Energy, Mines and Resources

Energy Branch / Energy Solutions Centre

Intelligent parking lot controllers: managing commercial energy consumption

Reducing electricity consumption during Yukon’s winter months is important because hydro levels are at their lowest while electricity use is at its highest. The resulting gap in offer and demand is addressed through the generation of electricity using liquefied natural gas or diesel fuels. This comes at a significant financial cost while contributing to Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2003, the Yukon government piloted the installation of Intelligent Parking Lot Controllers (IPLC) in a number of its parking lots. The IPLC units reduce electricity consumption by vehicles plugged in during cold winter days.

Project benefits

The IPLC units have the potential to produce significant energy savings.

Through this pilot project the IPLC units:

  • reduced the electricity consumed by the vehicle’s heating device by an average of 32.4%, which represents a savings of 2,852 kilowatts per unit per year.
  • provided a simple and low-cost alternative to a conventional heating source that northerners use regularly without the need for external timers or additional gadgets.
  • can be programed for tailored use, which ensures the units are effective under conditions of significant variability. This means the units can be used effectively even if the weather over consecutive winters is very different.

If Yukon government converted all of the 1,603 conventional plug-in outlets it manages to IPLC units, it could save approximately 80,206 kilowatts per year. That is roughly the same amount of electricity used by six residential houses to meet all of their electricity needs for an entire year!

Project profile

The IPLC units are specialized electrical outlets that have been installed in Yukon government parking lots. In 2011, there were 224 IPLC units in Whitehorse and the number has grown over the past few years. The IPLC units are also starting to be installed in private sector parking lots.

The device replaces conventional electrical outlet and is relatively simple to install. IPLCs are inexpensive and user friendly, featuring a micro-controller, LED indicator lights, ambient temperature sensor, optical data port and a regular electrical outlet, making energy consumption easy to manage.

When plugged in, the red and green LED indicators give the user the status of the plug, as well as the status of their block heater. The optical sensor can be used to program the IPLC units

Electrical contractors can readily install and program these units. The IPLC unit will start to provide power to a parked car after an initial delay of approximately 2 hours. Power will start at minus 5°C with full power provided at minus 25°C. At these settings, the IPLC is saving power during the winter months, mostly during the initial delay which occurs at any temperature.

The units are capable of saving even more power if programmed effectively by manipulating how much electricity is provided at lower temperatures and by extending the period during which no power is provided. Saving energy during Yukon’s cold winter months, when hydro-electric potential is at its lowest, translates directly into reduced use of fossil fuels to generate electricity and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Lessons learned

  • IPLC units are successfully being installed in new and retrofitted parking lots in Whitehorse.
  • The use of decentralized systems, installed at a low unit cost, can have a large cumulative effect.
  • System monitoring is important for achieving optimal results.

Project outcome

Thus far the majority of installed IPLC units are set using the manufacturer default standard. IPLC units are saving power but are capable of saving much more power.

In 2010, the Yukon government’s Energy branch conducted a study where they actively programmed the IPLC units installed in their parking lot for optimal performance. A savings of 78% in energy consumption was recorded! As a result, the Yukon government is working on ways to improve the settings on all installed IPLC units it administers.

The Yukon government is also investigating other ways to manage the electricity used by vehicle heating devices. Potential new technologies include modified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that can be centrally programed to manage the amount of electricity provided to a parking lot. The advantage of such centralized systems are the inclusion of HVAC systems in all modern buildings and less time to modify settings.