BC Hydro rate increase could cost Oak Bay $1 million

District will have to shell out for energy efficiencies

BC Hydro’s planned rate increase of 40 per cent over the next 10 years will cost the District of Oak Bay an additional $1.1 million in electricity costs unless more is invested in energy efficient technology, says recreation centre maintenance supervisor Ken Olson.

Olson explained how much energy and money the district has saved thanks to previous initiatives such as switching to energy efficient light bulbs and switching heating fuel from oil to natural gas.

In the last two decades, the district saved millions of dollars from gradually installing various energy efficient technologies.

“One success story to date is the recreation centre is using 52 per cent less electricity than in 1993,” Olson said. “The entire municipality now uses less than what the rec centre used in 1993.”

In 1993 the recreation centre paid $53,000 to convert its heating system from oil to natural gas and saved $25,952 in its first year.

“If all things stayed the same, it would have been $467,000 saved in 20 years,” Olson said. “But because of inflation and the increasing price of the product (natural gas), it ended up being $868,000 worth of savings.”

However, with BC Hydro’s pending rate increase and the likely price increase in natural gas, the district will need to spend more as newer and more energy efficient technologies come to market, which will cost more and take longer to realize the savings.

In 2010, the district spent $351,000 in upgrades at Monterey Centre, Henderson Centre and the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, where new lights and a boiler were installed. To date, the district has saved $158,000 in energy costs.

Olson said there are limits to how much Oak Bay can do to save energy, which also brings down the district’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, that limit changes as new technologies emerge.

“Two years ago, the technology wasn’t there for LED underwater lights, so I couldn’t do the swimming pool with them,” Olson said. “Now there is and we are going to save 90,000 kWh a year. That’s how technology moves.”

That savings in electricity translates to $6,331.55 in savings for 2013/14. The pool was retrofitted with the new lights in June.

This week Olson presented council with his strategic energy management plan, which calls for street lights to be replaced with LED lighting; replacing the arena’s dehumidifiers; installing more energy efficient heat pumps for the pool and to continually look out for various grants that would ease the high cost of introducing the latest energy efficient technologies.

Mayor Nils Jensen said district staff has done a great job with energy conversation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Oak Bay is a leader in the Capital Regional District,” Jensen said. “I look forward to more energy reduction.”

Even though future energy saving projects will cost more with savings taking longer to realize, Jensen said it’s something in which the district must continue to invest.

“With rising energy costs, it is certainly economically imperative to reduce energy consumption,” Jensen said. “Also with climate change, it’s important for us to reduce energy consumption.

“On both fronts, we have an obligation to do whatever we can to reduce energy needs and our carbon footprint.”