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Energy Matters: December 2019

 

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has gone by.  As this year comes to an end, we bring you the last edition of Energy Matters for 2019. In this issue, we look at how Oxford County successfully moved to Passive House standards when building new affordable housing, how you can boost your energy savings with a booster pump, and catch you up on UMP, our energy tracking program.  We hope you enjoy this issue, and we’d like to wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season!

In this issue of Energy Matters:

 

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31.8% Ontario Electricity Rebate – Do You Qualify?

On November 1st, the Ontario government introduced the new Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER).  The OER is a 31.8% rebate that replaced the 25% Fair Hydro Plan subsidy and 8% Provincial rebate. The new OER applies on the before-tax portion of the electricity bill for most residential consumers including most social housing buildings. Rebate

Eligibility:
Eligibility requirements for the rebate have changed and you may now be eligible for the rebate for an ongoing period, a limited extension, or not at all. Eligibility is based on a building’s consumption and demand profile and whether the building is a single-unit residence or a multi-unit complex.

Depending on your eligibility, you may need to file a notice with your electricity utility by January 31, 2020 in order to receive the OER.  Please review the eligibility requirements and speak to your local electricity utility directly.

Residential customers including social housing that have annual electricity consumption of 250,000 kilowatt hours or less or an electricity demand of 50 kilowatts or less will still be eligible for the rebate. If your building falls into this group and is:

A multi-unit complex: you must file a notice with your electricity utility by January 31, 2020 to receive the OER.
Not a multi-unit building (i.e. is a single-unit residence): you do not need to file a notice with your electricity utility to receive the OER as you will automatically receive it. Rebate

Extension of Old Rebate to Ineligible Customers:
As a transitional measure, customers that were receiving the old 8% rebate on October 22, 2019 but who do not satisfy the revised eligibility requirements can receive an extension of the 31.8% OER until October 31, 2020, as long as they provide the required notice to their electricity utility by January 31, 2020. However, if they do not provide the notice, they will stop getting the rebate on January 31, 2020.

Submitting a Notice:
Each local electricity utility has developed its own form of Notice and procedures for submitting the Notice will be made available through them. For more information, please contact your local electricity utility directly.

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Oxford County Requires Energy Efficiency In Affordable Housing

Oxford County is leading the charge to be energy efficient and lower its greenhouse gas impacts through the adoption of its Draft 100% Renewable Energy Plan. To deliver on this plan, the housing division has committed to Passive House standards and/or Net Zero for affordable housing development and retrofit projects. Oxford’s Jamie Stephens shares the County’s commitment to Passive House and Net Zero housing standards and gives real examples of energy requirements that you can integrate into your own processes and decision-making to help you achieve similar savings.

What motivated Oxford to commit to Passive House and Net-Zero building standards?

It is well established that climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events as well as posing other significant risks, such as drought, forest fires and rising sea levels.  These risks present serious threats to our natural environment, our health, our jobs and even our economy. Municipalities can influence change by reducing GHG emissions and driving systemic low carbon practices, which can include building high efficiency buildings.Passive

Oxford County was motivated to commit to Passive House (PH) and/or Net Zero (NZ) building after Council approved its Draft 100% Renewable Energy (RE) Plan in 2016, updated in 2018. In 2017, Council passed resolutions recognizing that local governments are essential to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement. The County of Oxford endorsed the Government of Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. After Council approved the 100% RE Plan, staff met and decided to aim higher in regards to building performance in all new affordable housing projects. Provincial and Federal Affordable Housing Program funding was available, as was County funding, so staff suggested using these program dollars to create new rental units in the community. As a result, Oxford County is demonstrating its commitment to visionary leadership and good community planning through action as it implements multiple plans that improve the quality of life for all residents.

The 100% RE plan outlines goals that include reaching 100% renewable energy by 2050. This isn’t a goal that can be achieved over night; it is something that will take years to accomplish. We can talk about starting but sometimes you just have to start and make adjustments along the way. Through staff research, it was determined the most efficient energy standard is Passive House, which emphasizes a super-airtight building envelope with minimal thermal bridging, so that little energy is required to produce heat. Because less energy is needed to heat and cool the building, fewer greenhouse gases are emitted, resulting in a very small carbon footprint for the building. After it was determined PH was the desired standard, the County changed its procurement documents to require that any proponent awarded government funding to create affordable housing units would need to declare that the new building would achieve PH and or NZ standards.

