October 29th, 2020

Province providing $20M for U of L heating upgrade


By Jensen, Randy on July 10, 2020.

Students sit at a row of tables along the windows of University Hall overlooking the river valley at the University of Lethbridge. The Alberta government is providing $20 million to upgrade the University Hall's district heating and cooling centre. Herald photo file by Ian Martens

LETHBRIDGE HERALD

The Alberta government is providing $20 million to upgrade the University of Lethbridge’s district heating and cooling centre, which will create about 112 jobs in the Lethbridge area.

The district heating and cooling centre is located in the original University Hall building, which first opened in 1971. An upgraded district heating and cooling centre is critical to the continued operation and viability of the vast majority of the current campus, the province said in a news release.

Student residences, academic spaces and research labs will all benefit from a more efficient and functional system. It will also give dozens of Albertans consistent, well-paying jobs – a key government priority under Alberta’s Recovery Plan, the release added.

Funding for the U of L project is part of an additional $98-million commitment to post-secondary institutions for accelerated capital maintenance and renewal, which is expected to create about 533 full-time jobs around the province.

“The University of Lethbridge is one of the top research universities of its kind, and it’s also a strong pillar of the regional economy,” said Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education. “This funding will not only guarantee a high-quality campus experience for years to come, it will also help many Albertans in the Lethbridge area find gainful employment and provide for their families.”

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf said the maintenance funding, which has been deferred for over a decade, is a welcome influx of capital to Lethbridge.

“This is spending that will benefit students, help control the cost of future maintenance to the university, and will also help the community by ensuring that well-calculated and focused projects are creating jobs right here in Lethbridge.”

U of L president and vice-chancellor Mike Mahon welcomed the announcement.

“The investment in a new energy centre at the University of Lethbridge not only creates immediate employment, but will lower our carbon footprint and provide ongoing operational savings through energy efficiency. This new plant and supporting infrastructure will reliably meet the heating and cooling requirements for approximately 80 per cent of our campus buildings.”

The province’s Budget 2020 already includes $118.5 million for capital maintenance and renewal at colleges, universities and polytechnics. In April, the Alberta government announced it was accelerating the capital plan and increasing capital maintenance and renewal spending in 2020-21 to almost $2 billion. Advanced Education worked with post-secondary institutions to identify projects, with a focus on addressing existing maintenance issues, ensuring compliance with building codes and regulations, increasing access to services, and reducing operational costs. Government also prioritized projects that will help create jobs, and are ready for work to begin.

The U of L project is part of the more than $10 billion in infrastructure spending announced as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan. This spending includes: $6.9 billion Budget 2020 capital spending; $980 million accelerated for capital maintenance and renewal; $200 million for the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program and water infrastructure projects; $600 million in strategic infrastructure projects; $500 million in municipal infrastructure; and $1.5 billion for Keystone XL.

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