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A healthy outlook towards energy savings

BC Hydro Power Smart offers programs to provide a wide range of energy conservation opportunities, and for some of B.C.
Joe Ciarniello
Island Health Energy Manager Joe Ciarniello, at Nanaimo General Hospital where lighting in parking areas has been upgraded.

BC Hydro Power Smart offers programs to provide a wide range of energy conservation opportunities, and for some of B.C.’s largest organizations – those using more than $250,000 annually in electricity – there is the opportunity to team with BC Hydro as a Power Smart Partner. Partner organizations are able to take advantage of programs, tools, funding and incentives in order to achieve their energy management goals.

Since 2002, Health Authorities across the province have been part of the Power Smart Partner program in an effort to improve energy efficiency in a highly demanding, energy-use intensive environment. Island Health – which provides care across Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and parts of the Sunshine Coast – has achieved outstanding results.

Joe Ciarniello, Energy Manager at Island Health, says that a prime motivator for reducing energy waste and improving efficiency is operating cost savings … savings that can be re-directed to patient care. In addition, B.C.’s Carbon Neutral legislation requires reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 33 per cent by the year 2020 from 2007 levels, and energy efficiency is essential to meeting that target.

Efficiency upgrades in a hospital environment can be challenging, and BC Hydro’s involvement was essential to the development of an ongoing strategic energy management plan – from the funding of two Energy Manager positions, to energy studies, technical expertise and project funding. “BC Hydro has a number of programs that Partner organizations can utilize, and Island Health takes advantage of all of them,” says Ciarniello.

Retrofitting aging buildings, raising employee energy-use awareness and designing new construction for optimal energy efficiency are strategies that have all played a part in the ongoing energy conservation effort.

Many of the buildings that make up the Island Health network are older buildings, constructed before energy efficiency was a major consideration. They offer plenty of opportunities for energy efficiency upgrades, including boiler and HVAC system replacements, addition of heat recovery systems, and lighting upgrades.

For example, in a regular office environment, ventilation systems provide a combination of recirculated and outdoor air. This means that only a portion of the air used needs to be heated or cooled. However, hospitals typically use a lot more fresh outside air than an office building, requiring considerably more energy for heating and cooling. The installation of new, high-efficiency heat recovery chillers, such as was done at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, recovers heat from building exhaust air and re-uses it to heat the fresh air entering the hospital as well as domestic hot water, thus offsetting a significant amount of natural gas.

Ventilation is another area that is being addressed. According to Ciarniello, there are different ‘classes’ of rooms in hospitals. An operating room, for instance, needs to be constantly ventilated with enough pressure to prevent germs from entering. However, in other spaces such as offices, day-use areas or meeting rooms, ventilation can be reduced or shut off when they are unoccupied. Building automation and the installation of dampers and occupancy sensors facilitate this measure. So, it’s not enough to just turn off the lights. Significantly more energy can be saved by turning off the ventilation when it’s not needed.

Whenever energy upgrades are planned, the opportunity is taken to address occupant concerns as well, often leading to improved indoor environmental conditions. The benefits can go beyond just energy savings. For instance, when an air conditioning system is being upgraded, modifications can be engineered to fix issues such as areas being too cold, too warm, or too stuffy. Citing recent upgrades to lighting in several hospital parking lots, Ciarniello says, “Staff identified security concerns associated with poor quality or lack of lighting. Problem areas were identified, and extra lighting was added where needed.”

Regarding employee awareness, Ciarniello notes that “It can be a challenge for staff who are already extremely busy to do even more, but employees are taking ‘ownership’ of things they can affect.” Currently, seven Island Health facilities are enrolled in BC Hydro’s Workplace Conservation Awareness program, which promotes workplace action and leadership among employees. This can include things as general as remembering to turn off the lights when leaving a room, or as specific as identifying ways to conserve energy that are unique to a department. An intranet site provides access to resources for staff, community stories, contests and surveys.

Two new hospitals are currently under construction in the Comox Valley and in Campbell River. These hospitals are being built to the LEED Gold standard, and will be the most energy-efficient hospitals in Island Health. Greenhouse gas emission levels are predicted to be less than a quarter of those of the hospitals being replaced.

On the mainland at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, similar measures are being undertaken, including lighting upgrades. “Discontinued fluorescent lighting is being replaced with high-efficiency fluorescent and LED lighting,” says Energy Manager John Manougian. “The new lighting delivers brighter and improved light.” This will translate to a 25 per cent energy savings for Vancouver General Hospital, where lighting upgrades should be completed by the end of August. Upgrades will be completed within the month at Squamish General Hospital as well. Manougian adds that an innovative funding program - the Green Revolving Fund - was introduced four years ago. Supported by BC Hydro, the fund sees 90 per cent of savings from completed projects reinvested in new energy projects.

And in northern B.C., “the Northern Health Authority uses all BC Hydro programs” says Energy Manager Les Sluggett. Recently, the Northern Health Authority has completed a large chiller upgrade at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, resulting in a 300,000 kWh per year savings. Replacing old chillers allows for higher-efficiency cooling with a significant decrease in energy use, while improving environmental conditions for both patients and staff.

These health authorities all take advantage of BC Hydro’s Continuous Optimization Program as well, which is run in partnership with FortisBC. Comparable to the idea of regular vehicle maintenance, this program helps maintain and improve the level of an operation’s efficiency. In the initial stage, BC Hydro helps fund the cost of an expert evaluation. Recommendations are given for improvements, which the organization then implements. When the work is complete, BC Hydro funds quarterly coaching sessions, to ensure continued benefit.

The health sector faces a significant challenge, striving to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time expanding services. BC Hydro’s Power Smart Partner program is helping them to face that challenge.

For more information about the Power Smart Partner program, please visit

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