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Measuring the power of sport, one venue at a time

The environment has been one of three Olympic pillars since 1994, but no one has ever tracked live energy consumption at venues during the Games.

That's about to change.

When the world's best hockey teams meet on the ice, anyone with Internet access will be able to see how many kilowatts of power are being sucked up at Canada Hockey Place (or better still, check after the game).

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Vancouver-based Pulse Energy is setting up energy tracking systems at nine Olympic sites, from the Richmond Olympic Oval to the athletes villages.

The public can compare their performances at Venueenergytracker.com. A blue line shows the building's energy use in real time, while a green line indicates what consumption would have been without the sustainable practices being followed.

Hooked up to gas and hydro metres at the sites, the systems were installed via funding from the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee (VANOC), BC Hydro and venue partners.

"A lot of these venues are green buildings that have pretty high expectations for how well they'll be performing," said Pulse Energy chief executive officer David Helliwell.

He noted that VANOC will be the first Olympic committee to monitor publicly how venues are doing on the sustainability front.

"This is a new benchmark for all Olympics to come."

In its 2009 carbon forecast, VANOC estimated the impact of the venues at about 5 per cent of the Olympics' total carbon footprint.

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Both the new and retrofitted Games venues have achieved high standards of energy efficiency, said Deborah Carlson, co-author of the David Suzuki Foundation's climate scorecard for the Olympics, which was released yesterday.

The energy-monitoring software may help building operators save energy after the Games, she added.

"What gets measured gets managed."

The systems cost a few thousand dollars at each site, Mr. Helliwell said.

Building operators use the software to identify when equipment such as boilers and chillers are running inefficiently, he explained.

Spikes in energy use are unlikely to trigger major changes during the Games, he said, but "if things are left on all night, we'll be able to find that out and fix it."

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Pulse Energy software is running well in five buildings at the University of British Columbia, said Orion Henderson, director of operational sustainability at UBC.

The software will replace that of a competitor in two UBC buildings, he said, and plans are under way to expand it to 100 buildings on campus this year.

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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