Having access to affordable clean energy should not be a luxury in Canada. Yet, rural, remote, and Indigenous communities often face energy costs that are up to three times the Canadian household average. Energy poverty means that families are suffering from high rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and mold-related illnesses caused by living in cold, poorly ventilated homes. It means transporting diesel fuel across some of Canada’s most pristine environments, and it means some families are forced to choose between paying heating bills or paying for life’s other essentials. It should not be this way. Ecotrust Canada believes that new, clean technologies combined with innovative policies and local expertise can come together to eliminate energy poverty in Canada.
Our vision is household energy security for all — where nobody has to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families. This means that all households:
- Can access essential home energy services without hardship.
- Are able to live in comfortable, healthy homes with affordable heat.
- Rely on energy sources that contribute to healthy environments and are aligned with climate targets.
Why Ecotrust Canada?
Ecotrust Canada has built a team of in-house technical and business expertise in home energy solutions and policy research. Ecotrust Canada offers a service to communities that is unique in a number of ways:
- Ecotrust Canada emphasizes local economic development, capacity building, and job creation.
- As a charitable organization, Ecotrust Canada is not profit driven; this allows the Community Energy team to offer a neutral perspective with a focus on community goals and direction.
- Ecotrust Canada brings resources to the table and offers services at a significantly reduced cost for committed community partners.
Over the past few years, Ecotrust Canada has brought these skills to a number of partnerships, including with Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) Nation, Quatsino First Nation, ‘Na̲mg̲is First Nation, and the Regional District of Mount Waddington. In 2018, a pilot project with Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella — a remote community off the Central Coast of BC — we helped replace diesel furnaces in on-reserve homes with air-source heat pumps powered by clean energy. Since then, we have coordinated over 200 heat pump installs across Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk), Quatsino, and ‘Na̲mg̲is First Nations. We have raised $3.4 million in project funds, with estimated cost savings of $6.6 million. Based on the success of this project and others, Ecotrust Canada’s team of experienced community planners, policy experts, and engineers are now set to broaden this approach with communities across Canada.
“The benefits aren’t just financial. We’re bringing in less fuel by barge, supporting our traditional values and bringing clean energy into our homes.”
— Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council
Ecotrust Canada has built community and regional partnerships to explore policy, program, and project opportunities that provide fair and just access to clean, affordable household energy. The Community Energy team works with decision-makers to shift energy policy, and to inform the development of innovative energy efficiency and retrofit programming that can further catalyze change. A key pillar of the work is local capacity-building: ensuring that community members are trained in the installation and maintenance of new technologies, that solutions are practical and sustainable, and that community values and objectives are central to the design of each project.
- Household energy costs are dramatically reduced.
- Air quality, mold, and moisture issues are improved in many homes.
- Reliance on fossil fuels for heat is eliminated.
- Community members have the skills to install and maintain new equipment and participate in the energy sector.
- Over $3 million invested in community retrofit projects
- Over $6 million in estimated cost savings to community
- 11,000 tonnes of CO2, or the equivalent of around 25,000 barrels of diesel, removed over the lifetime of the projects
- 1,110 hours direct installation employment created
- 60-minute national webinar on Tackling Energy Poverty in BC with the Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners Network
- Three research reports published:
Graham Anderson, Director of Community Energy
Dylan Heerema, Senior Policy Advisor
Phil Climie, Community Engagement Lead
Josephine Schrott, Analyst
Caroline Parnell, Project Manager, Energy Advisor Program
- Communities are hungry for solutions and the demand for our work far outstrips the resources that are currently available to implement projects. Rural and Indigenous home retrofit projects present a huge opportunity that call for greater investment from all levels of government.
- Rural communities and Indigenous Nations face unique challenges when accessing basic energy services. There is an opportunity to foster collaboration between adjacent communities and across regions to provide consistent resources and achieve scale with solutions.
- While retrofits are an essential part of any strategy to reduce energy consumption and costs for households facing energy poverty, new policy approaches are also needed to more effectively support these activities and to provide direct support to households facing the greatest hardship.