Cambridge-based BWXT keen to cut power bill

Think your electricity bill is high?

BWXT Canada president John MacQuarrie says the Cambridge plant's monthly electricity costs are around $80,000.

By Waterloo Region Record
Thursday, February 9, 2017

CAMBRIDGE — Think your electricity bill is high?

BWXT Canada president John MacQuarrie says the Cambridge plant's monthly electricity costs are around $80,000.

But he's looking forward to bringing that down, thanks to a provincial program that provides incentives to large energy users that reduce their consumption during peak hours.

"I think we can save a fair bit," he said Tuesday during a visit from Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.

BWXT designs, manufactures and services steam generators and other components for nuclear power plants. It employs about 500 people.

The province recently lowered the eligibility threshold for the Industrial Conservation Initiative to all consumers with monthly peak demand exceeding one megawatt. That means about 1,000 new businesses, including BWXT Canada, can now participate.

"They look at their usage during peak hours and where they find they can conserve their energy during those peak hours, they do so, and by doing that, they can reduce their energy bills by up to a third," explained Thibeault.

A lot of the electricity consumption at BWXT, which operates seven days a week, already comes during off-peak hours, making it a good candidate for savings through the program, MacQuarrie said.

"As long as you're not using proportionally as much energy in the peak hours, you're eligible for a credit."

Those savings will help BWXT be more competitive and win more projects, and free up funds to reinvest in the business, MacQuarrie said. The company will have a better sense of how much might be saved once it formally opts in to the program, he said.

It's estimated that the more than 300 businesses already in the program reduced peak electricity demand by an estimated 1,300 megawatts last year.

Those savings benefit everyone, Thibeault said, as reduced consumption means the province doesn't have to build new generation to meet extra demand.

"So this is a win, win, win for us when we can get more companies involved," he said.

Soaring electricity rates have been a thorn in the side of the Kathleen Wynne government, and it has pledged to provide additional relief.

"The premier has been very clear to me and to the province that we need to do more," Thibeault said in an interview. "I've been given a deadline that we need to have something done before the spring budget."

Thibeault said ratepayers have already seen an eight per cent reduction on their bills as of January, with eligible rural users seeing higher savings. But stories of disproportionate rural electricity delivery rates still abound.

"That's something that we're focusing on, but we want to make sure that we're making everything as equitable as we can," Thibeault said.

In downtown Cambridge, you might have 500 people connected to one hydro pole, with the costs distributed among them, he said. In rural and northern Ontario, "you've got 500 poles to get to one person, and so it's finding a way to make that equitable without making sure that everyone else sees their rates go up significantly.

"It's a difficult task, but it's one that myself and my ministry and our government is taking on head-on."

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