Thursday, September 13, 2018 - 11:45 AM

What is Driving Costs at the City: Electricity Rates

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The City of St. John’s is planning for the future.

In December, Council will present and vote on a budget plan for the next three years – 2019 to 2021. Throughout 2018, we have been looking closely at our operations, reviewing the latest economic data and gathering information from you, our residents, about what kind of city you envision.

In 2019, the capital city is going to face a number of operational pressures, including anticipated increases to our annual light and power bill.

Energy costs are a significant expense for the City, and one over which we have very little control. However, these are the kinds of escalating costs – like fuel and other consumables – that do have an impact on the City’s bottom line.

While we are still in the early stages of our analysis, we are currently anticipating a $1.5 M increase in 2019; an additional $3.5 M in 2020 and $1 M more in 2021 – that means we expect our light and power budget to increase from $10.3 M in 2018, to approximately $16.3 M by 2021.

Of the City’s total energy consumption, approximately half comes from street lighting, while the other half comes directly from facilities. Of that, about 60 per cent is used by the City’s Water & Wastewater Treatment Plants with the remaining 40 per cent by all other facilities.

So, while some the increase can be attributed to the addition of new facilities, most of the increase is to due to anticipated rate increases for power. So, staff are being challenged to operate City facilities as efficiently and effectively as possible.

What is the City doing to prepare for these escalating costs?

Street Lighting

With over 50 percent of the City’s total energy bill going to street lighting, we clearly need to look at how streets are being lit. Currently, light poles throughout the City are owned and maintained by Newfoundland Power; however, the bill for the poles comes to us, as street lighting is a municipal responsibility. The City will be exploring with Newfoundland Power the possibility of using low-energy options as one way to reduce costs, but the most important factor has to be public safety on our streets and in our neighbourhoods.

Water and Wastewater

Treatment of water and wastewater is generally a large consumer of energy, and our Public Works team are putting in place or investigating a number of options to reduce costs and consumption.

  • At Windsor Lake, we are currently in the process of placing Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) on our Low Lift Pumps to control water flow.  This is expected to reduce energy consumption over the current flow control method of using a control valve by up to 20 per cent.  At Bay Bulls Big Pond, we are currently in the process of converting the primary disinfection system from ozone to UV.  The capital costs of implementing a UV system are approximately 2.5 times that of ozone, but the energy costs are approximately six times lower.  So, within 5-6 years we will begin to see real savings from this investment.
  • In the water distribution system, the City has invested capital in replacing or rehabilitating our pipes and we have focused dedicated staff towards leak detection.  From 2007-2016, the City consumed 90 million litres of water per day (on average).  To date in 2018, we have dropped that number to approx. 70 million litres per day - a savings of 20 million litres per day! It is hard to place a value on the reduction of energy consumed by producing less water, but it is only logical that the two are connected.
  • At the Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Facility, we capture our biogas from the sewage digesters and heat all the buildings on site using biogas as a fuel source rather than using electricity.

Energy efficiency and conservation begins with mechanical systems and technological advancements. In recent years, we have made many improvements to our mechanical and lighting systems to increase their efficiencies and reduce consumption. We have also placed emphasis on the controls of such systems which are constantly being monitored and tweaked. 

New facility construction also takes into consideration energy efficiency. Paul Reynolds Community Centre, for example, was constructed using energy efficient technology that includes:

  • The geothermal heat pump required drilling of forty wells each to a depth exceeding 500 feet. Piping is placed in the ground at each well location and filled with a liquid glycol solution. The glycol circulates in underground pipes and returns back to the building at a different temperature using the earth as a heat source in the winter (heating the piping/ glycol) and a heat sink (cooling the piping/ glycol) in the summer.
  • Argon gas-filled windows which increase the soundproofing characteristics, minimize heat exchange through the window and block ultraviolet rays.
  • Low E Glass, which reflects heat the same during the winter and summer, using a thin metallic coating on or in the glass.

In our other recreation facilities, where possible we turn lights off to reduce consumption but not to the point where we would compromise safety; from an outdoor field perspective we have upgraded three facilities with new poles and new LED lighting that is controlled by the amount of daylight required; and from a housing perspective, we are looking at other social housing providers to see what they do for their low-income tenants. Currently in our rent geared to income units, the City pays the heat and light.


Metrobus considers its energy consumption and is constantly looking for ways to reduce energy.

The new Metrobus depot was designed and built to attain LEED® certification.The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) designation is awarded by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) to leading-edge buildings that incorporate environmentally-sustainable design, construction and operational features to reduce the environmental impact. For example, rain water is collected, stored and used to wash the fleet at the end of each service day, and the building’s geothermal heating system, heat recovery systems in the bus storage and repair garage areas combined with energy efficient lighting make the building one of the most energy-efficient in the city.

Last year, Metrobus started a project with Coppertree Analytics to install CopperCube technology that will interface with our building management system to perform a detailed, technical analysis and investigation of all in-scope building system operations.  The result of this investigation is a detailed report containing monetized findings, indicating building systems faults, operational faults and energy conservation measures. In the Fall of 2015, modifications were made to our heating and ventilation systems that has translated into an average savings of $12,700 per month, however, we know that the systems are still not achieving optimal performance.  This pilot project will identify further adjustments and modifications to achieve additional efficiencies.In addition to some minor adjustments made, a significant modification to the geothermal system was identified this past winter that will achieve further savings.  These modifications were completed last month so it’ll be a few months before we can measure the actual savings.