Burns Lake Community Energy Plan

The Village of Burns Lake took one step towards climate protection by creating a community energy plan. The plan became a leap forward towards ongoing climate action.

The Village embarked on a complete community wide assessment of energy consumption in 2007 after receiving grants from The Fraser Basin Council, paired with an Infrastructure Planning Grant from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

What is a CEP?

A community energy plan (CEP) is a long-term plan that evaluates a community’s existing energy use and supply. The goal is to reduce energy consumption, improve efficiency, and increase renewable energy supply. It encompasses land use and transportation planning, site planning and building design, infrastructure, and renewable energy supply.

The Assessment

Burns Lake Staff and Council worked closely with One Sky, the consultant from Smithers that Burns Lake hired to complete the CEP in project initiation, development and implementation.

The Community Energy Plan concluded that 60% of emissions and energy consumption in Burns Lake comes from transportation, likely due to the passing traffic on Highway 16. Commercial buildings, in comparison to residential, consume almost twice the energy and produce three times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions Download the plan for more details.

The assessment covered tangible actions Village council could implement to decrease energy consumption.

Burns Lake has explored the possibility of a "Community Heating Network." The network would be implemented for a cluster of buildings in the downtown core area. In 2010 the Village signed a Memorandum of Understanding with all the building owners that could participate in the project, which includes two First Nations Bands within the municipality. A preliminary feasibility study is complete and was well received by the past Council. 

The Village is currently working on securing the Engineering and Detailed Design assistance that will move this project forward in addition to receipt of the necessary funding.

Energy upgrades are also taking place at the local arena. In the first phase, waste heat will be captured from the ice plant and is expected to provide enough high temperature hot water to supply the Zamboni machine for the daily flooding needs of the ice surface. This should provide significant reductions to the natural gas consumption. The second phase, which is still under investigation, is the potential installation of a biomass boiler system to supply heat to portions of the arena that are currently served by natural gas or electricity. In addition, the Village is investigating solar lighting for the Burns Lake community square: 'Spirit Square'.

Pellet Heating Plant

Energy upgrades took place at the local arena. A pellet heating plant was installed in October 2011.

Production Capacity: The system includes three Froling P4 Boilers (60 Kw) utilized in a cascade system with a revolving master and two slaves arrangement.  This provides flexibility to match the load requirements at any given time. Each Froling P4 is capable of 200,000 Btu/Hr.

Distribution System: The glycol treated water and closed loop design allows three heat sources to be used: a waste heat recovery system from the ice plant; a pellet boiler; and a natural gas boiler. Operating at a lower temperature, the heat recovery system would mainly be used to heat or preheat water for resurfacing. Arena systems that require higher temperatures such as the Zamboni (ice resurfacer) are mainly served by the pellet boiler. The change room, concession and also a test section of insulated bleachers are also served by the new heating system. The gas boiler acts as a back-up and serves peak demand only. There also are be multiple hot-water and heat storage tanks that allow the serving of short-term peak loads. At the same time it allows the heat recovery system to store heat for periods when the ice plant is not running.

Costs: The planning and feasibility study cost $18,000. Based on the initial engineering study, and disregarding the grant portion of the capital investment, a simple payback of 9 to 22 years has been calculated. The wide range is due to unknown savings from the new heat recovery system. These numbers are based on current energy prices, assuming operation of the plant by existing staff, and do not take rising hydro and gas costs into account.

While the financial cost-benefit might appear marginal, the facility upgrade that comes with the project should be factored in. Being more than 40 years old, some parts and components of the heating system are in need of repair or replacement. A report published in June 2009 proposes urgent upgrades worth $680,797. The new heating system would address some of these needed upgrades and also address safety requirements. Assigning the replacement capital costs to asset maintenance and upkeep, payback of the remaining part of the loan would be reduced to three to seven years. Other investment sources included the Community Works Fund: (260K), the Towns for Tomorrow grant program (196K) and the Municipal Gas Tax fund. 

Annual Operating Costs – During the 2011/2012 winter the Village spent about $8000 for pellets. There was a considerable amount of troubleshooting and also a difficulty with pellet supply, as a result the true cost benchmark was not achieved.  Based on the engineering, the pellet consumption is expected to be around 110 tons. The Village is testing several pellet sources with the goals of sourcing them as locally as possible. Prices vary depending on the source. The residential white wood pellets cost $191/ton once delivered.

Heating Plant Lessons Learned:  Have a good working relationship with engineering and installation team.  Seek guidance from BC Safety Authority on acceptable boilers during the preliminary design process, and potentially include a list of “preferred” boilers in the contract tender.  Understand that not all pellets are created equal. Consider obtaining a small sample of the pellets you hope to use and send them off to the boiler manufacturer for testing prior to contract tender.

GHG savings  Burns Lake is loading consumption data into SMARTTool, results will be posted at a later date.

Key Players

Corporate staff are monitoring Village energy consumption and managing the retrofits of municipal buildings.

Other departments are coming on board. The Arena Foreman is taking a lead role on bringing the 1970s-era arena up to standard and not only increasing the energy efficiency, but the safety as well.

The financial department is also increasingly involved as they help out with the GHG data collection as part of their weekly accounts payable run, which only adds an extra five minutes to their task.


Burns Lake is dedicated to a fully transparent public participation process at the local government level. Therefore, ongoing communication with the community about the process the Village is a consistent goal.

There was engagement at the community level through a written survey completed during the CEP.

Currently, there is a large sign outside the building stating the energy efficiency initiatives taking place and the expected savings. The Village office is developing "Climate Action Corner" in a local publication.

Staff engagement was an integral part of the process. The Community Energy Association helped Burns Lake host an event attended by staff and elected officials.

"Having both elected officials and staff in the same room, helped bring everyone to be ‘on the same page". Said participant Natasha Letchford, "We will continue to work together as we try and reduce our emissions and improve our community. It was inspiring to see people planning actions as simple as a carpool to work to discussing complex and visionary’ systems."

The Village also hosted a "Community Energy and Emissions Plan" workshop in November 2010. (see CEEP overview attached below)

It looks like engagement is working as Burns Lake had the highest reduction in electrical consumption for Earth Hour in 2010. (See below for coverage and the attachment from last year’s BC Hydro News Release.)


One of the major challenges is capacity. With a small staff of eight inside workers, the energy efficiency initiatives were falling to the corner of the desk. However, with the support of the CAO and Council, and some redistribution of workload, Burns Lake was able to continue our sustainability initiatives.

Another common challenge has been funding. Burns Lake continues to apply for grants to help mitigate the costs. One of the goals of staff is to show council not only the environmental benefits of reducing energy consumption, but the economic benefits as well. They are currently working on a vehicle replacement plan that will be both environmentally and fiscally responsible. Other Working Group initiatives integrate duel goals of job creation and utilization of existing timber supply.

Jeff Ragsdale, Development Services Coordinator, (250) 692-7587, jragsdale@burnslake.ca: www.burnslake.ca
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