Oxford Properties Group is a major real estate organization that invests in, develops, and manages properties in Canada, the US, and the UK. From its headquarters in Toronto, Oxford’s Canadian regional group oversees one of the most valuable real estate portfolios in North America. Known for meticulous management and creating long-term value, Oxford has amassed an asset portfolio that includes more than 40 million square feet of office, retail, hotel, industrial, land, and multi-residential space across Canada—making it the country’s leading property management firm.
Sun Life Financial Centre and Mississauga Executive Centre are two of Oxford’s most high-profile assets in the Toronto area. In 2010, Oxford chose to make EnerNOC demand response (DR) part of these key sites in order to manage energy more effectively and protect the regional power grid. Oxford has made an extensive commitment to sustainability and reduced its overall emissions by 20 percent at the Sun Life Financial Centre and Mississauga Executive Centre over the last five years. EnerNOC DR is a key part of this commitment to smarter energy management.
During a dispatch, building personnel shut off or lower non-essential lighting, adjust air conditioning or heating, shut off one elevator per building, and make other minor adjustments. These changes, largely invisible to tenants, temporarily reduce energy use by more than 400 kilowatts (kW). This reduction earns Oxford payments of approximately $12,000 annually from EnerNOC, funds that support other energy-efficiency efforts. While the payments are appreciated by Oxford, the guiding motivation for participating in demand response is Oxford’s strong commitment to corporate social responsibility.
Ontario Power Authority DR3 Program
| DR Strategy:
| Primary Curtailment Strategy:
Reduced non-essential lighting, HVAC, and elevator use.
| Annual Payments:
Electricity is an invisible commodity to most commercial real estate tenants. They simply pay their bills, the lights stay on, and their business continues ahead. But there’s nothing like a blackout to remind businesses—and the people who manage and maintain major office buildings—of the importance of an uninterrupted supply of electricity.
For Oxford Properties, July 5, 2010 is a day to remember. “A power station near our building had a major transformer problem, and we had a complete building blackout,” recalls Chris Crozier, general manager. “We had to evacuate the whole building and close it down.” For residential power users, blackouts are a headache. For commercial property owners and managers, they’re quite a headache. And the challenges are even greater for large, complex facilities like the Sun Life Financial Centre, an 840,000 square-foot complex of three office towers connected by a retail concourse.
“We had tenants with call centers who had to reroute thousands of calls, while our retail tenants lost significant revenues,” says Crozier. “Blackouts and other power issues are extremely problematic for our tenants, as well as for us. They cause big problems, there’s lost revenue and productivity, and it’s always hard to get buildings restarted. We definitely want to avoid any power interruptions.”
To that end, Oxford Properties made EnerNOC DemandSMART part of its overall energy management strategy at the Sun Life Financial Centre and Mississauga Executive Centre in 2010, when the memory of the July 5 blackout was still fresh. The company’s reason for choosing DemandSMART was clear. “Big energy users in the Province have to do their part to reduce energy use, particularly during peak periods,” says Crozier. “EnerNOC demand response is good for our tenants, our business, the Province—and the environment.”
EnerNOC began with an assessment of both buildings—Sun Life Financial Centre and Mississauga Executive Centre—looking for opportunities for curtailment that would have minimal impact on tenants. Like all property owners and managers, Oxford Properties is keenly aware of the need to keep tenants happy. “EnerNOC helped us identify equipment that could be shut down temporarily without much difficulty,” says Joe Buttigieg, operations manager at the Sun Life Financial Centre.
Working closely together, EnerNOC and Oxford Properties created a detailed energy reduction plan that focused on curtailment steps with the least impact on tenant comfort. “What we do is turn off some secondary lighting in our retail mall, raise set points on our chillers from 42 to 50 degrees, and we shut down one elevator per building,” says Buttigieg. “These changes, along with other minor adjustments, help us achieve our curtailment targets.”
While these changes are relatively minor (and all temporary), Oxford Properties was careful to inform its tenants. “We sent out a letter to our tenants explaining what demand response is and what they should expect during a dispatch,” says Crozier. Instead of complaints, the letter received compliments—and offers to curtail even more. “We needed buy-in by our largest tenants,” says Crozier, “but after they signed up, the whole project snowballed until more and more tenants wanted to be part of the program. It was clear that our tenants were willing for conditions to be a little different for a limited amount of time. The changes were no big deal for them. And they wanted to do their part to protect the grid.”
When grid conditions in Ontario require a demand reduction, facilities personnel at the Sun Life Financial Centre and Mississauga Executive Centre receive emails and phone calls from EnerNOC announcing an upcoming dispatch. They make adjustments to the chiller set points, lighting, and other systems centrally. They also shut down selected elevators and other equipment. These changes result in a total reduction of approximately 400 kW in under an hour.
During the dispatch, the Oxford Properties team can monitor their energy use by logging into EnerNOC’s DemandSMART application to monitor performance and make any necessary adjustments. Once a dispatch is over, facilities personnel quickly return each centre to normal operation. For this occasional effort, Oxford Properties earns payments from EnerNOC of approximately $12,000 annually.
EnerNOC enables Oxford Properties to support businesses and residents of the Province of Ontario while earning payments that help increase its overall energy efficiency budget. They do this all while keeping tenants engaged in the demand response process— and, ultimately, happy to be part of it.
Here are just some of the benefits that EnerNOC brings to Oxford Properties:
“The financial payments are the most direct benefit that EnerNOC offers us,” says Crozier. “We don’t put the payments back into our general operating funds. The EnerNOC payments go directly into an energy account that funds energy-reduction efforts and other new initiatives. So our payments create even more impact.”
During dispatch, Oxford Properties posts signs announcing the changes and emails its tenants. These communications are just part of Oxford Properties’ ongoing communication and collaboration with tenants. “Communication throughout the demand response process is crucial,” says Crozier. “After all, it’s not just about us making changes as the landlord. Ultimately, the tenants have to know what’s going on, buy into the process, and take responsibility as well.”
Early meetings with EnerNOC explained the program and answered questions for Oxford Properties management. According to Crozier and Buttigieg, the process went very smoothly, from enrollment to installation of metering to actual dispatch. “EnerNOC definitely made it easy for us to be part of demand response,” says Buttigieg.
During implementation, EnerNOC installed free monitoring equipment and monitoring software. Using the EnerNOC DemandSMART application, facilities staff can measure and monitor energy consumption in real-time, during demand response events and beyond—from any computer, 24/7.
This capability provides new insights on ongoing energy use and inspires new efficiency. “I look at DemandSMART regularly,” says Buttigieg. “It’s really helpful to see our energy use broken down by different pieces of equipment, so we get a better idea of how we’re using energy—and how to use less.”
Oxford Properties has made an extensive, carefully measured commitment to the overall efficiency and sustainability of its properties. “We see EnerNOC DemandSMART as a program that fits nicely within our company objectives,” says Crozier. “We’re doing recommissioning, going for LEED certification, and making wide-ranging changes at our facilities to make them efficient. EnerNOC demand response is definitely part of our commitment to smarter energy use—and to protecting our Province.”
Oxford Properties continues to identify new ways of curtailing more energy temporarily. “We’re allowing the program to continue to evolve,” says Crozier. “Our tenants are supportive, and ultimately they benefit by increasing the amount we can reduce—since it helps lower their bills. So we’re continuing ahead and exploring new ways to expand EnerNOC demand response at our facilities— Sun Life Financial Centre, Mississauga Executive Centre, and others.”