement, free cooling upgrades, and air handler cleaning. Most recently we upgraded the humidification system in the Medical Building, and completed a retrofit on a natural gas air handling unit in the Power Plant. In total, these projects are saving: 880,000 kWh of electricity, equivalent to powering 80 BC homes; and 500 GJ of natural gas per year, equivalent to heating 6 average BC homes.
- Medical Building humidifier replacement
- Prince George Campus air handler coil cleaning (all buildings)
- Charles J. McCaffray Hall electrical vault free cooling
- Power Plant air handling unit dampers and control
- Medical Building AV room free cooling
- Terrace Campus Boiler Replacement
We are enrolled in the BC Hydro Continuous Optimization Program (C.Op), a building tune-up program to improve the operating efficiency of existing buildings. Nine of our Prince George Campus buildings are enrolled in the program, and are being rolled out over 3 phases.
C.Op Phase 1
In C.Op Phase 1, we focused our efforts on our highest energy consuming buildings: the Teaching Lab, Research Lab, and Agora. Low cost, high payback energy conservation measures were identified for each building by a recommissioning consultant including:
- Tightened building schedules for HVAC and lighting
- Revised HVAC control strategies
- Revised hot water pumping strategies
- Installation of occupancy sensors in labs and lecture theatres to control HVAC and lighting
The implementation of Phase 1 was completed in spring 2015, where we are expecting to save 700,000 kWh of electricity, 6,500 GJ of heat, and roughly $107,000 in utility costs annually. At a total implementation cost of $108,000, the payback is expected to be just over 1 year.
C.Op Phase 2
The Phase 2 of C.Op is focusing on the Medical Building, Charles J. McCaffray Hall, and Northern Sport Centre. Similar to Phase 1, energy conservation measures have been identified for these buildings and are now in the process of being employed by March 2016. We have budgeted to spend $74,000 on measures that are expected to save 700,000 kWh of electricity, 1,700 GJ of bioenergy, 1,900 GJ of natural gas and $81,000 in utility costs annually.
C.Op Phase 3
The final phase of C.Op will focus on the Conference Centre, Library, and Teaching and Learning Building. Currently, our recommissioning consultant is investigating energy conservation measures for Phase 3, with recommendations coming in early 2016. We will then have until March 2017 to complete the recommended measures.