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Okanagan College looks to reduce natural gas consumption

The college’s natural gas consumption has dropped 51.7 per cent in a decade

With the pressure on FortisBC natural gas customers to reduce consumption because of the pipeline explosion in Prince George this week, Okanagan College energy managers are inspired to continue to explore new ways to reduce reliance on the energy source.

Fortis has not reached out to the college to ask it to reduce consumption and that comes as little surprise.

“We use very little gas at this time of year,” said Rob St. Onge, Okanagan College’s energy manager. “The reason for that is because of the energy reduction and conservation initiatives we have taken over the past years. We’d still counsel our staff and students to think about how they might be able to reduce their gas consumption in light of the circumstances in Prince George.”

St. Onge, and Peter Csandl, manager of plant services and operations, point to recent construction projects as part of the reason. “Many of our buildings use no gas or very little gas due to recent energy upgrades or alternative forms of heat,” said St. Onge. “All of our boilers on all campuses have been upgraded to high efficiency condensing boilers which use much less gas. Interestingly, Fortis rebates helped fund these projects.”

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“Our newer buildings also use exhaust air heat recovery which dramatically reduces heating requirements,” said Csandl. “That’s in place in the Centre of Excellence in Penticton, the Centre for Learning and the Trades Complex in Kelowna, and the Child Care Centre in Penticton.”

A significant portion of the college’s largest campus, Kelowna, relies on an innovative heat-recovery system drawing from the nearby City of Kelowna waste water treatment plant for heat that doesn’t require natural gas for much of the year.

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“Over the past many years, our goal has been to reduce our carbon footprint, and we’ve certainly done that,” said St. Onge. He points to data that shows while the college’s physical footprint has grown 38.8 per cent since 2008, the overall natural gas consumption has decreased 32.2 per cent. On a per square metre basis, that means consumption of natural gas has dropped by more than half, 51.7 per cent in a decade. Electrical consumption, incidentally, dropped by 19 per cent per square metre in the same time period.

“We are focused on conservation and energy savings as part of our commitment to sustainability,” said Csandl, “And we will continue to look at ways that we can do that and incorporate the greenest possible building and renovation techniques to help move us toward a carbon-zero environment.”

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