Lawsuit

Dalhousie lawsuit claims company misrepresented savings

Thermal power engineering firm sued for potential damages

Dalhousie University claims that CEM misrepresented savings.   Ian Froese

Dalhousie University is suing a thermal power engineering firm over allegedly misrepresenting the university’s eligibility for a new energy plan.

A notice of application, filed in Halifax Supreme Court on Dec. 20, indicates that Dalhousie is suing Cogeneration and Energy Management Engineering Inc. (CEM) for damages, claiming negligence and breach of contract. A notice of application is a document that is presented to a court in order to hold another party liable for damages.

CEM, based in St. Catherines, Ont., was originally contracted by the university to help develop a campus energy plan on Oct. 25, 2010.

The plan was a part of Dalhousie’s Campus Master Plan to improve and grow the university’s infrastructure. The costs were projected at $600 million, to be spent over 10 years and was the cause of a lot of scrutiny.

The notice of application indicates that CEM developed the campus energy master plan for Dalhousie and entered into a further agreement on Feb. 23, 2011. Under the new agreement, CEM was asked to provide recommendations for facility renewal, a long-term analysis of energy security and evaluations of viable energy-efficient projects.

CEM submitted a report on Jan. 4, 2013, with recommendations to implement an energy trigeneration system. This system would replace energy provided by Nova Scotia Power Inc. with steam for heating and cooling of campus facilities.

This report suggested reduced operation costs, improved reliability and greenhouse gas savings. Dalhousie then proceeded to seek out projection costs in order to move to a trigeneration system.

According to the notice of application, in July 2014 CEM admitted to misrepresenting the savings that could be achieved under their recommendations, and that the plan was not a viable energy solution for the university.

Dalhousie viewed the misrepresentation of savings as a breach of contract, having wasted both time and money.

CEM filed a notice of contest in Halifax on Jan. 23. A notice of contest is a document to refute or correct the claims made by a notice of application.

The notice of contest claims that the utility rates for natural gas and electricity changed unexpectedly during the course of their report, skewing their representation of the market. They also claim that they made appropriate amendments to the report for Dalhousie in good faith. According to the notice of contest, Dalhousie stopped responding with CEM in 2014.

The notice also mentions that CEM believes they acted fairly and contests all of Dalhousie’s claims.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and the statement of claim makes no mention of the amount of money Dalhousie is seeking in damages.

Dalhousie and CEM were both contacted, but declined to comment.