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School district nets small grant for energy improvements

Nanaimo school district has a $25,000 provincial grant to spend on projects that increase the energy efficiency of its buildings and operations.

The Education Ministry announced a capital funding program for school districts last spring that is equal to, or greater than, the annual cost of carbon offsets for districts.

Nanaimo school district paid more than $100,000 in offsets in 2010 and almost $110,000 in 2011 for a total of $210,233, but because the district received grants several years ago to help reduce its carbon footprint, the total amount the district receives under this new capital program is $25,068.

Those grants included $187,490 through the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement, a joint venture between the province and B.C. Hydro to pay for building retrofits that reduce energy consumption. The money was spent on lighting upgrades at Dover Bay Secondary School and buying solar panels for three secondary schools.

This amount is considered part of the province’s contribution toward reimbursing the district for carbon offset spending because it was for projects that help compensate the district for paying carbon offsets.

Pete Sabo, the district’s director of planning and operations, said the district has not decided how it will spend the $25,000, but projects being considered include expanding the current lighting replacement program, a fridge replacement program, solar systems to preheat water or air, or hot water system upgrades.

Last year, the district’s carbon emissions were estimated at 4,391 tonnes of carbon dioxide – 82 per cent was for heating buildings, 13 per cent for fleet vehicles and five per cent for the use of paper.

So far, lighting upgrades and boiler replacements have been the main focus for reducing the district’s carbon footprint, said Sabo.

“They’re the 20 per cent of the projects that return 80 per cent of the savings,” he said. “We have a million-dollar gas budget. Some of the walls of our schools have no insulation. Some of our buildings are unfortunately energy hogs. It’s just due to the age of the buildings.”

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