Sustainable Energy

BACKGROUNDER

Project summary: In January 2005, the City of Dawson Creek embarked on a journey towards becoming a Sustainable Community. Using the Natural Step Framework, and with the help of the Pembina Institute, the municipality is incorporating sustainability into its operations and policies and initiating measures to encourage citizens and businesses to do the same.

The Community Energy Plan looked at how the city?s operations used energy and identified the type of energy consumed, the costs involved and the environmental implications (green house gas emissions). The plan also recommended ways to reduce the cost, the security and the impact of consuming about $1,000,000 (one million dollars) of energy, per year. Specific initiatives that came out of the study and plan include:

* Fuel costs: The city has implemented a green vehicle purchasing policy that requires the purchase of low emission vehicles. Ultimately, the fleet will be ?right sized? to the most common use of each unit, with an anti idling policy and a high maintenance standards policy. Dawson Creek bought its first hybrid in June of this year and has ordered 4 compact SUV?s to be used by department supervisors. Previously, in the absence of a vehicle purchasing policy, these positions were outfitted with half ton, V8 pickups.

* Electrical costs: A series of building retrofits will ensure existing structures use as little energy as possible. The City?s 6 largest structures were studied in 2006.

* A street light retrofit has been completed. All City owned street lights are now fitted with ?dark sky friendly?, low voltage, high-pressure sodium lights that reduce electrical consumption by about 100,000 KW/h per year, a savings of about $1,200 per month. LED traffic lights have also been installed throughout the city and that has translated into substantial savings as well.

* Dawson Creek is pursuing on-site renewable energy generation by investigating the use of wind turbines for the water and sewer operations, as the department is heavily dependent on electricity. Wind data is currently being collected and a cost/benefit analysis is expected by the end of 2006.

* City Hall and the Fire Hall are equipped with Solar Hot Water Systems, which provide hot water for the building?s needs and serve as demonstration and test sites for the use of these systems in a northern environment.

* By partnering with the Solar Society of Canada, the City helped Northern Lights College become the first College in Canada to offer a solar curriculum. As of fall semester 2006, NLC plumbing students will be able to certify in Solar Hot Water Systems installations.

* The city has signed up for new provincial Water Conservation and Plumbing Regulations requiring low flush fixtures for all new construction.

* Further to these initiatives, the city is considering an energy efficiency bylaw, to require energy efficiency standards for all new construction. The new bylaw will require all new single family dwellings to be ?solar ready?, have energy star windows and doors, have increased insulation in walls and roof and be equipped with a Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system. The focus of the new bylaw will be on providing affordable living and not just affordable building.

In 2006, representatives from the Natural Step Canada and the Pembina Institute held a series of workshops in Dawson Creek to provide training for Council, staff and members of partnering organizations on the Natural Step principles of Sustainability. Council voted unanimously to incorporate the principles into the City?s vision.

A motion to develop a Community Sustainability Plan was approved by Council early in 2006 and it is expected it will be completed by 2008, just as Dawson Creek celebrates 50 years of incorporation. The plan is intended to provide a vision for the community?s next half century.