Coquitlam school district saves money with energy-saving projects

School District 43 in Coquitlam has approved a capital plan with no funds for construction for the next two years. - FILE PHOTO
School District 43 in Coquitlam has approved a capital plan with no funds for construction for the next two years.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO

School District 43 is saving energy and money but much work still needs to be done on its carbon footprint, the board of education was told Tuesday.

Dave Sands, the district's principal of energy and sustainability, told trustees SD43 is getting back more money than it spends on carbon offsets for energy retrofits and other projects, such as a recent lighting upgrade at 18 schools. Under rules put in place this spring, school districts will still have to pay $25 a tonne of estimated carbon emissions from fuel, energy and paper consumption but will get back all — and, perhaps, more — of the money for school projects.

The result, according to Sands, is that the district spent $555,612 in carbon offsets to the Pacific Carbon Trust to offset about 22,000 tonnes of CO2e in 2010 and 2011 but got back $586,104 in funding for mechanical and electrical upgrades.

"That money was already spent but at least it was spent in our district and not the private sector," Sands said.

But SD43 secretary treasurer Rick Humphreys pointed out the carbon plan is a "transfer" of school district funding from operating budgets — money for running schools — to capital.

Still, the district continues to reap savings in energy costs from various projects — $2 million since 2009, according to Sands — and will continue to cut costs as it implements new programs in the coming years. For example, BC Hydro is collaborating on strategies for cutting electricity consumption at the district's largest schools and Fortis is funding the hiring of an energy manager to look at natural gas consumption.

Meanwhile, the district continues to work on reducing its energy, fuel and paper use, and is working on a new "print strategy" to cut down on printing, Sands said. And this month, 200 "green educators" will be holding a networking event while students are getting involved in a new Youth Sustainability Network.

"We are already seeing seeing a shift in behaviour," Sands said.


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