By Kevin Ritchie
With natural gas prices on the rise, Ryerson, and its students, will have to fork over the cash to pay for escalating heating costs this winter.
“Students fees have to go up to cover the expenses,” Ryerson’s housing manager Liza Nassim said of students in residence.
Pitman Hall’s management budgeted $40,000 to pay for utilities last year, Nassim said, but that will have to be doubled next year.
She doesn’t know exactly how much the increase in residence fees will be for each student, but said it’s the first time natural gas prices have affected their costs.
According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, natural gas prices across North America have increased 75 per cent from the same time last year, and in the United States, prices have already risen five per cent this month.
Large industrial growth and new forms of heating powered by natural gas have driven prices up, said Peter Dyne, energy spokesperson for the Consumers’ Association of Canada.
The university has little choice but to dig deeper to pay its heating bills. Last year Ryerson spent $1.25-million to buy the steam it needed to heat and cool its 26 buildings — natural gas is used to produce steam — and the university expects to dish out an extra $490,000 this year.
Ryerson will just have to find money in its utilities budget to pay the added costs, said Ian Hamilton, director of campus planning and facilities.
Money-saving measures include reducing the temperature in campus buildings earlier in the morning and at night, making sure machinery is well-maintained and placing campus buildings on “weekend” mode over the holidays.
“The biggest bang for the buck is going to come from our community members,” said Hamilton, who hopes staff and students will try to conserve energy by doing simple things such as shutting windows and turning off the lights. “We’re going to have to raise awareness.”
Ryerson’s not the only university that will be pinching pennies this winter. Administrators over at the University of Toronto expect to dish out upwards of $2-million on top of the $3-million they already paid in gas bills. They have to heat 900,000 square metres of space spread throughout the campus’ many buildings.
Unlike Ryerson, U of T buys natural gas and converts it into steam itself. They also produce 30 per cent of their own electricity using steam.
“There’s not much you can do without any major expenses,” said Bruce Dodds, U of T’s director of operations and property management. “We’re kind of sweating it here to budget.”
Dodds has warned the university’s administration about the hike and, like Ryerson, now they have to find money in the budget to cover it.
U of T has special heating needs for its zoology department, which houses a large variety of animals who need acclimatized environments. They also have to hear three greenhouses.
Although the temperature in other campus buildings is set at 68 degrees, they are so old and drafty, it’s hard to keep them warm at a low cost, Dodds said.
Universities are just going to have to decide between paying the increased prices or turning down the thermostat, Dyne said.