The Sea to Sky School District operates many of the biggest facilities in the corridor outside of Whistler’s hotels, and the impact of BC Hydro’s 28 per cent rate increase over the next five years will be significant — at least another $150,000 a year when all of the increases are taken into account.
Rick Hume, the director of facilities and services at the school board said the long-term budget implications are significant. “We’re not going back to review our budget (for this year), we’re going to suck it up — it’s about a $9,000 increase for us and we think we’ll be able to manage that until June 30 when the school’s fiscal year wraps up,” he said.
“However, the following year — just looking at what we spent this year… then we’re looking at a $50,000 increase for the district for hydro alone, and we’ll have to find that within our operating budget. We’ve been told that there will be no help from the province, so we’re going to have to find (that money) from within the budget.”
Hume said the board will be looking at ways to save money, although they’ve already invested in power-saving technologies.
“We’ve done a lot of the low-hanging fruit already, all the easy stuff like lighting,” he said.
For example, lighting systems have been retrofitted to reduce power, occupancy sensors have been added to spaces like gyms and classrooms, and classrooms now have independent switches for rows of lights so they can operate with fewer lights on sunny days.
Hume said the next step could be looking at the human factor, working with teachers and students to reduce power consumption.
The school district has also applied for Ministry of Education funding to create a test solar wall at Howe Sound Secondary in Squamish, which will reduce heating costs. Hume said the technique could be adapted to other classrooms if it’s successful.
As well, the school district is looking to retrofit boiler systems with energy-efficient condensing systems, although that has an up-front cost that will have to come out of the school district’s capital budget.
“There’s an investment to it, but there’s also a payback,” said Hume.
The April increase of nine per cent will be followed by increases of six per cent, four per cent, 3.5 per cent and three per cent over the following four years, although the program will be reviewed again after the first three years of increases.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler confirmed that its own electricity costs are roughly a million dollars a year, and the increase will be a significant drain on resources.
BC Hydro rate increases were announced back in November, and will be used to upgrade and expand the utility’s aging infrastructure. It’s also been suggested that increases could continue after five years.