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ecotrust energy poverty

Using clean energy solutions to put an end to energy poverty

ecotrust energy poverty

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 shipping 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 does not need to be this way. Ecotrust Canada believes that new, clean technologies combined with innovative policies and local expertise can come together to solve energy poverty in Canada once and for all.

Why Ecotrust Canada?

Ecotrust Canada has built a team of in-house technical and business expertise in home energy solutions, policy research, and energy retrofits. 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.

In 2018, Ecotrust Canada brought these skills to a partnership with the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, a remote community off the Central Coast of BC. The pilot project replaced diesel furnaces in on-reserve homes with air-source heat pumps powered by clean energy. Based on the success of this project, Ecotrust Canada team of experienced community practitioners, 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

The strategy

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 develop innovative financing mechanisms that can further catalyze change. A key pillar of their 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 respected.


  • 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.

The team

Graham Anderson, Director of Community Energy
Dylan Heerema, Senior Analyst and Researcher
Phil Climie, Community Engagement Lead

Key learnings

  1. 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 calls for greater investment from all levels of government.
  2. Rural communities and Indigenous Nations each face unique and related 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.
  3.  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


Boyd, R. and H. Corbett. (2015), Energy Poverty — An Agenda for Alberta, All One Sky Foundation, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Thomson, H., Snell, C., & Bouzarovski, S. (2017). Health, Well-Being and Energy Poverty in Europe: A Comparative Study of 32 European Countries. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(6), 584. doi:10.3390/ijerph14060584

Grey, C., Schmieder-Gaite, T., Jiang, S., Nascimento, C., & Poortinga, W. (2017). Cold homes, fuel poverty and energy efficiency improvements: A longitudinal focus group approach. Indoor + built environment: the journal of the International Society of the Built Environment, 26(7), 902–913. doi:10.1177/1420326X17703450