By Vanessa Farquharson
Ryerson and its students could be hit with higher electricity bills as early as December.
After lambasting the Tories for leaving behind a $5.6 billion deficit, Premier Dalton McGuinty warned last week that the current rate cap of 4.3 cents a kilowatt-hour may have to be lifted.
McGuinty called for an official review of Ontario’s energy rates and gave Energy Minister Dwight Duncan until the end of this month to come up with a new price for electricity.
Last year Ryerson spent about $3 million in energy bills. The numbers could continue to rise as more students pour in and more buildings go up.
Although no new buildings are using electricity right now, there are four presently under construction. This year saw the influx of the double cohort, and more students require more energy.
“We will be watching [energy costs] very closely,” said Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse. “It could mean significant amounts of money for us.
“I don’t see it putting us in a deficit,” said Lajeunesse, “but it will put pressure on some areas.”
There are various ways in which Ryerson tries to save energy.
In 1994 fluorescent lights were installed in every light fixture on campus. These lights produce more light but use less energy.
Ventilation controls and fan speeds have been upgraded to allow for variable speeds rather than constant blowing.
Occupancy sensors have been installed in most classrooms that automatically turn off the lights when no one is in the room.
And in 1997, a unique cooling system — uncommon to most other universities — was installed at Ryerson; it converts heat from steam to create chilled water.
These initiatives save about 1,200 kilowatt hours per year — and almost $1 million in energy costs.
When the price cap is lifted, a regulated rate for bill-paying students and institutions like Ryerson will be set by an independent body — possible the Ontario Energy Board.
The current provincial rate freeze on electricity has been in effect since May 1, 2002. It is about one-third below the actual cost of energy production and has cost the government about $700 million.
The energy minister refuses to speculate about the size of the hike and says he hopes consumers will make minor adjustments in their electricity consumption to help absorb whatever the final increase is.
Lajeunesse said Ryerson keeps about one per cent of its budget, in reserve for cost increases.