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Financial Sustainability

Reducing peak energy consumption

Entering its sixth year, the Queen’s Electricity Demand Management program continues to help the university reduce its energy expenditures.

A key part of the university’s commitment to financial and environmental sustainability, the program involves shutting down air conditioning systems in a number of campus buildings on afternoons when electricity demand is at its highest.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year about 60 per cent of the university’s nearly $10 million electricity budget was dedicated to a “global adjustment” charge, which is calculated based on Queen’s share of the total provincial electricity demand during the five peak hours from the previous year.

“This program is a real success story for Queen’s in terms of our ongoing commitment to environmental and financial sustainability,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “In 2016 the cost avoidance from participating in the program totaled approximately $2.6 million.”

Under the program Physical Plant Services (PPS) will shut down air conditioning systems in a number of buildings on days in July, August and early September when provincial electricity demand is at its highest. Combined with the university’s cogeneration activities, the program is expected to result in reducing the university’s electricity bill by $5 million in fiscal year 2017-18.

“This program is a real success story for Queen’s in terms of our ongoing commitment to environmental and financial sustainability. In 2016 the cost avoidance from participating in the program totaled approximately $2.6 million.”
                                             – Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration)

Building occupants will notice temperature increases, but where possible PPS will mitigate this effect by cooling buildings before the shutdown. Health and safety is a top priority and building temperatures will be closely monitored.

PPS will issue weekly notices to inform building occupants of the timing of the shutdowns. Air conditioning systems will not be turned off in buildings when there are classes scheduled and PPS will coordinate with Event Services to minimize the effects on conferences that are being held on campus.

“By participating in the Electricity Demand Management program Queen’s is helping promote a sustainable energy system in Ontario by reducing the need for the province to purchase additional power or build new generation facilities,” says Vice-Principal Janiec.

Created in 2005, the global adjustment offsets the costs of renewable power generation and provides an incentive for large electricity users to cut their usage during provincial peaks. This reduces or delays the need to purchase electricity or increase power generation capacity in the province, both of which carry financial and environmental costs.

More information about the program, including which buildings will be affected, is available on the Queen’s Sustainability website. Anybody with questions about the program may contact FIXIT at ext. 77301, 613-533-6757 or by email.

Responsible Investing Policy approved

The Queen’s Board of Trustees approved a new Responsible Investing Policy for the university during its meeting on Saturday, May 13.

The Responsible Investing Policy and corresponding procedures were unanimously approved by the board, replacing the March 2009 Statement on Responsible Investing.

“A new policy was necessary to ensure that Queen’s is consistent with institutional best practices in the area of responsible investing,” says Don Raymond, Chair of the Board of Trustees and former chair of the Board’s Investment Committee. “The new policy balances the overall goal of maximizing returns while also providing an avenue for members of the Queen’s community to make special requests, as we saw with the discussion on divestment from fossil fuels by the Principal’s Advisory Committee.”

The approval completes a nearly two-year process and builds upon recommendations made by the Principal’s Advisory Committee on Divestment: Fossil Fuels in its October 2015 final report. Following the release of the report feedback was sought from the Queen’s community to help inform the revisions.

The new policy sets the principles that govern responsible investing practices at the university, and recognizes that the university can make an impact through several means, highlighting shareholder engagement with corporations and through its core mission as an educational and research institution.

The new procedures provide a mechanism for the university to engage with its external investment managers on environmental, social, and governance factors, and outline criteria for consideration and a process for handling a special request that is received from the university community.

“This process has drawn valuable feedback and information and I would like to thank all of those who have expressed interest and devoted their time and expertise in creating a policy that meets the principles and needs of the university and the diverse stakeholders that make up the Queen’s community,” says Mr. Raymond, adding that the process received input from groups and individuals with a range of views, including Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change.

Visit the University Secretariat and Legal Counsel website to review  the procedure on External Investment Manager ESG Monitoring and the procedure on Special Requests.

Board of Trustees approves 2017-18 budget

The Queen’s University Board of Trustees approved the university’s 2017-18 budget at its May meeting, ensuring the university can make critical reinvestments in its academic mission while maintaining a stable financial footing for the future.

