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Fortis deal could save city energy $

Coquitlam is considering a proposal to build a district energy system for the city hall precinct and City Centre Aquatic Centre. - CITY OF COQUITLAM
Coquitlam is considering a proposal to build a district energy system for the city hall precinct and City Centre Aquatic Centre.
— image credit: CITY OF COQUITLAM

The city of Coquitlam has big plans for saving energy.

The city is eyeing a deal with Fortis BC Energy Inc. to build a district energy system for city hall, the public safety building and the City Centre Aquatic Complex, and is considering retrofitting 15 of its biggest energy-consuming buildings to cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint.

The bundled projects could help the city meet its provincial carbon neutrality goals by 2012, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 30% by 2015 and save money, according to a report to the city’s engineering, utilities and environment standing committee.

The city’s acting manager of environmental services said negotiations will soon start to determine the cost, scope and feasibility of the work. Verne Kucy said if cheaper energy can be created using the district energy system, developers would likely be eager to hook up down the road.

“If the energy rates are that much better using a district energy system, why would a private developer go with traditional systems?” Kucy said.

Fortis has offered to pay the as-yet-undetermined costs of the district energy system, with the goal of owning and operating it, and the city would pay back the investment with competitive utility rates.

Kucy said the deal still has to be worked out but if the project makes sense and the city decides to go ahead, construction of the groundwater system under the swimming pool parking lot could get underway next year.

Bundled with the new district heating system is a proposal by Johnson Controls LP to retrofit the 15 city buildings that consume the most energy.

The bundled retrofits would cost $3 million, with the money coming out of the city’s land sale reserve fund and paid back in just over 10 years with lower energy costs. The cost could be further reduced with incentives from BC Hydro and Fortis BC. But if the city decides not to proceed with the projects after a detailed study, the liability would be $235,000, the report states.

Fortis and Johnson were the top-ranked respondents to a request for information and qualifications issued in April. The report says Coquitlam has to find ways to cut its energy use to meet its obligations under the province’s Climate Action Charter it signed in 2008.

The city is also setting up a reserve with $130,000 in annual funding to help pay for energy saving and GHG-reducing projects in the future. Budgeted for 2012, The City of Coquitlam Climate Action Reserve Fund will enable the city to meet its obligations under the Climate Action Charter without having to pay offsets to a third-party.

In approving the fund, council decided it made sense for the city to fund its own projects instead of paying offsets to Pacific Carbon Trust or other pre-approved third-party projects, even though the scheme means the city won’t meet the province’s definition of “carbon neutral” but will instead fall into a new category of “making progress.”

Other municipalities are expected to take similar actions and fall under the same “making progress” category, the report states.

Since 2008, Coquitlam has 41 conservation projects, saving $205,000 in energy costs and reducing GHGs by 1,100 tonnes, or 17%.

The city is also looking at 10 low- or no-cost projects with payback periods of less than five years using existing resources. One idea would be to reduce pool temperatures — heating pools accounts for more than a third of the city’s corporate carbon footprint — which could save $18,000 and cut GHG emissions by 90 tonnes, although Kucy said it’s not a priority.

Other projects planned for 2012 include lighting retrofits and replacing personal space heaters in city buildings with low-wattage versions.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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