How has this commitment been integrated into processes and decision-making at the County?

In 2017, the County mandated that all Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for affordable housing developments include PH requirements as a building standard, an approach that offers residents comfort and affordability while reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Initially, the RFP was weighted to entice the proponent to declare the project would be designed and constructed to achieve PH targets. In other words, a proposal would receive more points for declaring and demonstrating the project team could achieve the PH targets and/or be a Net Zero building. Since 2018, the County mandated that any new government funded affordable housing project would require a proponent to demonstrate its project will meet PH targets and/or be a Net Zero building.

What are the energy requirements that Oxford County asks for and how are they tied to the Affordable Housing Program funding?Table 1

The energy requirements are included in the Request for Proposal. Once the project is approved by Council, the requirements are also included in the 20-year agreement signed between the proponent and the County. Prior to any program funds being released to the Proponent, the Proponent provides the County with a minimum of two energy models, either Base Case Model or Proposed Design Model.

Terms:

  • The Base Case Model must meet the minimum requirements of the Ontario Building Code.
  • The Proposed Design Model for new construction must demonstrate the energy requirements described in Table 1 and by the Passive House US Institute.
  • The Proposed Design Model for rehabilitation projects must demonstrate the energy requirements described in the criteria for the Passive House, EnerPHit and Passive House Institute (PHI) Low Energy Building Standard.
  • The comparison of the Base Case Model and the Proposed Design Model must highlight the differences in life cycle cost, energy consumption, energy generation, and carbon footprint (preferably in “equivalent CO2 emissions”).

How has this commitment proven valuable so far? What results have you seen (e.g., internal processes, community, buildings, developers)?

The commitment to build better has proven to be valuable to the County, the builder, the construction industry, and the occupants of the new units. Three affordable housing projects have recently been completed by each project owner. Feedback from each project owner was sought throughout construction and post occupancy. Some of the feedback received is:Passive

The whole team needs to understand the construction application; shouldn’t have to do any convincing. Sourcing of external doors and windows was a challenge but since this project started that has improved. People are overwhelmed with climate change – worried about it – what can we do.”

“Sustainable construction, sustainable consumption, and sustainable living are the obvious ways of the future and we are just in a transitional period right now. We are fighting to reduce dependency on an infrastructure built around fossil fuel consumption and increase green energy solutions. It took 75 years to put a gas station on every corner and hydro and natural gas hook up to every house. There are a lot of people depending on those industries to keep food on their tables that see green energy as a threat instead of a solution and it’s likely going to take a generation or two to fully adapt and embrace it. There are startup costs to everything, I think people just have more access to that information now than ever before. Pay now, save later is a tough sell to people who maybe are only on the pay now end of things when it’s their grandchildren that get to save later. If we don’t stop thinking about today and start thinking about tomorrow we’re not going to like tomorrow when it gets here.”

What’s next for the County for efficiency and housing?

The County will continue to require proponents to achieve PH targets and/or be a Net Zero building for any government funded, new multi-residential building. The County also continues to incorporate energy efficiencies in its own housing stock in effort to demonstrate its commitment to the 100% RE Plan.
Blossom

What advice might you share with other Service Managers or organizations considering similar approaches?

Lean on any energy related plans or resolutions passed by your local Council to move forward with building better in your community. Change is hard, but it can be done and you can make a difference by leading the change in your service area.

What are some key lessons learned or unexpected outcomes?

Key lessons learned are:

  1. This new approach will take some extra time at the design stage.
  2. The entire project team needs to be involved at the onset.
  3. Hire experts: it’s worth any extra cost.
  4. Take the Passive House course.
  5. Tour other completed PH projects.
  6. Pay attention to sealing up the building, it makes a big difference.
  7. It’s not rocket science, but more attention to detail is required.
  8. Many projects built to other standards are also good; learn the difference between them and PH, and then make an informed decision as you move forward with your building design
  9. Check in regularly with your Passive House consultant.
  10. Ask questions: most people are willing to share information to shorten the learning curve for others who are interested in pursuing better building performance.
  11. The first three projects experienced a 5-10% increase in capital costs; however, the County allowed proponents to include these projected increased costs in their funding request.
  12. Be reasonable: as an example, the retrofit project recently completed in Oxford County was unique. It involved the conversion of a former school into apartments with an addition to the back of the school. We learned it did not make economic sense to require PH performance in the original building; however, we also learned the County’s higher standards resulted in a retrofitted school consuming 50% less energy when compared to Ontario Building Code. The new addition met the PH targets and included solar panels that generate annual energy to offset the annual energy consumed.