“We have had to make some tough decisions over the past several years, and our hard work is paying off. The time has come for a serious reinvestment in our faculty, the primary creators of both our student learning experience and our research achievements,” says Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf. “I am pleased that important priorities like faculty renewal, the hiring of faculty-based research facilitators, and diversity and equity initiatives can now proceed. It will be important, as we re-invest over the coming years, that we take advantage of this opportunity to diversify our professorial ranks while continuing to allocate resources in strategic ways.”

Balanced budget

The 2017-18 budget is balanced with projected revenues of $555.2 million. The university is committed to presenting balanced budgets for the next two fiscal years. This will be achieved both due to careful management of costs, and by achieving the enrolment targets set by the university’s Strategic Enrolment Management Group (SEMG). The undergraduate entry class remains the same size as in the previous two years, since the opening of the new residences, but the university will experience modest overall growth as the first of these slightly larger entering classes now flows through to third year.

The university continues to face challenges with a large pension deficit and deferred maintenance issues. Ongoing efforts are being made to mitigate these risks, with specific allocations amounting to $6.9 million for the pension reserve and $10.3 million for facilities repairs and upkeep.

Faculty growth and renewal

The approval of this new budget means Queen’s is hiring – up to 41 new tenure stream faculty will be hired in 2017-18, as part of a five-year plan that aims to bring up to 200 new faculty positions to Queen’s, including up to 20 Queen’s National Scholars positions.

“We remain focused on enhancing our student learning experience and bolstering the impact of our research, and these new tenure stream positions will make a difference today and ensure our continued success in the future,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice Principal (Academic). “I want to thank all the stakeholders who took part in the 2017-18 budget planning process, especially the decanal team who has made this ambitious hiring plan possible.”

In addition, the university is adding four faculty-based research facilitators – individuals who will provide systematic support in the preparation and administration of grants to facilitate and advance the work of Queen’s researchers.

Ongoing funding has also been allocated for classroom renewals, IT upgrades, and staffing for the sexual violence prevention and student conduct office.

Institutional priorities

As per the final report from the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Diversity, Racism, and Inclusion, there will be ongoing central allocations for equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives every year for the next three years. Central funds also continue to flow towards the revitalization of our teaching spaces. Additionally, beginning in 2017-18, the university will be allocating money to support industry partnerships and technology transfer. This funding relates to the outcome of the technology transfer and commercialization review, the results of which were announced earlier this year as PARTEQ Innovations, the university’s technology transfer arm, was absorbed into the institution

The 2017-18 Budget Report can be viewed on the Financial Services website.

New procurement system set to launch

Queen’s new electronic procurement system will start rolling out across campus later this month.

“After extensive collaboration and engagement with the Queen’s community, we are excited to launch acQuire,” says Heather Woermke, Associate Vice-Principal (Finance). “Faculty, staff, and researchers will soon have an easy-to-use system that will better support their procure to pay activities.”

acQuire, Queen's new electronic procurement system, will start rolling out across campus later this month.

The implementation of acQuire will be staggered, with the Faculty of Education, the Department of Chemistry, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Finance and Administration portfolio receiving access first. Shared service business units will begin using acQuire in June, while the rest of the faculties will have access in July and August.

The project team will co-ordinate the rollout with business officers and departmental administrators for each faculty and shared service.

Benefits of acQuire

Queen’s is one of several Ontario universities that have implemented e-procurement systems in recent years. With online systems in place, universities have realized efficiencies and cost savings. acQuire will also:

  • Eliminate the need for multiple usernames and passwords for different vendors.
  • Allow users to shop from multiple vendors, adding items to their shopping cart but only having to check out once.
  • Provide automated workflow for purchase orders and invoice approvals.
  • Make it easier for shoppers to find, compare, and make their selection of products from suppliers.
  • Reduce the wait time between placing an order and having it filled by the supplier.
  • Provide clear tracking and visibility of where purchase requisitions, orders, and invoicing are in the process.
  • Support electronic supplier invoices, improving the efficiency of accounts payable processes.

