Investing institutional energy into energy conservation

By Jason Winders and Stefanie De Adder
May 22, 2013

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Last summer, Western set the bar high for dealing with high temperatures and even higher energy bills. Now, Facilities Management is looking to build on that success with a continued energy conservation push this summer.

In addition to the obvious sustainability benefits, the conservation efforts also help combat the Global Adjustment (GA) tax, a number embedded within the university’s utility bill.

In 2012, Western spent almost $16 million on electricity; $7 million of that total went toward the university’s contribution to the GA. By reducing electricity consumption last summer, Western will see that number come down dramatically – perhaps more than $1 million – this summer as savings are delayed a year.

Across Ontario, the GA tax totals more than $8 billion.

The GA tax was created by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a not-for-profit organization established by the Government of Ontario. The IESO is the body within Ontario responsible for making payments to electricity generators and suppliers.

Every five minutes, the IESO forecasts consumption throughout the province and collects best offers from generators to provide the province’s required amount of electricity. In order to prevent electricity shortages, a reserve of approximately 1,400 megawatts (MW) is always on stand-by. Since the IESO over-estimates Ontario’s need for power as an insurance policy, they must make up for the extra money they are paying electricity generators each day.

This is where the GA comes in.

The GA is the difference between the IESO’s total payments made to contracted or regulated electricity suppliers and the total market revenues within Ontario. Consumers are taxed a portion of this GA depending on which class they fall under.

‘Class A’ customers, such as Western, are those with an average electricity peak demand over 5 MW. Given that parameter, only Western’s main grid – loosely defined as the one running Main Campus – counts toward the GA. For example, nothing on the west side of Western Road qualifies. So, where the Ivey Business School’s old facility (now the HBA Building) qualified last year, the new school’s building does not.

The tax for these customers is based on the percentage their electricity demand contributes to overall system demand during the peak hour of each of the five peak days of the year.  For example, if a business’s demand is assessed to be responsible for 1 per cent of peak demand during the five peak hours of the year, they will be charged 1 per cent of Ontario’s total GA costs for the year.

Last year, Western moved from .095 per cent of the province’s total GA tab to .083 per cent. It’s a seemingly small change that was anything but small change as that amounted to around $1 million in savings.

When it comes to the GA, the challenge is that it cannot be predicted when the peak hours are going to be. For this reason, Western needs to have good consumption practices during those hours when the peak demands in Ontario could potentially be measured.

Traditionally, these peak hours occur in July or August, sometime between 3-5 p.m.

Facilities Management’s solution for mitigating the impact of the GA is to reduce the air conditioning in as many buildings as possible from 2-6 p.m. beginning late June or early July until the end of August this summer. The department acknowledges that certain areas of research and study require climate standards and every step will be taken with those groups to maintain that service level.

Across the province, large users are addressing their use to the point of shifting peak demand time to later and later in the day as “more and more people doing what we’re doing,” said Paul Martin, Facilities Management director of business operations. A later peak means less impact for the university community during business hours.

Last year, the conservation efforts generated a lot of learnings for facilities Management staff. While they expect to see some improvements to chiller and fan control, not every lesson learned has to do with pushing buttons, Martin said.

His team has worked with the Office of Institutional Planning and Budgeting, as well as residence staff, looking for scheduling solutions to energy use. For instance, can certain classes be scheduled for a different part of campus or certain events be moved off Main Campus, and thus off the main network, during the summer?

They’re the kind of solutions people come up with when they start talking, Martin said. And he’s been excited by what the collaboration has generated.


Follow your building’s moment-to-moment power demand – and perhaps compare it to your neighbouring building’s demand – by visiting Facilities Management’s Real Time Energy Dashboard,


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