Energy efficiency: two Québec companies check all the right boxes
Québec businesses have the advantage of using 100% renewable electricity to reduce their carbon emissions. But they still need to be savvy about reaping the business benefits as they improve their environmental report card. Here are two Québec companies whose energy transitions are getting high marks all around.
Good energy management not only improves a company's environmental record, it increases profitability (reduces costs), enhances employer brand (younger generations are more concerned about the environment) and informs risk management (increased emissions regulations). What’s more, reduced energy use helps companies stand out from the competition, especially to clients concerned about decarbonizing their supply chain.
In its vision as an impact investor, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ advocates a "just" energy transition. That is, one that aims to reduce emissions while considering the human and social impact. The Fonds has tasked a dedicated team, Groupe Asthuce, with supporting its partner companies in this highly charged task.
"Whenever we run an energy audit or help define a growth strategy, our experts always try to make companies aware of their social responsibility and suggest concrete solutions that make a positive impact," said Thomas Martinuzzo, Investment Director, Groupe Asthuce.
Where to begin?
When it comes to change, the old adage, “more haste, less speed” definitely applies. Time is of the essence in the fight against climate change, but a just energy transition can only be achieved according to each organization's rhythm and resources.
"The key is to put people at the centre of the process by engaging employees so they get on board with the plan and feel like they’re contributing to the transition’s success. You have to generate a culture of energy management," Martinuzzo added.
Québec companies often begin their energy transition with two simple but important components: lighting and winterizing buildings. Companies can significantly reduce their lighting costs by switching to LED lighting with occupancy sensors that turn off when everyone is gone and maximizing their use of natural light wherever possible. Looking for air infiltration, properly maintaining doors and windows and switching equipment to winter mode can add up to big savings that are worth considering annually.
Here are the stories of illuminating energy transitions by two of the Fonds' partner companies: CIF Metal, an aluminum foundry in Thetford Mines and MBI Global, a manufacturer of drilling products in Rouyn-Noranda.
The case of CIF Metal: stronger, cleaner, more comfortable
CIF Metal has 2 plants, 150 employees and melts 45,000 pounds of aluminum each day to cast large and complex parts to meet the exacting technical requirement of manufacturers around the world.
Business was good, but by the mid-2000s emissions from oil smelting were giving the company an environmental black eye, just when it wanted to triple its capacity to meet the growing demand for its products. Hydropower offered cleaner energy, but there was no furnace to draw strong, stable heat from this source.
"We took the time we needed, left no stone unturned and explored every possible technology. And we had to think outside the box," recalls Jean Marcoux, President of CIF.
Finally, CIF found a permanent moulding technology with electric induction. Since it was intended for other uses, CIF worked with its supplier to adapt it to their needs. After a gradual conversion, the foundry eliminated its total use of oil in 2011 and can now proudly call itself "zero emission."
In the process, Marcoux says he tripled his capacity and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy. What’s more, the aluminum is purer and workers stay cooler because induction doesn’t produce heat.
In addition to the financial and environmental benefits of converting, CIF enjoys the enviable status of being a 100% green smelter, giving it a competitive advantage and top marks with supplier and clients. "Now we have an all-star cast," mused Marcoux.
CIF Metal replaced more things, such as lighting systems with motion-sensor LEDs and propane forklifts with electric models. The company continues its efforts in the spirit of continuous improvement.
MBI Global: better light and a better climate
The year 2011 was a turning point for the growth of MBI Global, from distributing exploration drilling products for the mining industry to manufacturing them from top to bottom. Today, the company employs about 60 people in Canada, Peru and Chile.
In 2018, MBI took advantage of a Fonds energy efficiency initiative and embarked on a two-pronged energy efficiency project that saved the company approximately $15,000 per year.
First, MBI replaced their metal-halide lamps with 200-W LEDs, which use 50 percent less energy, require less maintenance and give "nice instant brightness," according to Daniel Misiano, President of MBI.
Next, it adopted radiant heating to minimize costs and maximize employee comfort. "They’re so thankful for the more comfortable work environment. In general, these projects were a success, thanks to management incentive and employee involvement," he added.
A ready supply of resources
"We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of our actions, no matter how small. There are many ways to attain a successful energy transition," Martinuzzo added. "The advantage of acting now is that there are lots of available resources to support companies, from financial partners like the Fonds to consulting firms and government grant programs."
For more information about a just transition:
- Download the checklist Five points to remember: energy efficiency in business (PDF)
- Download the Fond’s Just Energy Transition resource sheet (PDF)
- Download the Fond’s Sustainable Development resource sheet (PDF)
- You may also be interested in this video: watch Exprolink's story about electrifying urban cleaning vehicles (YouTube)
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