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Providence Set to Welcome School-Themed Sustainable Energy Conference
Providence will showcase its green initiatives at the third annual Sustainable Energy Conference on Wednesday, May 27.
Given that the 2015 theme is “Sustainable Energy in Manitoba Schools,” the Otterburne campus is a natural choice to stage the event, according to conference organizer and Altona schoolteacher Bruce Friesen-Pankratz.
“Hosting it in a place that is actually practicing some of the things we’re talking about will make it a bit more real for our attendees,” he says. “Providence makes a lot of sense for this year’s conference because it has a commitment to sustainable energy with the biomass burner and geothermal system.”
The institution also has an electronic waste (eWaste) recycling program for students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community, and Friesen-Pankratz hopes the 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. gathering will convey similar ideas of what participants “can do in their own schools.”
Education-purposed facilities, as it happens, consume considerable energy—something that’s lost on neither Friesen-Pankratz nor Bruce Duggan, Director of the Providence-based Buller Centre for Business.
“Our schools use quite a bit of energy,” says Duggan, citing light, heat, bus use and power required for computers and other equipment as major consumers.
“When you start to add up all those uses, in all the schools in our province, they’re an important part of our energy consumption.”
He adds: “If we’re going to expand our renewable energy use in Manitoba, schools can be an important part of the expansion—particularly in the energy we use to heat them.”
Both Friesen-Pankratz and Duggan will be presenting at the Sustainable Energy Conference, as will Eric Bibeau, Associate Professor in Renewable Energy at the University of Manitoba, and Gerald Farthing, Deputy Minister of Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning, among others.
“The hope is that the mix of people will generate ideas and make connections that might not be made at a typical conference,” says Friesen-Pankratz. “We might have a student or teacher sitting at a table with people from industry and someone from government. We really strive for a mix of attendees.”
Duggan says that anyone concerned with schools in Manitoba, the environment and sustainable solutions would be helped by the conference, and vice versa.
“I’m hoping we hear a good mix of visionary, blue-sky ideas and practical things we can do in the short term,” he says. “I want people who come—the high school students in particular, but not only them—to become engaged in trying to figure out that possible future.”
It’s a future, says Friesen-Pankratz, that can include green solutions such as solar walls in gymnasiums or other methods of passive ventilation.
“We’re seeing this already in play at Providence and at the high school in Morris, which has a solar wall,” he says.
Adds Duggan: “This conference is a chance to look at the big picture—how energy use can change all over the province, in every community.”


Images: 2014 Sustainable Energy Conference presentation on a school bus (top); Bruce Duggan, Director of the Buller Centre for Business (bottom).

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