A pipeline ruptured and sparked a massive fire north of Prince George. (THE NEWS/files)

Thermostats lowered at Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows schools to conserve gas

Pipeline rupture could lead to natural gas shortages this winter

Schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will be cold when classes are not in session, as School District No. 42 complies with a request from Fortis to save gas.

The gas company is predicting a shortfall of natural gas this winter because of a pipeline rupture in October. Pipeline owner Enbridge has repaired the leak, but the pipeline is operating at limited capacity.

Fortis asks customers to set their thermostat between 18-20 C when they are home and awake, and no more than 17 C when away from home, or asleep.

The school district will set temperatures at 20 C during school days from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and 15 C when schools are not in session.

“Following the rupture of the Enbridge pipeline, on Oct. 12, the school district implemented the FortisBC recommendation and reduced the temperature in all of its schools and to 20 C,” said Irena Pochop, with the school district.

“We requested at the time that parents ensure their children dress appropriately to stay warm and comfortable inside the school or classroom. Because FortisBC is forecasting a shortfall of natural gas through the winter, to help with conservation efforts we also began on Dec. 7 lowering thermostats to 15 C when schools are not in session.”

The temperatures could go lower, as schools will set their thermostats at 18 C when future pipeline repairs occur, and the gas supply is even more limited.

Unfortunately, this conservation effort is not predicted to save the district money.

“However, we are not anticipating any cost savings from these conservation measures,” said Pochop. “We anticipate that any potential savings from lowering the thermostat will be offset by natural gas price increases.

“The final costs will ultimately depend on the kind of winter we will have, the nature of the increases in natural gas prices, and the length of time required to complete repairs on the pipeline.”

The district is asking students and staff to dress in “cozy clothes” to stay warm, and keep classroom and school doors closed during recess and lunch, and keep windows closed, to prevent heat loss.

The public may notice similar measures at public buildings throughout the city. The City of Maple Ridge also has a plan to reduce gas consumption.

Fred Armstrong, manager of communications, said with the Leisure Centre upgrades underway, the city is already using less gas than normal. However city hall has implemented the following steps to reduce consumption:

• Installing programmable thermostats and setting the building temperature to 18-20 C, and setting the temperature to 16 C when the building is unoccupied.

• Switched off one boiler at Leisure Centre.

• Turned the showers within the Leisure Centre down by 2 C, from 46 C to 44 C.

• Hammond Community Centre thermostat set to 18-20 C.

• Turned off large gas heating units in the barns at the fairgrounds.

• Advise the ACT to adjust their set points to 18-20 C and also enable unoccupied setbacks to 16 C.

• Adjust the hot water heating recirculating set point for City Hall, Randy Herman Building and the RCMP down by 1 C.

• Hot water heating tanks have been turned down by 2C at all facilities.

“There’s a message on all the thermostats reminding everyone about the conservation program,” said Armstrong. “Seeing a lot more sweaters and layered clothing around the office and everyone has adjusted. It has been a very warm winter thus far, which also helps.”

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