Energy Costs – Maybe the biggest threat to our schools?

This slide shows the energy costs of the Eastern School Board since 2003. The big spike in the middle is the jump in heating oil costs – up nearly a million dollars in 2007/8!

The ESB also spends just under a million in diesel fuel. All the school boards have energy costs and energy cost risks like this.

It is very helpful to see these numbers – I have done the same for my own house. What I used to take for granted is now a major problem. For if we don’t have a plan both for our homes and for our schools and other government buildings – we will get into a financial jam.

Of course it’s not just schools but Manors and Hospitals and even government offices that are exposed to increases in energy costs.

So we can say “the sky is falling” or we can create an opportunity. In the school system there is the beginning of an opportunity:

Beginning in the fall of 2008, École Évangéline in Abram-Village will be using a pellet-fuel furnace as its primary heat source, with an oil-heat system used only to supplement the pellet-fuel system. The school now spends approximately $100,000 per year on heating oil, but expects that the addition of the system which burns pelletized wood will dramatically cut its annual bill.

“By adding a new fuel source to our building, we are looking to promote green energy, reduce our energy costs and reduce our exposure to volatile heating oil prices. We hope this move will ensure more of our budget goes to where that money is best spent – on the education of the students,” said Brad Samson, director of business operations for La Commission scolaire.

The heating system being installed is an Austrian-built 300 kilowatt Kob Pyrot pellet furnace, supplied by Atlantic Cool Air of Wellington. The unit arrives in a ready-for-installation container designed to be placed outside the school building and integrated into the heating system through two pipes that connect to a heat exchanger inside the building. The system will burn pellets made from wood but can also burn pellet fuel made from other agricultural plant material such as straw.

“This burner uses fuel that can be supplied from forest resources or from plant sources grown specifically as fuel, with a carbon emission level much lower than that resulting from the consumption of heating oil,” said Minister Webster.

“The fact that this system can be installed with very little renovation to an existing building suggests that, if this burner performs as we hope, renewable fuel heating systems could be an option for similar institutions hoping to save money while reducing their environmental footprint.”

I will be visiting the school and hope to bring back more details of this experiment.

But there is I think more.

When PEI started it now successful wind power project, the Province and the Federal Governments kick started the project by agreeing to take a major block of power. My hope is that we can use the government buildings to do the same for a more local heating strategy.

A great start would be to decide on an energy conservation target and a local energy supply target for government buildings. This is what Israel has just done.

The government will also be serving as an example to the public: each government ministry must present an energy efficiency plan with savings to be reinvested in that ministry. All new government buildings from now on must be built according to green building standards.

The breakthrough in wind came from a commitment to use Wind Power by the Government – let’s go for an Energy Plan now as well.

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2 responses to “Energy Costs – Maybe the biggest threat to our schools?

  1. Pingback: Your Stories - Tom’s Maxim Pellet Boiler « Island Energy

  2. In Vermont biomass heating is a proven technology in schools and has been used in a growing number of them for more than 20 years—with woodchip prices increasing less than one percent per year over that time. Today, nearly 20 percent of public school students attend a wood-heated school, with several more schools to be added this year.

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