Utility bill growing by 19%

By Heather Travis
June 24, 2010

Flicking on lights, turning on taps and heating with natural gas is expected to cost The University of Western Ontario $28 million in 2010-11.

Of the total cost, $20 million is funded through the operating budget for academic and support buildings, while Housing & Ancillary Services foots the rest of the bill – mostly for costs in residences.

Overall, utility costs are expected to increase by 19 per cent this year.

Part of the increase is attributed to the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which takes effect July 1, says Roy Langille, Associate Vice-President of Physical Plant and Capital Planning. Increases in transportation, distribution and regulated charges also add to the bill.

Other market issues at play include rate structures, new energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the impact of the recession on energy use.

Although bills appear high, the amount of electricity, natural gas and water usage across the eight million square feet of building space on campus is lower than the benchmark of1.87 gigajoules per square foot) set in 2004-05. The benchmark for Ontario universities is 2.19 gigajoules per square foot.

"Of course we can always strive to do better, and we are," says Langille.

Over the last few years, Western has targeted strategies to reduce utility use, encourage sustainability and reduce its campus carbon footprint, he says. This includes a commitment that all new-building construction and renovations meet a minimum LEED Silver certification.

With buildings being the biggest energy consumer, several upgrades are under way, including:

•    Replacing windows in Stevenson Hall and Lawson Hall, Physics & Astronomy, McIntosh Gallery and part of the Biological and Geological Building.
•    Insulation is being added to the walls of Stevenson Hall and Lawson Hall.
•    The T12 fluorescent lights in 80 per cent of campus buildings have been replaced with more efficient T8 lights and electronic ballast. The university has also committed to installing 'daylight harvesting' and motion sensors.
•    Some traditional lights have been swapped for LED lights. Western is the first Canadian university recognized by the LED University program.
•    Energy meters are being installed for each building to monitor consumption.
•    Replacing old motors with high efficiency motors in four buildings per year.

The university is working with Information Technology Services to get software that can lower power usage for computers, and is pursuing the use of electric vehicles to reduce gasoline consumption.

"These investments are in millions of dollars that will allow the university to reap the energy savings over the long-term due to the permanency of the alterations," says Langille.

Western will spend $1.5 million on university-wide energy efficiency initiatives in academic programs, research activities and operating practices. The new program begins with an energy audit to determine how this money will be spent.

"We are currently looking at new technologies to help reduce energy, such as low-flow toilets and urinals, touchless faucets for water conservation, interior and exterior LED lighting, occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting options, and replacing old fluorescent lamps with new T5 technology. We are also looking at alternate sources of electricity, such as solar panels and turbines, to see if this technology can fit somewhere on campus."

The "real time" monitoring system shows building-by-building comparisons which can be used to make decisions and target results, he adds. This system will be available online.

But everyone can help reduce energy use, he says, pointing to measures as simple as turning off lights, keeping temperatures at reasonable levels and opening windows when necessary.

"Every individual has the ability to help in the process of lowering energy costs by participating in 'best practices.'"

Tips are available at www.uwo.ca/ppd/sustainability.


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