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Energy Retrofit... the Update

Thursday, July 5, 2007

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Written by Derek Pieper, CSA Academic Commissioner

Students at the University of Guelph have a long history of driving positive change at this institution, in the Guelph community, and in society at large. A university administrator was recently quoted as saying, “if you want to get anything done....just give it to the students”. A recent example of a student initiative promoting positive change is the Energy Retrofit project.

In general, a “retrofit” is a renovation or upgrade of an existing building’s energy system. Campus retrofits are centered on upgrading outdated or energy-inefficient technologies like lighting and heating/cooling systems to reduce the amount of wasted energy and water.

A retrofit offers several environmental, financial, and social benefits to the University of Guelph. Heating and lighting updates would greatly improve the general comfort of buildings on campus. Upgrades to ventilation systems would result in increased air quality—indoors and out. The University of Guelph would be a more enjoyable learning environment and the surrounding community would also benefit. For example, the amount of water we use would decrease, causing less strain to local water resources. A retrofit would also reduce our contribution to the municipal wastewater stream. As well, the university would drastically decrease its air pollution, helping to alleviate Ontario’s chronic air pollution problems and doing its own small part to address climate change.

University of Guelph students will remember that in the Winter semester of 2007 the Energy Retrofit referendum question was proposed to the undergraduate student body. The question exceeded the number of votes required to reach quorum (over 20% of the undergraduate student body voted) and passed as a result of the majority of votes cast being in support of a student contribution to the project.

Since the referendum, the Energy Retrofit campaign has attracted significant local and provincial attention. Immediately after the referendum results were announced local media were quick to pick up the story and spread the message that students at the University of Guelph were taking responsibility for the environment into their own hands.

Provincial institutions also took note of this student initiative. On April 11, 2007 Peter Love of the Ontario Power Authority's Conservation Bureau presented a Certificate of Recognition to the University of Guelph undergraduate student body “for the initiation of the student referendum to promote energy efficiency and a culture of conservation in the Province of Ontario”.

Energy Retrofit project: Next Steps

Even though a significant amount of the funding required for retrofit projects is in place there is still a lot of work to be done to bring this project to completion. Funding needs to be secured from provincial and federal governments in order to support some of the larger projects proposed. A referendum question for graduate students at the University of Guelph is also being considered.

The use of student funds from the Energy Retrofit referendum need to be monitored to ensure that they are being used appropriately on projects that significantly reduce the environmental impact of university activities. This need for accountability will be addressed in two major ways:

Students will be part of a working group to discuss the relative merits of proposed energy retrofit projects (get in touch with the if you wish to participate!) Retrofit plans will be presented to the Senate Committee on University Planning for approval. This committee includes student representation (the CSA Academic Commissioner and other elected student senators).

The Energy Retrofit project can be greatly expanded. Students can use the momentum generated by this project to continue pushing the university administration and all levels of government for increased support for energy conservation and emission reduction projects. We can take what we have learned from the University of Guelph Energy Retrofit and help students at other post-secondary institutions across the country create positive change.

To find out more information on the Energy Retrofit and to see some details of the proposed projects please click here.

To find out how you can help with the Energy Retrofit project, visit the CSA in Room 274 UC or email

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