“The new tool set will drive improved efficiency for Queen’s, and our team is very excited and looking forward to the go-live date,” says Andy Green, Director, Strategic Procurement Services.

Training resources available

The acQuire project team will be working with departmental administrators and faculty business officers to coordinate training for each department. Online training resources will also be available on demand.

If anyone has any questions on training or on the acQuire system, they can go to www.queensu.ca/procurement/acquire or send an email to acquire@queensu.ca. Any researchers who would like customized training for their lab should contact the acQuire team at acquire@queensu.ca

Pension plan project takes another step forward

Work continues on the multi-university initiative to create a multi-employer, jointly-sponsored pension plan for the university sector in Ontario.

Currently, a group comprising three universities – Queen’s University, University of Toronto, and University of Guelph – has been formed and is charged with finalizing the outstanding design and governance elements of the University Pension Project (UPP).

Once finalized, all Ontario universities will have the option to participate in the sector jointly sponsored pension plan. Participation on the part of any university would be voluntary and would require the consent of plan members.

At Queen’s, a joint working group between the university and its employee groups continues to meet, most recently on March 1, and work on the issues surrounding the UPP. The joint working committee was formed as a result of a memorandum of agreement signed by the parties during the last round of collective bargaining in August 2015. It is co-chaired by Al Orth, special adviser for Queen’s for the UPP and the former associate vice-principal (Human Resources), and Paul Young, chair of the pension committee for the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA), member of the OCUFA consultative group on the UPP, and a professor in the Department of Biology.

Whether or not Queen’s eventually decides to participate in the plan, some things remain constant. Individual pension benefits that have already been earned are guaranteed under law, so anyone moving to a new jointly sponsored pension plan, such as the UPP, will keep what they have already earned. Pensions already in payment are also guaranteed never to be reduced.


Queen’s currently has a pension deficit of $285 million on a solvency basis, a hypothetical scenario that assumes Queen’s closes its doors and terminates the pension plan. In 2015 Queen’s received stage two solvency relief and opted to defer payments on the solvency deficit for three years, but then would have to pay down the entire balance over the following seven.

During the three-year deferral period, the university will build a reserve fund to offset the impact of the solvency payments that would begin in 2018 if the University Pension Project is not successful. In addition, the university is still required to make payments on the plan’s $175-million deficit calculated on a going concern basis (assumes the plan continues to operate).

The UPP was originally led by the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, with the active participation of individual universities and bargaining units. The project has received funding from the Government of Ontario.

More information about the Queen’s Pension Plan is available on the Human Resources website. Anyone with pension-related questions may contact Bob Weisnagel, Director, Pension Services, by email or at ext. 74184.

Revised travel policy approved

Itemized receipts are no longer required for meals purchased while travelling on university-related business, effective March 20, 2017. The change is one of several included in the revised Queen’s Travel and Expense Reimbursement Policy and Procedure.

“The revised policy reflects recent changes in government regulations and clarifies some areas of the policy that were ambiguous and caused confusion among our clients,” says Heather Woermke, Associate Vice-Principal (Finance).

A new Broader Public Sector Expenses Directive, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, removed the requirement for original itemized receipts for meal claims. Travellers on Queen’s business may now obtain reimbursement for meals using either per diems or submitting original receipts for actual costs. Travellers may use only one method per claim.

In another major change, travellers are no longer required to keep paper receipts for claims filed through the Expense Reimbursement System after Feb. 15, 2017. Electronic receipt images should be sharp, clear, and legible. Electronic receipt images must be an authentic representation of the original receipts or documents.

“This change will streamline the claim process, while at the same time ensuring that the university meets the legal requirements set out in the Canada Revenue Agency standards,” Ms. Woermke says.

The updated policy is posted online. Contact finance@queensu.ca if you have any questions or concerns.

Learn more about travel and related expenses on the Financial Services website

Reinvesting in Queen's future

The preliminary 2017-18 operating budget includes increased spending in several priority areas, while maintaining the university’s commitment to prudent fiscal management.

