We estimate that 15% and 27% of the College’s electrical costs come from plug loads (products that are powered by means of an ordinary AC plug) and lighting respectively, amounting to more than half a million dollars in electrical costs annually.
Reducing energy costs from plug load and lighting by engaging users in behavior changing interventions can help the College achieve the strategic goal of Fostering Sustainable Growth. This coupled with strong staff support for sustainability issues, especially paper and energy reduction, led to the establishment of a two-year Resource Reduction Specialist role within the Sustainability Office.
In our old buildings, there is currently no way to measure the electrical consumption from plug load or lighting*. Therefore, baseline data will be compiled from a college-wide inventory of plug load devices to help determine of where the largest impacts can be made through user interventions.
As building technologies evolve, our newer buildings are built with more and more efficient infrastructure (heating and cooling systems, lighting, etc.) making plug load a larger and larger piece of our overall energy consumption. In fact, it is estimated that plug load will account for up to 40% of electricity use at the new Innovation Centre. Having programs and supports in place to reduce plug load will be key to keeping our new buildings as efficient as possible.
*While lighting infrastructure is not included in the scope of this position, user behavior accounts for some of the costs associated with lighting.
Once an assessment of current practices and equipment is made through the initial inventory, certain stratgies will be assessed for energy-saving possibilities. These results will help inform our programming to engage users in reducing our plug load energy demands. Some examples of the actions our consultations and inventory will inform are listed below:
- Green Office/Lab Certification Program: Green Office and Lab certification programs are in place throughout many post-secondary institutions. Participating offices/labs will assess their individual and collective sustainable actions and get a Green Office/Lab Certification (i.e. Bronze, Silver, Gold) depending on how many points they earn. Credits would span several categories such as energy, paper, transportation, waste, and social sustainability.
- Student Residence Engagement: Student housing provides an opportunity to engage students around plug load energy and lighting. Guides and other communication materials will be created to raise awareness and support students in reducing their footprint. One example might be encouraging students to wash their laundry in cold water and hang clothes to dry instead of using dryers.
Engagement and Communication: To remain visible and relevant, various energy reduction campaigns and other incentives will be implemented along with consistent and approachable communication through our microsite, social media, All Staff News, orientations, and events such as Earth Hour. In addition, communication materials such as posters, updated decals at light switches, and other reminders will be created to increase visibility and help prompt energy-saving behaviour.
- Policies and Guidelines: Documents to help guide and support energy reduction components will be updated or developed and communicated with key stakeholders. These will include the “Placement and Use of Personal Appliances in the Workplace” guideline as well as an overall College Sustainability Policy.
A Plug Load Reduction Advisory Group (PLRAG) of key stakeholders from across the College has been created to provide advice, expertise and recommendations to guide the priorities and initiatives of the plug load reduction project.
The group strives for a minimum of one representative from each the following areas:
- Resource Reduction Specialist (Chair, Whitney Crooks)
- Sustainability Office (Sara MacArthur)
- Facility Management (Gary McMillan)
- Safety and Health (Jodi Pluchinski)
- Information Technology Solutions (Gabrielle Vigelius)
- Academic Divisions:
- Civil Engineering Technology (Shari Bielert)
- Accounting And Computer Education (Haider Al-Saidi)
- Electrical Engineering Technology (Joe Carey)
Additional key stakeholders may be identified and invited to sit on the Advisory Group as the work progresses.
Consultations have also occurred, and will continue to occur, with members of the College community to get feedback on the projects and initiatives planned as part of this project.