The Community Energy Association officially kicked off the East Kootenay Energy Diet on Friday in Cranbrook.
Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, was joined by Mayor Wayne Stetski and representatives from the Regional District of East Kootenay, FortisBC, B.C. Hydro and local credit unions.
Megan Lohman,the community energy manager from the energy association, said the program makes it easy for homeowners to save money by improving the efficiency of their home.
“The program is set up to help homeowners access energy audits and assessments at a reduced price,” Lohman said. “We’ll also be working with local contractors, businesses and tradespeople.”
Fortis and B.C. Hydro were at the event to give information on the specific rebates and incentives that are available through them.
Lohman said the participation of local governments is also a big part of the program being a success.
“All of the local governments within the East Kootenay and the rural area directors have been very, very supportive,” she said, adding that the District of Sparwood, City of Fernie and the rural area directors for the RDEK have decided to contribute $50 to energy assessments in their communities.
“So what that means, for a $90 to $100 audit price, they will essentially be cutting that in half.”
She said the assessments would typically cost closer to $300.
There will also be special loans available through East Kootenay Community Credit Union and Kootenay Savings, exclusively to energy diet participants.
Starting in September there will be community specific kick-offs for each community in the East Kootenay.
Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski said conservation of energy is a priority for him as mayor, as well as the rest of council.
“We have four initiatives under way,” Stetski said.
One is the water conservation initiative that has reduced water consumption by 16 per cent in the past few years. It includes watering restrictions, rebates for low-flow toilets, a leak detection system, and a program that turns down the water pressure at night.
Another is the wood stove exchange program partnership with Wildsight.
Cranbrook is now also a solar community.
The City of Cranbrook has also hired a corporate energy manager to review the city’s buildings and the process that they do in Cranbrook from an energy perspective.
Stetski said the city is pleased to be partnering in the East Kootenay Energy Diet.
“I think it bodes very well for conservation in the City of Cranbrook and East Kootenay,” he said. “And the good news is you can also save money from your own pockets by participating.
RDEK board chair Rob Gay said that programs like this one usually take a while to get off the ground. “The problem with programs like this one is they are usually designed for the larger cities,” Gay said. “To do it in a place (where) we have people spread from Elkford to Spillimacheen, it’s a little bit harder. But that’s what we’ve done.”
He said that the various groups and municipalities have collaborated to get this far and now it’s up to the residents to take advantage of the program.
B.C. Hydro doesn’t typically partner with smaller communities on these sorts of initiatives, and this is the first of its kind in the province.
Bill Bennett, recently appointed Minister of Energy and Mines, said that B.C. Hydro has to invest about $2 billion a year into aging dams and other energy infrastructure.
“The job that Premier Christy Clark has given me is to make sure that Hydro is able to continue to make those investments, because it is an investment into the future of our economy, but at the same time try to keep the increase in rates down as much as possible.”
Bennett said that in the Clean Energy Act that the B.C. Liberals passed in 2007, conservation is looked at as a new form of energy.
“We think that we have to focus hard on conservation and find that electricity, instead of going out and spending that money,” he said. “This program fits into that context.”
For more info on the diet go to www.eked.ca.