Johnvince Foods improves with green power

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The massive power blackouts across Ontario in August, 2003, left millions in the dark. Electricity costs began to soar shortly after, and it became obvious that higher costs would be long-term. The ensuing brownouts and growing bill for power generated a sense of helplessness among businesses and consumers.

Instead of just accepting that new order, Toronto-based Johnvince Foods (Planters Canada), the country's largest importer, processor and distributor of bulk and packaged nuts, dried fruits and confectionary, decided to do something about it.

In 2006, the company retrofitted a warehouse facility rather than demolish it, literally slicing the roof off to add the extra space it needed. It then installed energy-efficient lighting.

Two years later, it switched to more energy-efficient T8 fluorescent lighting in all its warehouse and supermarket facilities and is now doing the same in its offices with the help of Valuelights, a Toronto-based company that will provide Johnvince Foods with T8 fluorescent bulbs.

These are not only highly energy-efficient but also have a 46,000-hour life. Valuelight, in fact, offers a six-year onsite service warranty for the bulbs.

As a result, Johnvince Foods has a 20% energy savings each month. "You have to spend money to save money," says John Logarakis, company vice-president of special projects.

You also have to have the vision. "Joe Pulla, the owner, and his family are very committed to environmental responsibility and the environment," says Mr. Logarakis, who is constantly researching new ways to improve the company's sustainability and efficiency, including examining solar energy. Part of that research involves phone calls to Toronto Hydro — which, since 2004, has become a cutting-edge leader in the energy-efficiency movement.

Toronto Hydro has pioneered a variety of conservation programs to help businesses and consumers cut energy consumption, such as the Summer Challenge for Business, which gives a 10% discount to business customers in their fall bill if they reduce their energy consumption by 10% in July and August, and the Business Incentive Program for building energy efficiency into commercial renovations.

The utility is also investing more than $1.2-billion in overhauling the city's electricity infrastructure and adding smart-grid technology that could make power outages a thing of the past.

"This technology makes the grid almost self-heal. It detects outages and does things itself to reroute electricity... to avoid outages," says Dave O'Brien, president and CEO, Toronto Hydro Corp.

As well, the smart-grid system will allow customers to be more in control of their energy costs through Smart Meters and time-of-use rates, so they can save money by shifting some of their usage to less expensive off-peak hours. Already, customers can sell back to the grid any excess electricity they generate by using such technology as solar or wind power.

Advances do not end there. Ontario is undergoing a transformation that is absolutely electrifying. With the passing of the Ontario's Green Energy Act in May, the province is promoting use of renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fostering green industries and jobs — and building a culture of conservation.

"The exciting thing about the future this legislation holds is that the residential and business customer now has an opportunity to become actively engaged in both energy savings for themselves but also helping the overall demand," Mr. O'Brien says.

"This is really about empowerment. It's about saying to the customer, ‘you and your utility can do something here, and we're going to make it reasonably priced.’"

"I believe the Green Act itself, once the regulations have been finalized, can bring about social change in terms of the amount of local jobs that are created as well as a deeper consciousness of sustainability in our society," says Richard Morris, manager of the City of Toronto's Energy Efficiency office. "I've had many conversations with groups and individuals who say, ‘Well, I know there's something I should do but I really don't know what and the how of doing it.’"

With the transformation now underway, those Torontonians — including small business owners — can now turn to their municipal government as well as their utility and find the resources, including financial assistance and tools, that will answer those questions.

"I see the day when we will all be as much a part of the conservation culture as we now are of the recycling culture when we walk our blue, grey and green boxes to the curb each garbage day," Mr. O'Brien says.


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