Western receives $11M to reduce greenhouse gases

University efforts to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions received a multi-million-dollar boost thanks to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Western officials announced this week

The $11.6-million grant will help fund a necessary retrofit to modify heating systems from steam to low-temperature water in the Spencer Engineering Building and the Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavillion. The change will result in a 12 per cent reduction in emissions from 2016 levels at an estimated cost savings of $1.5 million annually.

This investment is part of Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and is funded by proceeds from the province’s cap on pollution and carbon market.

A total of $85.2 million was available to all Ontario universities and administered through a competitive application process. Western was one of eight provincially funded projects that demonstrated innovative plans and approaches to increase campus sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Retrofit construction will start in July and be completed in March 2019.

For Western, the project is the first step in shifting energy system towards renewable energy sources.

“We want to use waste heat to heat buildings,” said Paul Martin, Director (Business Operations). “This project has the potential to recover waste heat from buildings like Thompson Arena and the (Western) Student Recreation Centre, enabling us to bring renewable sources of energy to the rest of campus.”

Through renovations and new construction, Western facilities are more efficient than ever. Proposed upgrades, however, have the potential to reduce the amount of steam required for heating and improve efficiencies in the central power plant, reducing the amount of natural gas used for generating steam and chilled water.

“The current system creates high-temperature steam which uses an intense amount of gas. By shifting to low-temperature systems, Western can introduce a much wider range of renewable and recaptured energy sources,” Martin said.

“We want to be leaders in retrofitting existing infrastructure and creating relevant case studies for both institutional and commercial sectors. Feasibility studies show the use of low-temperature heating and building-based heat pumps can help maintain appropriate temperature levels, while reducing the amount of fuel used to generate that heat.”

The goal is to contribute to provincial greenhouse gas reduction targets of 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050 (below 1990 levels). However, the main operational efficiency will result in cost savings – both natural gas and electricity consumption will be reduced due to these upgrades.

“As an institution, we are committed to sustainability,” said Lynn Logan, Vice-President (Operations & Finance).

Martin also sees an opportunity for student engagement and involvement.

“We believe there are many learning opportunities throughout the process,” he said. “The planning, implementation and operation of this technology will allow students from various disciplines to learn through observation, interaction and reflection.”

Western students will provide valuable input by participating in thesis-based research to verify the estimated energy and carbon savings, determine and predict maintenance schedules and assess ongoing building automation system data.

Originally published in Western News