School District 43 is participating in a BC Hydro incentive program to make its larger buildings more energy efficient.
The program, in which Hydro pays for a consultant and an energy management information system while the district fronts the costs of any energy efficiency measures, should go a long way to reducing costs and carbon footprints for some of the district's larger — and older buildings — says SD43 energy manager Dave Sands.
"This is a big project because we are always looking at ways to become more energy efficient," said Sands, who said the district should ultimately save money on its bottom line with the Continuous Optimization Program.
Energy sensors will be placed in eight high schools and a few middle schools for about nine months to track electricity and natural gas consumption, Sands said. The data will be used to develop an energy management plan and make suggestions about how the district can reduce energy use.
Sands said the study is primarily to improve the schools' heating and ventilation systems.
The district is already tracking energy consumption at schools and using the information to calculate carbon offsets, which is a provincial government requirement for making publicly owned facilities carbon-neutral. Last year, the district paid about $260,000 to Pacific Carbon Trust in carbon offsets; provincially, the total was about about $30 million.
The Crown corporation then uses the funds to support projects in the private sector, such as biomass systems, fuel switching at mills and energy curtains in greenhouses.
In the year since he took on the job of energy manager, Sands says he has learned a lot about the government's carbon offset program and can understand the logic of encouraging the private sector to develop innovative and large-scale projects that can significantly reduce energy consumption and CO2 gasses. But he is still waiting to see how a $5-million fund for public-sector energy saving projects will be doled out and said the district has dozens of projects in the hopper that could benefit.
And there is another benefit to keeping track of energy consumption at each school. Sands says he gets a kick out of students' reaction when he shows them how much electricity and natural gas their school uses. "It makes for really good conversation and it gets them to understand the meaning of turning off computers and turning off the lights."
Sands, an SD43 principal seconded to the energy manager job, has two more years in the post, which is paid for partly by BC Hydro.
In addition to the BC-Hydro Continuous Optimization Program at the district's eight high schools, 10 elementary schools will get full lighting upgrades to make them more energy efficient, Sands said.