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Energy Matters: December 2017

The fall season has flown by at HSC. As this year comes to an end, we bring you the last edition of Energy Matters for 2017. In this issue, we take a look at Net Zero buildings, how the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan impacts you, and why energy consumption has increased each year in the average social housing building. We hope you enjoy this issue and wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season!

In this issue of Energy Matters:

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What Does a Net Zero Energy Home Look Like?

As we saw in the last issue of Energy Matters, Ontario social housing providers are embracing low-energy building developments. Providers such as Ottawa Community Housing Corporation and Ottawa Salus Corporation are implementing Passive House projects, building super-insulated, extremely air-tight structures that have minimal heating and cooling loads. And it’s not just HSC taking notice; some of these developments were also featured in a recent CBC news article hailing non-profit housing providers as ‘pioneers on this new frontier’.

Net Zero case studies

Net Zero takes a similar approach but emphasizes onsite renewable energy sources, like solar panels, to generate enough energy to balance the building’s annual usage. This approach compares the cost of installing each proposed energy conservation measure to the cost of generating onsite renewable energy. For example, in a well-insulated Net Zero development with solar panels, you would only add more insulation if the cost of saving energy by adding insulation was less than the cost to generate energy through the solar array.

Both Net Zero and Passive House are progressive approaches to reducing a building’s energy demand and costs. To see examples of how Net Zero is being successfully applied in the U.S., check out these case studies from Green Builder Magazine’s September-October 2017 issue.

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Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan – How it Impacts You

In late October, the Ontario government released its Long-Term Energy Plan, a road map for the province’s energy pricing, supply, delivery, and conservation decisions for the next five years. The plan makes affordability a top priority and commits to giving consumers more choice in how they pursue energy conservation opportunities.

Long-Term Energy Plan commitments of interest to the social and affordable housing sector include:

Electricity rates reduced and rate increases to be held to rate of inflation:

  • Last spring’s Fair Hydro Plan reduced electricity bills for residential customers including housing providers by an average of 25% and upwards of 40 to 50% for low-income, rural and northern customers. It will also hold electricity rate increases to the rate of inflation for four years.
  • Why this matters: The electricity rate reductions may not last beyond four years, so it would be savvy for housing providers to use the money saved from the lower rates to invest in energy efficiency improvements in their buildings.

Energy conservation comes first:

  • The Long-Term Energy Plan prioritizes investments in energy conservation ahead of building new energy system infrastructure.
  • Why this matters: A ‘conservation first’ approach complements the province’s climate change initiatives and means continued funding and incentives for energy efficiency projects. The province is also working with utilities to create a more coordinated, ‘single-window’ approach for customers accessing the various electricity, gas and climate change programs.

Net metering will make it possible to bank electricity credits:

  • The government will enhance its net metering framework to increase uptake of renewable energy projects. ‘Net metering’ allows customers to generate electricity onsite through a renewable system (such as rooftop solar) and feed any excess electricity back into the power grid to gain credits on their electricity bill. It replaces the MicroFit program (ending December 31, 2017), which paid a guaranteed rate to customers for onsite renewable power.
  • Why this matters: While electricity rates are reduced for now, they are expected to increase in future years, so it’s crucial for building operators to find ways to reduce their demand for energy. Net metering allows providers to bank credits for electricity fed into the grid and use them in periods when the building is using more electricity than it is generating, such as in the cold winter and hot summer months.

Electricity incentives for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects will end:

  • Starting July 1, 2018, CHP projects that use fossil fuels to generate electricity will not be eligible for electricity incentives.
  • Why this matters: Many housing providers have been looking at CHP as a way to cost-effectively meet emergency power requirements. Providers may have to pursue alternative financing options to pay for the project without this incentive.

More electricity price plan options are being tested to help customers:

  • The provincial government and Ontario Energy Board are piloting different time-of-use price structures for customers and are considering changes to how the Global Adjustment (GA) is charged to “Class B” customers who pay a fixed price. Housing providers with medium and large buildings tend to fall under the “Class B” designation.
  • Why this matters: Different time-of-use pricing could help customers reduce their bills by shifting usage to off-peak times when electricity is less expensive. For “Class B” customers, changes to the GA could open up opportunities for energy storage and usage shifting.

Customers will have better access to user-friendly billing data:

  • Gas and electricity utilities will soon have to make billing data available to customers in a standardized format called “Green Button”.
  • Why this matters: Customers will download their portfolio’s historical and current energy consumption data in a standard format directly from their utility account log-in. Easier access and the user-friendly standardized format will help providers better manage billing data across different utilities, comply with incoming provincial Large Building Energy and Water Reporting requirements, and ensure data is accurate. It will also allow third parties to access the data with permission to provide energy tracking services such as those offered in HSC’s Utility Management Program.

The Long-Term Energy Plan provides some new opportunities for the sector, particularly around renewable and alternative energy technologies. Providers are encouraged to use the promised four years of lower electricity rates to make improvements to their buildings as a way to prepare for possible rate increases in the future.

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Energy Saving Tips for the Holiday Season

Net Zero case studies

From Niagara to Timmins, social housing buildings across the province have embraced HSC’s Community Champions Program to engage residents in helping to lower their building’s energy and water consumption. While many have seen great results, the holiday season can mean a big spike in electricity and gas bills.

Believe it or not, it is possible to be jolly AND keep energy consumption in check at the same time! Encouraging building tenants to practice energy conservation can help social housing buildings save on electricity and hydro bills, which means more money to make building improvements, and do our planet some good at the same time.

Want to motivate building tenants to deck the halls with energy savings? Download this poster with our Top Energy Saving Tips for the Holidays!

Download Poster

 

Interested in learning more about Community Champions? Contact us!

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Did You Know?

Energy consumption is increasing each year in the average social housing building in Ontario, according to data on 800 social housing buildings in HSC’s Utility Management Program (UMP).

Accounting for differences in building size and regional weather, HSC compared the energy use intensity, based on consumption per square meter, for the 800 buildings in our UMP dataset. We found that the average building’s energy use intensity increased year over year between 2014 and 2016.

Chart of Findings

Why the difference?
The annual increases are explained at a sector level by aging buildings and equipment. At the individual building level, increased energy usage can indicate a need to improve operations and maintenance processes and to upgrade or recommission major equipment. It can also point to resident impacts that can be addressed through engagement and education.

A first step in making your portfolio more efficient is to get an energy audit and update your Building Condition Assessment. You can use the recommendations from your audit and BCA to prioritize projects and inform your capital and energy management plans.

Your prioritized project list will ensure you’re ready to apply for available and upcoming funding programs. You can also discuss your plan with your gas and electricity utilities to find out which equipment upgrades will give you the biggest incentives. Providers can access incentives from:

For more information on which incentives apply for your portfolio, contact us. And stay tuned to Energy Matters for more social housing energy trends!

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Utility Management Program Reports

UMP

Big changes are on tap in 2018 for our Utility Management Program! We plan to move to a new interactive online platform to give you on-demand and user-friendly access to your portfolio’s energy tracking. We’ll have more details in the spring issue of Energy Matters so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can access your latest UMP report by logging in to your UMP account.

Login to UMP

Lost your UMP log-in information? We can help. Just send us an email specifying the building to receive your UMP login.

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WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Got any comments, suggestions or article ideas? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at energyservices@hscorp.ca

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