Pro­gram earn­ing na­tional, provin­cial ac­claim

En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter to raise 20 per cent of res­i­dents out of en­ergy poverty by 2028

South Shore Breaker - - Front Page - JOSH HEALEY ed­i­tor@southshore­

Hav­ing won two awards in 2018, the buzz con­tin­ues to grow around En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter.

En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter, which is the town’s clean en­ergy ini­tia­tive, re­cently won the 2018 Cli­mate Change Lead­ers Award as cho­sen by the Nova Sco­tia Fed­er­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

And as the town’s Sus­tain­abil­ity Co­or­di­na­tor Leon de Vreede points out, the recog­ni­tion is the lat­est in a string of ac­co­lades.

Bridge­wa­ter is cur­rently one of five com­mu­ni­ties in the run­ning for a $5 mil­lion prize through In­fra­struc­ture Canada’s Smart Cities Chal­lenge.

“One of the rea­sons we’re get­ting re­gional and na­tional recog­ni­tion for the work is the whole so­cial fo­cus — the so­cial ben­e­fits of the en­ergy shift — are pretty tan­gi­ble,” said de Vreede.

“It’s an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant con­cept for Nova Sco­tia, which has rel­a­tively low in­comes and rel­a­tively high costs when com­pared to the rest of the coun­try.”

As a fi­nal­ist for the Smart Cities Chal­lenge — a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion to spur in­fra­struc­ture in­no­va­tion — the town has al­ready re­ceived $250,000 to help re­duce en­ergy poverty.

And although the win­ner won’t be an­nounced un­til the spring of 2019, de Vreede noted En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter has pro­vided a way for­ward for muni-

cipal­i­ties across the prov­ince.

The ba­sis of the pro­gram, ex­plained de Vreede, is to work out what a com­mu­nity is con­sum­ing in terms of en­ergy and then to re­place it with clean en­ergy pro­duced lo­cally.

“The tech­nolo­gies are scal­able to a com­mu­nity of any size in Nova Sco­tia, I’d even go as far to say in At­lantic Canada,” he said.

De Vreede noted when re­searchers be­gan pre­par­ing the pro­gram, they were sur­prised to dis­cover the aver­age Bridge­wa­ter house­hold spends over $5,000 on en­ergy.

“What we un­der­es­ti­mated when we started the process was just how pow­er­ful the En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter pro­gram could be to al­le­vi­ate the bur­den or­di­nary peo­ple and busi­nesses have to en­dure pay­ing for their en­ergy bills,” he said.

Through the En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter pro­gram, the town hopes to raise 20 per cent of its res­i­dents out of en­ergy poverty by 2028.

Bridge­wa­ter Mayor David Mitchell said the pro­gram is eas­ier on both res­i­dents’ wal­lets and the en­vi­ron­ment.

For ex­am­ple, home­own­ers can have an en­ergy au­dit done through the pro­gram.

“They’ll come in and give the home­own­ers a de­tailed re­port on how to get the most bang for their buck for do­ing en­ergy retrofits,” said Mitchell.

Home­own­ers can then get a loan from the town and put it to­ward up­grades, re­payable over 10 years on their taxes.

The town is of­fer­ing up to $20,000 for qual­i­fy­ing homes.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple, es­pe­cially those who don’t have the money, to get out and break that cy­cle (of en­ergy poverty),” said Mitchell. “It’s re­ally cool.”

And it is this spirit of en­vi­ron­men­tal in­no­va­tion which de Vreede hopes to see across the prov­ince, not just Bridge­wa­ter.

“Re­duc­ing en­ergy de­mand, which is over half of our En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter pro­gram, needs to be done ev­ery­where,” said de

Vreede. “I think it’s some­thing other com­mu­ni­ties should take note of.”

If se­lected as the win­ner of the Smart Cities Chal­lenge, the town plans to in­stall en­ergy mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment in over 1,000 low in­come homes, to fur­ther de­velop a retro­fit fi­nanc­ing pro­gram and to im­prove pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

Bridge­wa­ter also won an award at the 2018 GLOBE Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Awards ear­lier this year.

Town of Bridge­wa­ter Face­book

Bridge­wa­ter's Sus­tain­abil­ity Co­or­di­na­tor Leon de Vreede(left) and Mayor David Mitchell re­cently met with the Smart Cities Chal­lenge ju­rors. Bridge­wa­ter is one of five fi­nal­ists com­pet­ing for a five mil­lion dol­lar prize to help im­ple­ment the town's clean en­ergy plan.

Bridge­wa­ter Coun­cil­lor Michael Graves poses with the town’s Cli­mate Change Lead­ers Award. The town re­cently won the award for its En­er­gize Bridge­wa­ter pro­gram.

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