“Over the past several years, financial challenges have forced faculties and shared services to make tough decisions,” says Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf. “We are now in a position to make reinvestments that will enhance our student learning environment and bolster our research activities. The budget will support faculty renewal, which is a high priority for the university.”

Queen’s plans to hire 41 tenured stream positions in 2017-18, as a first step towards a five-year plan that could see 200 new hires over that period, including up to 20 Queen’s National Scholars positions. This is almost double the hiring pace of the past six years.

“The preliminary 2017-18 operating budget consolidates our financial sustainability and allows for critical reinvestments in our academic mission,” says Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon, who provided Senate with an overview of the preliminary budget at its meeting on March 20. He will present the budget for approval at the May 12 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

We are now in a position to make reinvestments that will enhance our student learning environment and bolster our research activities. The budget will support faculty renewal, which is a high priority for the university.
— Principal Daniel Woolf

The university is in a position to reinvest in shared services. The preliminary operating budget includes strategic allocations for the hiring of faculty-based research facilitators, the staffing of the sexual violence prevention and student conduct office, and bolstering the international initiatives to support international enrolment growth and encourage greater student mobility.

New allocations are also being made to support technology transfers and industry partnerships, IT upgrades, classroom renewal, as well as diversity and equity initiatives.

“Our work around racism, diversity, and inclusion – as well as our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – will result in lasting change on our campus,” Principal Woolf says. “The preliminary budget sets aside funds for recommendations that may require immediate investments.”

Despite the positive outlook of the preliminary budget, Queen’s continues to face risks to its financial sustainability, most notably deferred maintenance and the pension deficit.

A recent audit showed the university faces $268 million in total deferred maintenance, roughly a 6 per cent increase compared to the $253 million reported in 2015-16. The university is increasing investments to address this issue.

Work continues on a multi-employer Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan for Ontario universities. The outcome of that process will impact the payments Queen’s has to make toward its pension solvency deficit.

“The preliminary 2017-18 budget sets Queen’s on a path to be a leading university over the long term. These important reinvestments will ensure we can continue to attract the best and brightest students and faculty members who will tackle global social problems and advance knowledge in emerging fields of research,” says Principal Woolf.

Statement from Principal Woolf on federal budget

On behalf of Queen’s University, I thank the Government of Canada for its continuing support of science, innovation and post-secondary education in Canada. Universities such as Queen’s play a critical role in supporting Canada’s prosperity by creating a highly skilled workforce and fostering innovation and discovery.

I note the government’s commitment to cultivating an innovative economy, including through an investment of nearly $1 billion in innovation clusters. Research universities such as Queen’s serve as anchors to virtually all globally competitive innovative clusters and we look forward to working with the federal government more closely. And we look forward with interest to further details on the Canada 150 Research chairs program.

Budget 2017 also makes significant investments in improving access to post-secondary education and training for adult learners returning to school, part-time students, students with dependent children, veterans and Indigenous students. The government has also included a number of measures in the budget that will have a significant impact on women, including through creating more opportunities in the workforce and promoting inclusive economic growth.

Queen’s also welcomes the federal government’s additional investment of $221 million over five years to create 10,000 work-integrated learning opportunities through Mitacs, as well as the government’s commitment to work with the provinces, the private sector, and postsecondary institutions to support skills development.

We look forward to further details of these programs, and to the release of the much anticipated fundamental science review.

Daniel Woolf,
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Queen’s University

Moving forward on benefits review

Work continues on the comprehensive review of Queen’s employee benefits plan, following successful education and consultation activities last fall.

The Multi-Employee Group Employee Benefits Committee, which is comprised of participants from university employee groups and the university’s benefits consultant, Mercer, co-ordinated the activities.

“We are pleased so many employees took the opportunity to ask questions at the sessions and provide feedback through the survey,” says Dan Bradshaw, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources). “This input will be invaluable to the committee.”

