Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Council express enthusiasm along with approval for financial support for Ecotrust plans for community energy feasibility study

Graham Anderson from Ecotrust Canada provide Prince Rupert
City Council with an expansive overview of some energy initiatives
that could be a good fit for the community

Prince Rupert City Council is on board when it comes to the development of a feasibility study towards a community energy initiative that was outlined to Council on Monday evening.

A preview of what Ecotrust Canada has in mind for the region was provided as part of the Committee of the Whole session for Monday, with Graham Anderson the Director of Community Energy Initiative providing for a short overview of the work of Ecotrust on themes of community energy initiatives. 

His presentation also noting as to how Prince Rupert would be a good fit for the Home Energy Retrofit program, something which addresses the issue of Energy Poverty.

As he explained it to council Energy Poverty finds households having to allocate larger than typical of their household income on energy needs and is propelled by three drivers: low household income, high energy prices and low energy efficiencies in their homes.

Towards a solution he outlined how a program to deliver Heat Pump opportunities with partner communities has been well received in recent years, noting of their success on Vancouver island and in Bella Bella, noting how the program would be one worth exploring in the Prince Rupert area.

The Ecotrust official observed how the situation in Prince Rupert is one which is the strongest opportunity for a Heat Pump solution in the country; noting of the high cost of energy, the age of the housing stock and how the climate aids the operational aspects of a heat Pump.

"We see a really uniquely strong opportunity for heat pumps in the community of Prince Rupert for a number of reasons. We'd say its actually one of the strongest opportunities in the country. And a big part of that is that you have relatively high heating fuel costs here, the natural gas costs the rates are just higher largely due to transportation. And so when your fuel costs are almost twice as high that creates a much greater opportunity for cost savings through retrofits.

You have an older housing stock on average as well. And you're on a cool coastal climate which is really ideally suited to this type of opportunity and so the heat pumps will operate at their highest possible efficiency in this climate" -- Graham Anderson from Ecotrust Canada, on the merits of Heat Pumps for Prince Rupert homeowners

Towards moving forward he identified a couple of obstacles currently in place,  the first was access to funding and financing, as well as the access to an energy auditor which is a requirement of the program, with the closest one in the North based out of Prince George.

He also observed as to some of the lack of awareness in the region towards the opportunities that a  Heat Pump solution could offer.

Towards building up that knowledge, Mr. Anderson noted of a desire to create a locally financed feasibility study to undertake such a program; as well as to develop some capacity locally to allow for local residents to have access to the program available in the community.

The local organization would also like to build a program of local promotion and coordination to help move the initiative forward in the North Coast region.

As part of their efforts, Ecotrust is making a request of the City for letters of support and matching financial support of 7,500 dollars, the latter to be used in 2022 towards furthering their initiative in the community.

Mr. Anderson also observed as to how the Ecotrust plans had a strong connection with the City's Sustainable City 2030 plan that the city has developed towards replacing fossil fuels.

In follow questions and comments, Councillor Niesh observed of some of the challenges locally in finding contractors at the moment to provide for the installation process of the Heat Pumps and how if the program is to be effective they may need someone locally in place to assist in the installation process.

Councillor Randhawa followed up by asking for some costing on the proposal, the reply was that the cost. was anywhere from $5,000 to $18,000, with rebates available towards $8,500 depending on the scope of the project.

Councillor Nick Adey expressed his enthusiasm for their proposal and how it addresses climate based issues in the community, he then asked for some additional background on the request for the $7,500 in funding from the city.

"Thanks for the presentation, I'm pretty excited about the ideas involved in this, I think that in general people are moving towards a place where they see a need to address these kinds of issues in their home and in the border picture of climate based issues beyond the home. The letter of support that is asking us for seventy five hundred dollars, maybe a little more detail on that. My understanding of that it would allow us to move towards access towards a much bigger pool of money, could you explain how that is going to work"

Mr. Anderson outlined how that would represent ten percent of a contribution which is the required amount from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which is the lead organization for the funding project in order to move forward with a feasibility study.

"That's right, so that's connected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities opportunity specifically, and they require ten percent, or they request ten percent matching contribution from the city. And that would be a feasibility study defining the opportunity here. 

So assessing a number of local homes to develop an understanding of really exactly how much a homeowner could stand to save. Looking at partnerships with local financial institutions on potentially setting up a local fund. 

And that feasibility study could lead to designing a program that then could access up to ten million in  financing, so it would be essentially financed by FCM and half of that is through a grant as well so they would support administration and start up and operating costs of that fund. 

So it's a fairly significant pool of capital to support the cost of running it and also to be deployed in the community"
Councillor Cunningham offered up some observations on a recent installation that he had knowledge and noted that some of the cost may still be somewhat prohibitive for many residents in the community.

In reply, Mr. Anderson noted of some areas where prioritization of the program could be beneficial and for some households it may make more sense for those planning to replace their entire furnace and heating system.

Mayor Brain asked about the request for 7,500 dollars for the feasibility study and what kind of timeline is required, particularly towards when the City funding would be needed, Mr. Anderson noted that it would be part of their plans for moving forward in 2022.

The Mayor observed how that would be helpful towards the city's budgeting, he then thanked Mr. Anderson for his presentation.

A report from the City's Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller provided some further background to the requests from Ecotrust as well as to how it fits in with the City's Sustainable community initiatives. 

Later in the Regular Council session,  the members voted in favour of both of the letters of support and the financial assistance towards the feasibility study, though it was not identified on Monday as to where the city would provide the 7,500 dollars for the study from.

As they offered their support for the program, the Mayor outlined his enthusiasm towards it.

"I think that this is a great process to undertake and it will be good for the community"

The full presentation from Mr. Anderson can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive page starting at the eight minute mark; later in the evening the short discussion and approval of the Ecotrust requests can be found from the 35 minute mark.

More items of note from the Monday Council session can be explored from the Council Timeline Feature

Further items of interest from past Council sessions can be found from our archive page.

For a more expansive look at some of the City's other themes on Sustainability see our archive page here.

A look at some of the energy initiatives from Ecotrust Canada can be reviewed here.

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