Rossland's Energy Diet sparks a trend

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
July 19th, 2012

The “Rossland Energy Diet,” a unique energy-saving program that brought notable local rewards and has started to draw provincial and national attention, has celebrated great success in “phase one” and will now move into “phase two.”

A crowd gathered under a large tent beside the Rossland Mountain Market on July 12 to hear the results and comments by the diet’s organizers, as well as Mayor Greg Granstrom and MLA Katrine Conroy. The group celebrated afterwards with free popcorn and ice cream as they wandered the farmers’ market with their new (and also free) retractable clotheslines and clothes pegs.

A gallery of photographs by Ed Chernoff is attached below.

The Rossland Energy Diet was conceived when the Sustainability Commission (SC) identified that the average Rossland home was old, draughty, and consumed 36 per cent more electricity than other homes across the province. Steve Ash of the SC’s Energy Task Force approached FortisBC to see if help was available.

“What developed was the first ever community-level energy diet, done in partnership with the City of Rossland, the Sustainability Commission Energy Task Force, Nelson and District Credit Union, Columbia Basin Trust, and FortisBC,” said Nicole Bogdanovic of FortisBC.

About 135 Rossland homes have completed their energy diet and the results have been impressive: these homes alone will save more than 2,220 gigajoules of natural gas and 1.48 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

The completed renovations will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 338 tonnes while simultaneously “injecting” an estimated $1.5 million into the local economy, Bogdanovic said.

These numbers will rise as the remaining participants—from the total of 257 who signed up—complete their renovations before the March 31, 2013 LiveSmart BC grant deadline.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Granstrom said. “To save more than a million kilowatts in electricity half way through [the program] and have more than $1.5 million invested in the community is a real win-win.”

The high level of participation from Rossland residents far surpassed the program target of 100 households. In fact, organizers of the diet had a running bet that was won by Carol Suhan, the manager of the PowerSense department of FortisBC that helps customers reduce their energy bill. She was chastised for being overly optimistic, but In the end even Suhan’s guess was a long shot from the 257 households that signed up—more than one fifth of Rossland households.

The LiveSmart BC program typically has participation rates of one to two per cent.

“We were excited to see the level of participation and the fact the residents of Rossland were going to see some real, tangible and ongoing energy savings,” said Michael Mulcahy, a FortisBC vice president.

Participants received a free initial energy assessment, and help navigating the whole process of retrofits, from identifying and hiring qualified local contractors, to guidance through FortisBC, provincial, and federal energy efficiency incentive programs.

“The Energy Diet gave us the motivation we needed to upgrade our 1930s home,” said Tanis Shippy, one program participant. Their household more than doubled their house’s EnerGuide rating, and earned the full $5000 federal rebate that was available. The family expects a similar amount from LiveSmart BC.

“Our home now maintains an even heat—we didn’t even need to turn on our furnace in the cold, rainy, spring weather,” Shippy said. “This was a really positive experience, it created friendly competition and conversation around energy conservation.”

Now FortisBC hopes to take this approach to other towns in the province even as the Rossland Energy Diet draws attention from government and non-government groups interested in energy efficiency beyond BC’s borders.

“We’re very pleased by the results of this community-driven initiative,” Mulcahy said. “We look forward to working with other communities who are considering a similar approach to saving energy.”

In Rossland, the push is far from over. SC’s Energy Task Force reports that phase two will be rolling out soon, an initiative that will target lower income residences as well as small business renovations.

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