Having won two awards in 2018, the buzz continues to grow around Energize Bridgewater.
Energize Bridgewater, which is the town’s clean energy initiative, recently won the 2018 Climate Change Leaders Award as chosen by the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.
And as the town’s Sustainability Coordinator Leon de Vreede points out, the recognition is the latest in a string of accolades.
Bridgewater is currently one of five communities in the running for a $5 million prize through Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.
“One of the reasons we’re getting regional and national recognition for the work is the whole social focus — the social benefits of the energy shift — are pretty tangible,” said de Vreede.
“It’s an incredibly important concept for Nova Scotia, which has relatively low incomes and relatively high costs when compared to the rest of the country.”
As a finalist for the Smart Cities Challenge — a national competition to spur infrastructure innovation — the town has already received $250,000 to help reduce energy poverty.
And although the winner won’t be announced until the spring of 2019, de Vreede noted Energize Bridgewater has provided a way forward for municipalities across the province.
The basis of the program, explained de Vreede, is to work out what a community is consuming in terms of energy and then to replace it with clean energy produced locally.
“The technologies are scalable to a community of any size in Nova Scotia, I’d even go as far to say in Atlantic Canada,” he said.
De Vreede noted when researchers began preparing the program, they were surprised to discover the average Bridgewater household spends over $5,000 on energy.
“What we underestimated when we started the process was just how powerful the Energize Bridgewater program could be to alleviate the burden ordinary people and businesses have to endure paying for their energy bills,” he said.
Through the Energize Bridgewater program, the town hopes to raise 20 per cent of its residents out of energy poverty by 2028.
Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell said the program is easier on both residents’ wallets and the environment.
For example, homeowners can have an energy audit done through the program.
“They’ll come in and give the homeowners a detailed report on how to get the most bang for their buck for doing energy retrofits,” said Mitchell.
Homeowners can then get a loan from the town and put it toward upgrades, repayable over 10 years on their taxes.
The town is offering up to $20,000 for qualifying homes.
“It’s an opportunity for people, especially those who don’t have the money, to get out and break that cycle (of energy poverty),” said Mitchell. “It’s really cool.”
And it is this spirit of environmental innovation which de Vreede hopes to see across the province, not just Bridgewater.
“Reducing energy demand, which is over half of our Energize Bridgewater program, needs to be done everywhere,” said de Vreede. “I think it’s something other communities should take note of.”
If selected as the winner of the Smart Cities Challenge, the town plans to install energy monitoring equipment in over 1,000 low income homes, to further develop a retrofit financing program and to improve public transportation.
Bridgewater also won an award at the 2018 GLOBE Climate Leadership Awards earlier this year.