Smart energy plan pitched for downtown Halifax10/2/2012
The development firm that introduced sea-water air conditioning to its Purdy’s Wharf project has pitched a game-changing green energy plan for downtown Halifax.
Through the use of natural gas, a project proposed by East Port Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of the development and property management firm East Port Properties Ltd., is offering a one-stop solution for the electricity and heating and cooling loads of new construction in the downtown core.
“The real key is that this is about smart energy efficiency; it isn’t about renewable energy because, at least for the initial term, we would burn natural gas,” president John Lindsay Jr. said in a recent interview. “But it is about combined heat and power and capturing the waste heat and utilizing that heat, and that is the game-changer.”
The three-generation process uses natural gas to simultaneously produce electricity, capture waste thermal energy and then reuse that energy for the heating and cooling of buildings.
Typical power plants waste 60 per cent of the fuel input and retain just 40 per cent of the input for electricity production. The model proposed by East Port Energy reduces waste to just 20 per cent of input and applies 40 per cent of the energy generated for heating and cooling and 40 per cent for electricity.
Lindsay presented the district energy proposal to Halifax Regional Municipality’s environmental and sustainability committee earlier this month.
To get off the ground at all, Lindsay said the project requires buy-in and support from the municipality, private owners and the developers of important downtown construction projects such as Dalhousie University and Nova Centre developer Rank Inc.
East Port Energy would oversee and implement the project but assume only a management role after the system is up and running. The municipality would invest and assume 25 per cent ownership and private partners, such as Emera Utility Services and AltaGas Ltd., would assume 75 per cent ownership.
“The proposal we made we knew, and we’ve always known, requires a public and private group to get together to agree on a co-ownership agreement that’s acceptable to all parties,” Lindsay said. “All of the advice we’ve received tells us it’s doable, but it’s not easy. In fact, it’s hard, but not impossible.”
East Port is also working on the details of a power-purchase agreement from Nova Scotia Power, which would then require approval from the provincial Utility and Review Board.
As large-scale construction projects downtown forge ahead, Lindsay said the timeline to move forward is crunched as tri-generation energy is only cost-effective if implemented at the beginning of a project because retrofitting an existing building is far too expensive.
“The key part of the feasibility is that to create the most value for any thermal energy customer, you have to not only deliver them the energy but help them avoid capital expenditure and create an economic benefit,” Lindsay said.
“If you already have your (heating and cooling) equipment, you will not give up that equipment to go to thermal energy because it is not inexpensive enough. But if you do not have to invest in a heating and cooling system ... and then buy the energy ... this is the much more affordable route.”
To date, the two-phase project includes an initial-build price tag of $110 million and a full-build price tag of an additional $150 million.
Environmental and sustainability committee chair Barry Dalrymple said in a recent interview that the proposal was well-received, but the financial ask is too high for the municipality.
“First impressions are that this is a fabulous project, a wonderful idea that’s innovative and about time, but then there are the sober second thoughts.
“The committee did not kill this, and we’re certainly not saying no. What we said very clearly was you need to go back and rework your proposal and your numbers and then come back to us.”
If the province were to share the financial burden with the municipality, Dalrymple said the investment may be easier for the municipality to handle.
“We know the timing issues, but we’re not going to be forced into a deal that’s bad for our taxpayers because of timing.”
Lindsay said he wasn’t entirely clear on where the municipality could reap the financial rewards.
“The municipality has to assume debt to able to do this so they are investing. This is investment and return and there are a variety of ways in which revenues can be paid. It’s just a matter of working out the best way to ensure that all that value gets to the city. That’s what we’ve always believed should happen — that the city gets a fair and full return.”
Construction and ownership costs aside, tri-generation technology offers a myriad of immediate benefits for taxpayers, building owners and the environment, Lindsay said.
The technology reduces continuing costs such as insurance and maintenance, improves the overall esthetic of the building, is quieter, offers better air quality and creates opportunities for green roof projects.
Furthermore, Lindsay said, the projected benefits fit within the municipality’s Community Energy Plan and contribute to its greenhouse-gas-reduction targets.
The tri-generation energy project has less than 12 months to be deemed dead or alive.
(The Chronicle Herald)