Nova Scotia

DND energy efficiency project targets 'Goldilocks' buildings

The Department of National Defence is having "smart" energy meters installed at 46 mid-life buildings across the country, including nine at CFB Halifax. It is aiming to gather data to help make many of its other buildings more efficient.

'Smart' energy meters project to be underway by next year at 46 mid-life buildings

Military personnel at the opening of Halifax's new Willow Park armoury on Jan. 23. (CBC)

A project to measure energy consumption on Canadian military bases such as CFB Halifax could eventually result in savings of tens of millions of dollars.

That's the hope of the Department of National Defence, which is having "smart" energy meters installed at 46 buildings across the country, including nine at CFB Halifax.

"It's essentially a sensor, a sophisticated version of what we would have in our own home in terms of measuring the level of energy usage," said Sarah Evans, the executive director of portfolio innovation within the Department of National Defence.

"It lets us know whether the parts of the building that make up the most energy, which use the most energy, and the parts of the building that are potentially the best opportunity for energy savings." 

DND owns 20,000 buildings across the country, which makes it the biggest property owner of any federal government department.

'The Goldilocks sweet spot'

The 46 selected buildings were picked so representative baseline data on energy consumption can be gathered in different types of structures and the military can later choose the proper types of energy-saving measures to roll out on all military bases and air force wings. 

"Based on the data that we gather, we can then save money as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Evans said. 

Evans said the selected buildings are of middle age: not old enough to be on the schedule for demolition, and not the newest buildings, which the military already requires to be built to a more efficient standard. 

"These buildings are the Goldilocks sweet spot where we're going to be able to do energy saving investments in order to improve," she said. 

Variety of upgrades possible

Once the data is analyzed the military could choose from a variety of upgrades, some of which are already happening across the country. 

For example, in December the military announced energy efficiency upgrades to 102 buildings at 14 Wing Greenwood. Those buildings will be getting things like new LED lighting and ventilation systems, as well as a move to natural gas for heating. The upgrades are expected to cost about $20.5 million. 

DND is partnering with the National Research Council on the smart meters project. In previous tests, NRC has determined that smart meters can help save between 10 to 15 per cent on energy costs. 

Based on those assumptions, DND believes the smart meters project could help save between $17 million and $25.5-million on its annual $170-million utilities bill.

'It's really up to our major institutions'

Emma Norton, the energy conservation co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, welcomed the move. 

"I'm really happy to see the Department of National Defence doing this and investing the time and the resources and putting it out publicly that they are doing this," she said, adding that major institutions must "lead the way" on conservation.

Emma Norton is the Ecology Action Centre's energy conservation co-ordinator. (Contributed by Emma Norton)

"For those institutions that have the resources to take the lead on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, that paves the way for the rest of us that have fewer resources at our fingertips to be able to do it as well," she said. 

Norton said when large institutions make investments in energy efficiency it helps increase the number of people doing "green jobs" and improve their skills. Since each building is unique, each is a new challenge for green workers to make energy efficient. The more experience they have the better.

"A really good way to do that is the way the Department of National Defence is doing it, which is to take stock of where they're using their energy, how they're using their energy, and benchmarking where they're at and to move from there. Because you can't manage what you can't measure," she said.  

The military is seeking a contractor to install the smart meters and expects the contract will be awarded in February. Work will take place throughout 2019, and data gathering should start next year.

Willow Park Armoury at CFB Halifax is an example of a new building constructed to meet the military's energy-efficiency targets. (CBC)

The smart energy meters and the upgrades at Greenwood are part of a larger national defence strategy, which includes spending about $225 million on energy efficiency and bringing DND's greenhouse gas emissions down to 40 per cent below 2005 baseline levels by 2030. It says this will be the equivalent of 10,500 homes. 

Under the Paris climate change accord, Canada committed to reduce its emissions to at least 30 per cent lower than in 2005, by 2030.

About the Author

Shaina Luck


Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email:


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.