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 insecurity 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 insecurity in Canada.
We envision household energy security for all — where nobody has to choose between heating their home and feeding their family. This means that all households:
- Can access essential home energy services like heating, cooling, cooking and lighting without hardship.
- Are able to live in comfortable, healthy homes with affordable energy bills.
- Rely on low-carbon energy sources that contribute to healthy environments and help address the climate emergency.
We work by invitation from Indigenous and rural communities to advance energy and climate justice through three distinct but connected approaches, from provincial and national-level policy, through local/regional programs, to on-the-ground energy retrofit work.
- On-the-ground work with Indigenous partner communities via funding, development, and implementation of home energy efficiency renovations. These include replacing inefficient electric or fossil fuel furnaces with clean, high-efficiency heat pumps; improving home insulation and ventilation; replacing windows/doors; and addressing health and safety issues. Heat pumps are a priority solution because they provide high-cost and energy savings, ventilation and air filtration, as well as air conditioning in the summer, making buildings more climate resilient.
- Shifting the policy environment to foster energy justice, climate resilience, and household energy security. We engage aligned grassroots and advocacy groups to build network power, call for greater justice in relevant environmental movements and institutions, and confront energy policies that systemically disadvantage rural and Indigenous communities. Our research is specifically focused on providing the evidence required to empower policymakers to address these injustices. This work is informed by the identification of barriers through our on-the-ground experience with Indigenous and rural community partners.
- Building regional retrofit initiatives that help residents realize the benefits of energy efficiency, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and increase meaningful participation in local economies. We do this by supporting partner communities in designing and implementing regionally customized energy efficiency programs. This includes public engagement on energy and climate issues, one-on-one guidance for households looking to retrofit their homes, access to financing, and building local capacity so that retrofit contractors and energy advisors are locally accessible.
Why Ecotrust Canada?
Ecotrust Canada has built a team of in-house technical and business experts 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, Hupacasath First Nation, and numerous municipalities, including the cities of Prince Rupert and Powell River, and the Regional District of Mount Waddington. Our program begain in 2018, a pilot project with Haíɫzaqv Nation to replace diesel furnaces in Bella Bella’s homes with air-source heat pumps powered by clean energy. Since then, we have coordinated around 400 heat pump installations across our partner communities. We have raised over $7 million in project funds, with estimated cost savings of $11.5 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.
- Homes are more resilient to extreme heat with the addition of active cooling
- Community members have the skills to install and maintain new equipment and participate in the energy sector.
- Our research, advocacy, and coalition-building efforts help governments recognize energy insecurity as an important issue, and enable them to take action.
- Over $7 million invested in community retrofit projects.
- Over $11.5 million in projected cost savings to the community over the lifetime of the installed equipment
- Over 20,000 tons of CO2e were avoided over the lifetime of the projects, which is equivalent to almost 50,000 barrels of oil.
- Thousands of employment hours created.
- Deep engagement with governments on policy that impacts housing, climate, and energy affordability, including numerous policy briefs, webinars, submissions and coalition-building efforts
- Our team is engaged on numerous advisory boards including BC Hydro, BC’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Fraser Basin Council, BC Climate Emergency, Building 2 Electrification Coalition, and others.
- Five major research reports published:
- Moving toward energy security in BC’s rural, remote, and Indigenous communities
- Rethinking energy bill protections in British Columbia
- Transforming Income-Qualified Home Energy Retrofit Programs in BC
- Paving the Way for Equitable Decarbonization of British Columbia’s Residential Homes
- The Missing Third: Improving Tenants’ Rights to Energy Efficient, Climate Resilient, and Safe Housing
Graham Anderson, Director of Community Energy
Dylan Heerema, Senior Policy Advisor
Phil Climie, Retrofits Program Manager
Josephine Schrott, Analyst
Caroline Parnell, Project Manager
Jordan Koe, Project Manager
- 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.