Demand Management won’t compromise COVID mitigation efforts

Western’s summer-specific energy reduction strategy will save millions of dollars without impacting pandemic safety measures

Facilities Management Communications
June 2021

Last summer’s temporary relaxation of government-driven energy fees has ended. Ontario’s Class A consumers, like Western, will once again face additional charges during peak usage days.

In response, a Facilities Management team will address rising energy costs and increased demand, working with the university community to reduce electricity consumption on select days during June, July, and August.

The team will initiate a familiar mitigation strategy, featuring a temporary reduction in chilled water temperatures. Although Western began summer-specific demand management strategies nearly a decade ago, a recent investment in equipment and technology means energy reductions will not impact pandemic precautions.

“Our priority remains with protecting the health and safety of the campus community,” Director, Sustainability, Heather Hyde. “We will once again participate in demand management throughout the summer, however, our efforts will not interfere with the work to suppress the pandemic.”

Hyde acknowledges that changes to chilled water may be perceived as an impediment to indoor air movement, yet she assures building occupants that air quality will not be compromised. The same amount of air will flow through occupied spaces with the only difference being a mild increase in temperature. As part of standard COVID-19 protocol, FM will also continue to change air filters with increased frequency.

Over the years, Western has invested in new chilled water valves, allowing for isolated reductions to specific buildings, floors, and/or rooms on campus. The remotely-controlled valves can be operated independently and in increments as opposed to either just open or shut. The targeted approach improves the level of comfort in occupied spaces while dialing back consumption.

“With our enhanced strategy and sophisticated equipment, we stand to save the university millions of dollars that could be better spent on things other than energy fees,” says Hyde.

Projecting historical data, the response could lead to savings between $2.5 million and $3 million by the end of this year, with a total savings of more than $10 million since 2012. Roughly 15% of that total is the result of campus community actions, including lowering blinds and shutting off unused electronics.

Western continues to emerge as an international leader in demand management and building automation. Hyde notes the enhancements will complement the efforts of researchers, faculty, staff, and students, who are also doing their part in energy conservation.

“To be successful, we can’t operate in isolation,” says Hyde. “We need the entire campus community to buy-in to our strategy and adapt their own personal energy habits.”

At the beginning of each week, Facilities Management will forecast peak days on their website and encourage everyone to curb their energy use on those days.