City council approves energy system upgrades at Powell River Recreation Complex

Facility requires new boiler

City of Powell River Council has voted to modernize its heating system at Powell River Recreation Complex with a system that will save money.

At the May 7 city council meeting, councillors reviewed and voted on a three-part motion. The first part was that the city reallocate $175,000 of the 2019 financial plan funding for boiler replacement toward installation of a heating system upgrade (boiler) and direct digital control optimization as outlined in the recently completed recreation complex thermal energy study. The second part was that council approve a grant application to FortisBC to fund $104,138 of the heating system upgrade project; the third part was to approve $81,308 from the community works fund or community forest reserve toward the project.

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Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman, chair of the climate change mitigation and adaptation committee, said there were good savings on this project, as well as a reduction of greenhouse gases.

“We believe this is a no-brainer to do this,” said Leishman. “I’m really happy to support this and the climate change committee supports this.”

Councillor Rob Southcott, also a member of the climate change committee, said that this is a replacement of boilers, instead of what is becoming much more popular: heat pumps. He said there is a possibility that further money could possibly be found for a system that would take heat from the ice and put it into the pool, which would be a third phase of this project.

“However, at the moment with what’s available to us as far as grants go, it would take about 25 years to pay that off,” said Southcott. “Staff will be diligently watching for the possibility of more grant money to facilitate that kind of a system in the future. These kinds of grants are becoming more popular with our local government. We are hoping that is going to happen. This makes huge sense.”

Councillor George Doubt, chair of the finance committee, said the city is in a time when expenditures should be looked at carefully and avoided wherever possible. He said this expenditure is different in a couple of ways. One is a great deal of funding comes from a FortisBC grant and the result is going to be significant operational savings in the most expensive service the city provides, which is the recreation complex.

“It’s going to pay itself off in a very short period of time and start paying back to taxpayers every year from now for probably 30 years while this boiler is functioning,” said Doubt. “It’s not only a good idea environmentally but it’s a good economic investment.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she was definitely in favour of this because it is a tax-lowering initiative. She said savings from this infrastructure will, after the initial investment is paid off, contribute to lower taxes.

According to a staff report tabled at the April 29 city council meeting, in 2019, $175,000 was budgeted from the city’s capital reserve account for replacement of one of two boilers at the recreation complex that had passed its useful estimated life limit. During the summer of 2019, city staff was made aware of an energy study incentive introduced by Fortis to leverage potential funding for energy efficiency upgrades. Staff decided to pause the boiler replacement project in order to explore this further and determine if an opportunity existed to incorporate energy study findings into the boiler replacement project, according to the report.

From October 2019 to March 2020, an engineering firm worked closely with city staff and conducted a thorough review of existing mechanical and control systems. According to the staff report, the study concluded that energy savings with excellent payback periods exist and they put forward recommendations for the city to explore completion of these projects given potential funding initiatives exist through Fortis.

The staff report indicated there would be annual cost savings opportunities of $55,267 through installation of a more efficient boiler and reconfiguration of mechanical control systems. Estimated capital cost of these projects would be approximately $360,000 and would save the city more than $728,000 over the next 25 years.

 
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