Creative, not complex

How a community recreation complex took a viable, cost-effective step toward decarbonization.

The story

Decarbonizing a building doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t have to be as complex as you’d think. There are smart ways to start – sensible, incremental solutions that can actually be cost-effective. And yes, we said cost-effective.

That’s the approach Envari Energy Solutions is taking to help a municipality in Eastern Ontario partially electrify the heating at one of its largest public facilities.

Together with Envari, the municipality developed a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint and improve operating costs by bringing electric boilers into the complex, which was previously only heated by natural gas. Adding electric heat will not only reduce carbon emissions but allow the facility to qualify as a Class A customer in Ontario’s Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI).

Class A customers benefit from a more favourable rate structure, but the better part is that the electric boilers will reduce the facility’s reliance on natural gas.

At first blush, it seems counterintuitive to use more electricity to capitalize on a better rate structure, but that’s far from the case. Yes, to qualify as a Class A customer, you need to average—and that’s the keyword, average—1,000 kW monthly peaks over a 12-month period, but you also need to curtail your consumption during the five highest provincial peaks of the year. That’s the important part.

It boils down to demand management. By using less electricity when the province is peaking, it lightens the strain on the grid, costing the province less as a whole by deferring the need to eventually invest in new infrastructure to support the demand.

Sound complicated?
Not with the right execution.

A strategic shift.

Let’s back up a minute. Why is a recreation centre the ideal candidate for this type of transformation? Because most rec centres require heating year-round – for the buildings themselves in the winter and for the water used daily in change rooms as well as any pools that need to be heated. In the case of this recreational complex, the project will enable the facility to use electrically generated heat as much as possible throughout the year, keeping it in that Class A range of consumption. But the innovation lies in the system itself.

Working closely with the client, Envari designed a plan to use heat exchangers to integrate the new electric boiler plant with the two existing gas-fired boiler systems: one for the production of domestic hot water and another serving the main heating loop.

But what’s really novel is the dispatch signal tied into the building’s automation system. This tiny controller has a tremendous impact on the efficacy of the system.

By sourcing real-time, hourly information on weather data, electricity and gas pricing, it triggers the system to toggle between the electric and gas boilers based on pre-set parameters. In other words, on those searing-hot summer days when load demands are peaking across Ontario, it automates a load shift from electricity to gas, reducing the provincial peak and fulfilling the criteria for the Class A rate structure.

By pairing deep-rooted knowledge of the energy landscape with critical thinking, Envari uncovered a creative solution to help the recreation complex electrify realistically – and save operating costs, too.

It’s anticipated that the electric boilers will run 70% of the time, equating to a simple payback of approximately five years and 436 tonnes of CO2e in greenhouse gas savings.

Ready to embark on a building transformation?
Let’s see what’s realistic for you.

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