This fall, Tara Lindenberger was in West Moberly First Nations, in Northern British Columbia, to join a four-person energy advisor team that was there for a week, aiming to complete as many energy-efficient home evaluations as possible.
The trunk of Tara’s car fit most of her gear — a blower door kit, a ladder, and her toolkit. She recalls the mornings starting off cool and crisp as they visited the first few homes, but by the afternoon, temperatures hit unseasonably warm highs (up to 27 C), and the gear felt a lot heavier. The heat was a reminder of why she wanted to do this work — being part of the solution to make homes more comfortable, more energy-efficient, and climate-resilient in a changing world.
This was the first time Tara worked on housing assessments under her own energy advisor number, and she’s counting. Each home she assesses gives the homeowner access to grants and rebates of up to $5,000 to upgrade their homes for better energy efficiency. And in northern and coastal BC, where energy advisors are few and far between, Tara is “really into” her burgeoning career.
“It feels like I’m helping play a part in the change needed where everyone can benefit,” she said.
By the end of the week, Tara and the energy advisor team with CoEfficient Building Science evaluated 49 homes from attic to foundation. The team informed homeowners of their energy usage and gave them a plan for improving efficiency through retrofits — which will save them money and reduce their impact on the planet.
How it started
In 2022, Ecotrust Canada and CoEfficient Building Science partnered to launch an energy advisor training program for Indigenous candidates living in rural and remote communities in coastal British Columbia. Energy advisors are certified professionals who gather data on a home’s energy usage, and provide a customized plan designed to improve its energy efficiency. This evaluation step is required to be done by an energy advisor before and after any household retrofits in order to access the federal Canada Greener Homes Grant. Two years ago, there was not a single advisor to be called on in coastal and northern BC. With the training program, we aimed to fill service gaps on the rural and remote BC coast while supporting a pathway for green energy careers.
This is why we’re so excited to share news about our graduates like Tara Lindenberger. Tara’s story is particularly unique because she didn’t come from a construction background like many of the other trainees. Instead, she joined up because she had been searching for a new, meaningful livelihood.
“I thought there’s no harm in trying,” Tara said over a video call from her home in Prince Rupert, BC, on Coast Ts’msyen territory.
In June 2022, Tara and six other Indigenous participants from Coastal BC were accepted into the training program. All their costs, including training, studying, mentorship, exams, travel, accommodation, and equipment, were covered with funding from Natural Resources Canada. While we facilitated the program, CoEfficient Building Sciences led the training and mentorship and have done an incredible job supporting the trainees through a highly technical — and often exceedingly detailed — certification process. The first in-person classes were held in Port Hardy, BC, within the traditional territory of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people. Tara said she was intimidated at first but was surprised by how comfortable she felt when she got to know her coursemates.
“Everyone had some kind of construction background, and then there is me, who has been a nanny and worked at a fabric store — and I’m just fitting right in there,” she said with a smile.
Passing the exams
The road from that first month to passing the final exam and achieving her energy advisor number was not without bumps. The first exam on building science foundations took Tara a couple of tries until the program had its second in-person training session in Prince Rupert, and she had an aha moment.
“I did three home assessments with Joe (from CoEfficient), and that was the turnaround point for me seeing how this all works and applies,” Tara said. After that session, she passed the first exam and pushed forward to become a certified energy advisor.
“When I passed my last exam on July 23, the relief and excitement for what that would bring had me crying. I was so happy.”
When asked about Tara’s participation in the training program, the two partners facilitating it responded with glowing reviews.
Joe Thwaites, one of her trainers and the Director of Community Projects with CoEfficient Building Science, said, “It was a real pleasure to work with and support Tara as she progressed through the Building Science courses, field experience evaluating houses, and ultimately passing the exams, to become certified as a Registered Energy Advisor.
“With the passion and dedication she brings to the role, Tara will be an excellent Energy Advisor as she helps homeowners make their homes healthier, more comfortable, and more energy efficient.”
Phil Climie, Retrofits Program Manager for the Community Energy program at Ecotrust Canada, said, “Throughout the training, Tara brought a curiosity and openness that helped create a positive culture amidst the trainee group. She stared down — and overcame — the program’s more challenging aspects and persevered through many tedious but necessary details. Tara led the way, and it’s wonderful to see her dedication pay off. The sky is the limit!”
Part of the solution to healthier homes
Tara says the training has changed how she sees the homes in Prince Rupert, BC, and how many need upgrades. Ninety-six percent of the city’s residential buildings are over 22 years old, and one-third of the housing stock was built before the 1960s.
Ecotrust Canada is working with the City of Prince Rupert to help make home energy retrofits easier for residents. Having Tara, a local energy advisor in the area, helps remove one of the barriers to residents wanting to take advantage of provincial and federal grants or rebate programs.
In September, we released a Home Energy Upgrade Program Feasibility Study with the City of Prince Rupert to identify the need, and solutions for a community-wide retrofit program. We found that if a Prince Rupert resident converted their home from natural gas to a heat pump system alongside some simple insulation upgrades, they could save between $1,000 – $2,000 annually in energy bills, while at the same time, reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking two cars off the road per household.
Tara is ready to meet her new clients and learn about their energy-saving retrofit projects.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to go back and do the second assessments for them and see how much they’ve gotten done, and to see their excitement. It’s contagious.”
To reach Tara for an energy assessment, contact the team at CoEfficient Building Science.
Watch this video from Natural Resources Canada that explains Energy Advisors’ role in the grant process.
Written by Shannon Lough, Manager of Communications and Engagement, Ecotrust Canada
[Published on October 24, 2023]