CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Two P.E.I. municipalities will be receiving national climate change awards for work done this year in regard to green technology programs offered in the province.
Charlottetown and Stratford are being awarded a national climate action award for offering the Switch Charlottetown and Switch Stratford financing programs in 2022, which offer rebates for eco-friendly renewable energy systems such as solar panels and heat pumps. Wolfville, N.S., will also be receiving the award for their Switch Wolfville program.
“It feels great, there’s a lot of hard work that went into this program, and it’s really good for the residents of Charlottetown,” Nick Walker, Charlottetown energy management engineer, told SaltWire Network in an interview on Jan. 19.
“It’s helping them reduce the energy usage in their homes and making their homes more comfortable house to live in,” he said.
The federal government offers several of these climate and energy action awards, aimed to acknowledge multiple levels of government for the work being done to reduce emissions across the country.
Switch was initially launched in July 2021. Since then, more than 1,200 residents have applied, and more than 400 projects have been completed. About 150 installation projects are currently underway through the programs.
The Switch programs can assist homeowners to install the following:
- Air-sourced heat pumps
- Geothermal heat pumps
- Heat pump pool heaters
- Heat pump domestic water heaters
Terry Bernard, chair of environment and sustainability with the City of Charlottetown, told SaltWire Network in an interview on Jan. 19 the city is $5.7 million through its $8-million dollar funding.
“There’s still a couple of million dollars, and there’s applications coming in all the time,” said Bernard. “I think we’re getting close to a climate emergency. The sooner we can get to this path of net zero, get more funding to help the environment, the better.”
A key element of the Switch program is an energy concierge service, which is designed to make the transition to greener energy easier for homeowners.
“We’ve never seen communities uptake programming like in Charlottetown and Stratford,” Julian Boyle, president of PACE Atlantic Community Interest Corporation, said in a statement issued on Jan. 16.
“With three to five per cent of the housing stock being retrofitted annually, they are setting the bar for the rest of Canada in the energy transition and race to net zero.”.
Access to free home energy assessments, low-cost financing and stackable federal and provincial rebates are a few of the tasks the concierge service offers.
As of 2023, homeowners have invested upwards of $8.5 million into home energy projects, reducing carbon emissions from their properties by as much as 40 per cent in some cases.
Brent Taylor, a Switch participant in Stratford, said in a statement he was excited to be a part of the program and happy to hear about the award.
“I think it’s such a wonderful idea,” said Taylor. “I drive around the neighbourhood now and see solar panels and work vehicles in driveways doing energy conservation installations. I’m sure a lot of that is a result of the program.”
More than 50 P.E.I. contractors are involved in the program, and more than 200 jobs have been created through the program since its inception.
“Empowering residents to take action on climate change has been a real win for our communities,” Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said in a press release issued Jan. 16.
“I think it’s important that all levels of government are working together to make it easy for our residents and businesses to become more energy efficient.
“Programs like Switch will help us further reduce our carbon footprint and reach our net zero targets more efficiently,” said Brown.
In the same release, Stratford Mayor Steve Ogden said programs like this are important to overall energy and environmental goals in the province.
“The program has been a win-win for the community and the environment. It is saving homeowners on energy costs while also helping our local community and our planet,” said Ogden.
The award will be presented at an award ceremony hosted in Ottawa, Feb. 8-10.