Queen’s Human Resources hosted nine employee education sessions between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2. Approximately 600 employees from various employee groups attended the sessions, where they learned more about the employee benefits plan and had the opportunity to ask questions.

The PowerPoint slides from the education sessions with audio narrative are available on the HR website for employees who wish to view them again and for those who were unable to attend. 

HR followed up the education sessions with an electronic survey, which was sent to all Queen’s employees who are eligible for insured benefits. The response rate was high, with nearly 50 per cent of individuals filling out the survey. Mercer, the university’s benefits consultant, is currently reviewing the responses, which will help inform the committee’s work.

More information about the employee benefits review is available on the HR website. Employees can send questions about the project to benefits.project@queensu.ca.

Reducing energy use an ongoing effort

The following article is the first in a monthly series focused on the work by Queen’s and Physical Plant Services to reduce energy consumption by the university. 

[Nathan Splinter]
Energy managment at Queen’s has been an ongoing effort for more than 20 years. Currently, Energy Manager Nathan Splinter is leading the effort to reduce energy comsumption at the university. (University Communications)

Each year Queen’s University spends about $18 million to $20 million on utilities, electricity prime among them.

Finding any way to reduce the final bill has a significant impact. Add to that the fact that most energy saving measures also reduce the environmental impact of the university, and it’s a win-win.

“Energy management has been a focus for Physical Plant Services (PPS) at Queen’s for more than 20 years”, explains Nathan Splinter, Energy Manager. 

However, with the cost of utilities climbing, there is more of an emphasis on the effort than ever.

Looking at it from an infrastructure angle, Queen’s is a massive, multifaceted facility, stretching over multiple campuses with a mix of buildings from cutting-edge modern to classic Victorian. Not surprisingly, PPS has a wide range of projects on the go, but all support a common theme – reducing the amount of energy that Queen’s uses. 

With new buildings this effort starts at the planning stage, Mr. Splinter says.

“We’ve engrained energy management into our building standards,” he says. “Queen’s has a set of building standards that incorporate an energy focus and that has enabled  the establishment of a good energy management reference point for buildings. The results can be seen in some of the university’s recent buildings including the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences and Goodes Hall, which achieved Leadership in Energy and Engineering Design (LEED) recognition. The Integrated Learning Centre also received similar recognition with the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification.”

These new buildings are at the pinnacle of energy efficiency while some other existing buildings require retrofitting. 

A good example of this retrofit type of work occurred in Innovation Park recently. Mr. Splinter points out that $2.5 million was invested in upgrading the infrastructure of the sprawling building, including replacing all the lighting and chillers, resulting in reduced energy consumption. 

Lab ventilation was also improved by installing six high-plume exhaust fans, replacing 80 small independent stacks, resulting in better air quality and energy conservation.

Water consumption was another focus. 

“We reduced the water consumption from and 100-150 cubic meters a day to an average of about 5 cubic meters,” Mr. Splinter says. “This resulted in substantial cost savings for the facility.”

Each project requires a significant investment and the best technologies tend to be more expensive. However, by taking advantage of available incentives and grants the initial cost is reduced.  The savings on utility charges then pay for the initial expenditure in periods as short as four or five years.

“An average lighting project sees a 40 per cent to 60 per cent reduction in the electrical demand which is phenomenal,” Mr. Splinter says. “That’s the rationale for doing those type of projects. It’s a pretty exciting time. There are a lot of provincial grants to incentivize this type of work that we have been successful in securing.” 

To date Queen’s has received over $200,000 in grants to support energy conservation projects on campus.

Looking ahead, PPS is planning to introduce a new metering system that will allow them and the Queen’s community to monitor consumption for electricity, water, steam and natural gas in real time, providing valuable data immediately rather than waiting for the typical monthly reading.

“It’s essential to have enough data to do proper research and know what’s happening within our buildings,” Mr. Splinter says. “The metering project is really exciting and what we want to do as part of the project is create a public-facing dashboard so people can go online and see what they are currently consuming for water or what they are using for electricity.”

The end result will hopefully be greater awareness and knowledge about energy management, and that excites Mr. Splinter.


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