“Green Party leader David Coon was highly critical of the move because he said a power utility would be more interested in selling electricity than saving people energy, particularly if they use fossil fuels, wood, wind or solar.”
Article by: John Chilibeck
Darlene MacDonald of Cape Breton cut her heating bill drastically thanks to Efficiency Nova Scotia’s free program for low-income people.
A Nova Scotia official whose organization helped his province cut back on electrical consumption by 10 per cent says the same sort of savings can be found in New Brunswick.
Stephen MacDonald, the CEO of EfficiencyOne, the not-for-profit operator of Canada’s first electricity efficiency utility, Efficiency Nova Scotia, says a great shot in the arm was the $234 million that NB Power, the province and Ottawa announced last week they’d spend on energy efficiency in New Brunswick over the next five years.
“It’s very important for everyone in the industry to talk to one another and collaborate,” he said. “Energy efficiency is one of those unique things where you can’t do it alone. You need to work with partners in industry, government policy makers, financial institutions and others. All of that means people need to be regularly talking.”
To that end, MacDonald is eager to talk at NB Power’s Energizing Efficiency conference Wednesday at the Fredericton Convention Centre as one of two keynote speakers. His pep talk begins at 9:30 a.m.
New Brunswick had a similar organization, Efficiency New Brunswick, but it was mothballed by the Liberal government that took power in 2014 and its mission handed over to NB Power. Green Party leader David Coon was highly critical of the move because he said a power utility would be more interested in selling electricity than saving people energy, particularly if they use fossil fuels, wood, wind or solar.
The Nova Scotian organization has some powerful numbers to back it up, all verified by independent audits. Since its inception a decade ago, it has helped 278,000 program participants complete energy efficiency projects, saving them $150 million in yearly savings. In so doing, it has prevented 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released in the atmosphere every year.
By contrast, NB Power said in a press release last year it had helped save residential customers $1.7 million in energy costs through its home energy report program launched in January 2017.
MacDonald, however, said it was not necessarily the model that mattered but whether governments and utilities dedicate enough money to the cause and reach out to the right people.
To get broad support, Efficiency Nova Scotia offers programs across the board, to homeowners, businesses, industry, and institutions, making sure as many people as possible participate.
MacDonald said most heart-warming is its program to help low-income people save energy and money by retrofitting their homes for free. Last year, the HomeWarming plan helped 2,000 Nova Scotians cut their costs, saving them on average 15 to 30 per cent on their heating bills.
He likes to cite the example of Darlene MacDonald of Judique, Cape Breton, who’s featured prominently on the organization’s website. Some 30 years ago, she and her husband bought a 200-year old house, where they raised several children, despite the cold drafts.
In 2015, when her husband died, the home remained uncomfortable, but she could barely afford the heat.
The program delivered her instant energy savings.
“In many cases, that’s the difference that allows seniors and low-income people to stay in their own homes,” said Stephen MacDonald, who is not related to Darlene.
MLA, Fredericton South and Leader, Green Party of NB