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Bottom line energy savings

BC Hydro will perform a fully funded customer site investigation on a sawmill facility if companies don’t know where to start looking for energy savings—and build a business case for a project by performing an energy efficient feasibility study to quantify costs and benefits

BC Hydro has improved its Power Smart Partners program, which offers mills generous incentives to improve their energy conservation and management practices, providing much-need savings that drop right to the bottom line.

By Jim Stirling

There’s no better time for sawmill managers in the British Columbia Interior to re-examine their use— and abuse—of electrical energy within their operations. Provincially-owned utility BC Hydro has improved its Power Smart Partners program, which can offer generous incentives to get their energy conservation and management practices in better shape. When sawmills use energy more efficiently, they can also often reap the handy byproduct of improved productivity and reliability.

Electricity use typically accounts for from five to 10 per cent of a sawmill’s variable costs. Anything that can be done to reduce that percentage makes sense, especially in a sector under siege. Many sawmills have taken advantage of the Power Smart Partners program through the years to improve their energy efficiency. But the Power Smart Partners program has now further improved the incentives for mill operators and encourages them to take a second look at their energy use practices. (More detail on the program later.)

West Fraser Timber, a large integrated forest products company, is one example of a BC Hydro customer that is latching on to past Power Smart benefits. “We estimate that our electricity consumption between 2004 and 2007 has been reduced by 14 million kilowatt hours per year, with associated annual savings of $630,000. That’s enough electricity to power a city of 20,000 residents for one month,” reported Kreshka Young, who at the time was West Fraser’s energy manager in Quesnel, BC.

Andrew Kim, a technician at West Fraser’s Quesnel River Pulp Co, says the energy conservation and management measures continue. “It helps to make it more transparent for us to know exactly where the money goes,” he observes.

West Fraser introduced a range of projects with Power Smart’s help and incentives. They examined sawmill air compressor use and identified leaks. Projects undertaken pay for themselves within five years, says Kim. Other energy saving projects included managing the operating speed of a planer mill line so it wasn’t running full tilt when it wasn’t necessary. Some projects were as simple as installing light switch timers for areas not in constant use.

Eddie Young is BC Hydro’s marketing manager for mid-size industrials, which includes the sawmill sector. He says the improved Power Smart Partners program has two major thrusts.

The first is to help power customers implement a Sustainable Energy Management Program (SEMP). Such a program delivers continuous energy improvement by identifying what BC Hydro terms “organizational” opportunities. “The SEMP is an ideal way to identify low cost operation and maintenance and/or behavioural energy savings and improve company culture pertaining to energy use and waste, and project planning is also included in the SEMP,” summarizes Young. That can translate into something as simple as turning off lights when not in use.

BC Hydro offers incentives for sawmills to implement a sustainable energy plan. These include building a fully funded sustainable energy management plan, hiring an energy manager (up to 75 per cent funded) and implementing an employee awareness initiative.

BC Hydro offers incentives for sawmills to implement a sustainable energy plan. These include: building a fully funded sustainable energy management plan; hiring an energy manager (up to 75 per cent funded); implementing an employee awareness initiative; and monitoring and targeting assistance.

The second major plank in the improved Power Smart Partners program is helping sawmill staff perform energy efficient projects by identifying technical opportunities. “These are an ideal way to modernize industrial facilities via energy efficiency and help improve productivity and reliability,” continues Young. Again, BC Hydro offers some generous financial incentives.

“We will perform a fully funded customer site investigation on your facility if you don’t know where to start looking for energy savings,” he says. “We will build a business case for a project by performing an energy efficient feasibility study to quantify costs and benefits.” That is 75 per cent funded, or 100 per cent funded if the customer implements the project. Project incentives are available to reduce capital costs of implementing an energy efficient project.

Young notes the offers have eligibility requirements but adds large sawmills— those spending more than $500,000 a year on electricity—will generally have no problems meeting the requirements. Smaller sawmills are not forgotten. They can qualify for help in the Power Smart Partners Program as long as their power bills are at least $50,000 a year.

Young suggests mills interested in pursuing a partnership with BC Hydro should contact their key account manager; email industrial@bchydro.com or call 1 866 522 4713 to learn more.