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When it comes to energy conservation, Surrey Schools is in a class all its own.
Nominated for a 2012 Power Smart Excellence Award, the district is among seven finalists in the New Leader category and is the only school district vying for the honour. The other finalists are Cadillac Fairview, Canfor Pulp, Gorman Brothers Lumber, Whistler Blackcomb and two provincial health authorities.
“It’s the highest level of recognition we could receive,” says Alasdair MacKinnon, the district’s director of energy management and sustainability. “It’s gratifying to be nominated alongside private sector corporations such as Cadillac Fairview and Canfor.”
The New Leader Award is given to organizations that demonstrate a “best-in-class” approach to strategic energy management planning and an ongoing commitment to energy conservation.
“These awards are not given lightly,” says Wayne Cousins, senior account manager for BC Hydro Power Smart. “As a finalist, Surrey Schools should be proud of the work it has done and continues to do toward energy and environmental sustainability, and creating a culture that honours those goals.”
The Surrey Board of Education appointed MacKinnon to his position in 2010 and adopted an energy management conservation policy in 2011 with the lofty goal of saving 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy by 2015. But MacKinnon says the district is actually on track to more than double that savings – to 23 million kWh, or enough to power 2,090 homes in Surrey for a year.
“It’s really a testament to the level of enthusiasm, awareness and commitment among our staff and students,” says MacKinnon, heartened by the district’s dedication.
Recent energy-savings projects include the installation of computer power management software on approximately 13,000 computers, which will save about 3.25 million kWh per year for an annual cost savings of $300,000. Energy intelligence provider Pulse Energy has also been hired to collect energy use data from 28 of the district's largest sites, plus Adams Road and Woodward Hill elementaries, and provide real-time information about their energy consumption through an online dashboard. The idea is to give staff and students a deeper understanding of how their actions affect energy use.
In the schools, leadership students attending workshops are learning how much energy is consumed around the globe and are participating in discussions and sharing ideas about how to reduce our reliance on traditional energy sources. In the spring, four secondary schools competed in a pilot energy challenge to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the bigger projects, notes MacKinnon, is the new District Education Centre. Opened in 2011, the education centre consolidated more than two dozen departments and 415 employees into one building. It’s built to LEED Gold standards and will save approximately $1.25 million in reduced energy, lease and travel costs.
Other initiatives:• Opened Woodward Hill Elementary, the district’s first school built to LEED Gold standards. Features include geothermal heating, rubber flooring and skylights in every classroom and an organic waste management compost system. A new environmental curriculum was created by teachers to help students increase their environmental awareness.• Multiple lighting and boiler replacements throughout the district.• District ride-share website.