To learn more, check out Oxford County’s Build Better webpage to see projects, photos, and more on their exciting approach.  Learn more about these housing projects on Oxford’s project webpage.

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Boost Your Water Savings – On Your Booster Pumps

Booster

Unnecessarily running your domestic water booster pumps can waste energy, water, and money. Many apartment buildings have oversized pumps to provide constant pressure during peak periods. However, oversized pumps tend to cycle on and off more frequently in order to maintain required pressure, and this frequent cycling can wear the equipment and use more electricity than other pump configurations. Alternatives such as pumps with variable frequency drives (VFDs) or a series of smaller contact speed pumps can help you reduce your electricity and water use and reduce wear and tear.

Domestic water booster pumps are typically installed in mid- or high-rise apartment buildings to supplement municipal water pressure and ensure constant, adequate pressure right up to the top floor. These pumps are often oversized to support periods of peak demand, such as in the morning when most tenants are starting their day. Since they achieve the set point pressure faster due to their larger size, these pumps will surge on and off more frequently. During low use periods, pressure must still stay constant for toilets and taps to operate properly, and the oversized pumps will run at a minimum constant pressure that is not very efficient compared to more appropriately sized systems or systems with VFDs.

How to Spot an Oversized Pump
In many cases, an oversized pump system will provide more pressure than needed. In certain buildings, particularly mid-rises, a water booster pump may not be required at all, a situation that can be determined by consulting an engineer. The building operator often discovers this accidentally when they have to shut the pump down for other purposes yet the water pressure remains adequate at the top floor.

It is common to see water pressure that exceeds 100 psi on the top floor of apartment buildings with oversized pumps when the pumps are on. This pressure is far above the normal range of 50 to 70 psi and is a good indicator that the pump is too big.Booster

How to Achieve Pump Savings
To optimize the domestic water booster pump system in your buildings, you can:

  • Add variable frequency drives (VFDs) on pump motors to enable the booster pump to operate at lower volumes in response to water demand, while maintaining the correct range of pressure. The best candidates for VFDs are pumps that are designed for peak loads but that normally run at much lower volumes.
  • Use a series of smaller constant speed pumps that are sized and sequenced to provide pressure appropriate to the load. One pump can provide for the base load and then a series of pumps can turn on as demand increases in the building. The pump providing the base load will operate close capacity, where it is using electricity most efficiently.

Installing pumps with VFDs or smaller constant speed pumps in series can provide energy and water savings and reduce wear and tear on pipes. Additionally, electricity utilities may provide incentives to add VFDs to pumps that can cut your payback time.

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Catch Up On UMP this New Year!

This past February, we moved our Utility Management Program (UMP) to a new online platform to provide you with a more user-friendly and responsive tool to track your buildings’ energy and water performance.UMP

The online UMP provides attractive dashboards and reports to show quick snapshots of performance as well as detailed, meter-level views to help you understand your seasonal and year over year utility use patterns and changes.

Over the past year, we moved over 250 providers into the new platform and had great participation in our various UMP webinars. We want to keep building – and refreshing – your skills so you can make the best use of this helpful system.

If you missed our introductory webinars or want to gain a deeper understanding of your UMP data, we’ve got you covered. Register for one of our January and February webinars by clicking below!

Introduction to UMP for Non-Profits & Co-ops
Tuesday, January 21, 10:00-11:00 am

Introduction to UMP for LHCs & Service Managers
Tuesday, February 4, 10:00-11:00 am

How to Run a Report
Wednesday, February 19, 10:00-11:00 am

Other Topics? If you’d like to suggest a topic or want a one-on-one review with HSC staff, please contact energyservices@hscorp.ca.

 

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