Oak Bay flips the switch

New energy manager finds funding efficiencies for recreation centres

Ken Olson

Ken Olson

Ken Olson thinks of himself as “thrifty.”

His saving ways are cutting costs and energy use in the recreation sector of Oak Bay and are set to expand beyond.

“This (rec centre) could be a huge burden on the municipality,” he said, seated in the Sports View lounge at Oak Bay rec centre. “We try to be as high a ‘user-pay’ as we can.”

As maintenance manager for 18 years, he delved into energy savings as a budget reduction technique and it came naturally. Projects like heat capture from the ice plant for reuse on site dates back to the late 1990s.

About six months ago, Olson became the operations and energy coordinator for Recreation Oak Bay, funded in part through a B.C. Hydro grant.

“Through his work now in that role, and his interaction with B.C. Hydro, the suggestion is that we would conduct another energy study to determine what other opportunities there are in the district to save money,” said Ray Herman, director of parks and recreation. “We’re going to be able to fund it from rebate incentives B.C. Hydro is providing through some of the projects that we’ll be completing this year.”

Since a 2009 energy study, Recreation Oak Bay has installed an ultraviolet system in the pool, replaced lighting in all buildings, replaced boilers at Henderson and Monterey rec centres and just last week, new motion sensor lights went in at the arena and indoor sports field.

Hydro funds half of Olson’s salary, and requires him to provide quarterly reports to B.C. Hydro, the first of which focused on prior projects.

“When I looked at all the projects we’d done in the past, it became apparent that the recreation centre now uses half the energy than we used in ’93 and ’94,” Olson said. “There’s a lot to be proud of.”

Since 1993, total energy savings have amounted to $1.94 million, with annual operating costs reduced by $243,000. Greenhouse gas emissions have also been reduced, Herman said.

“If we hadn’t undertaken those projects, that’s money we would have to find.”

With many of the prior projects complete, Oak Bay council approved another energy study to continue finding energy efficiencies, this time across the community.

“Our hope is to have that energy study completed for the fall so that any projects that are recommended that require funding can be brought forward as part of budget discussions,” Herman said.

Things to look at, Olson said, include heading toward LED streetlights.

“That’s $100,000 a year the municipality spends on streetlights,” he said. “I think we’re looking at a lot more motion sensors around here,” he added.

Olson’s work could lead to some new policies at municipal hall as well. As part of his fourth quarterly report, Olson will file a Strategic Energy Management Plan.

“It’s a snapshot of how as a municipality we use efficiencies in our energy,” he said. “It wants to have what our energy policy is, well Oak Bay doesn’t have a written energy policy yet.”

Award worthy

At the CRD EcoStar award ceremony on June 1, Recreation Oak Bay was the recipient of the Climate Action Award for its work on the Energy Management Project. The CRD awards celebrate and honour individuals, organizations and companies working to preserve the natural environment and improve the quality of life in the region.

In 1996 Recreation Oak Bay got the B.C. Hydro Powersmart Award for energy improvements made at that time.

Did you know?

The Oak Bay rec centre used just under five million kWh back in 1993, down to less than 25,000,00 in 2011. In 2011 the entire municipality used less than what just the recreation centre used back in 1993.