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Story by LEON DE VREEDE
The Town of Bridgewater is a recognized municipal leader in sustainable thinking. Now it’s taking aim at energy poverty and looking to help the community’s most vulnerable Mayor David Mitchell described May 14, 2019, as, perhaps, the most significant day in the 120 year history of the Town of Bridgewater.
That was the day the community, its residents, businesses, and supporters, learned that Bridgewater had won Infrastructure Canada’s $5 million Smart Cities Challenge prize. “There are no words to describe how we’re feeling today. Our staff and our entire community have worked so hard to develop a real and achievable plan to reduce energy poverty in Bridgewater,” said the mayor, following the announcement.
The root of the challenge
Bridgewater’s Smart Cities Challenge application focused on the Town’s growing need for affordable, clean, and reliable energy which is out of reach for many of its residents. A combination of old, leaky homes and high energy and transportation costs make it difficult for an estimated 38% of Bridgewater residents to meet their basic energy needs. The Town aims to solve this issue at a community and household level by creating access to affordable energy through solutions such as home upgrade programs, and by improving access to local transit.
The mayor noted that the Town is confident that its innovative community proposal will have an impact that can be adopted by communities across Nova Scotia and Canada. By putting emerging technologies to work, he said, new community services can be created that ensure underserved populations are the first beneficiaries of Bridgewater’s transition to a sustainable and clean energy future.
What does the Energy Poverty Reduction Program mean for
The program will be available to all Bridgewater residents, regardless of income. Through the program residents can:
• Have more control over their energy costs, leaving more
money to spend on what’s most important.
• Even out residents’ monthly energy costs, so they can more easily make a budget for those payments.
• Learn about new ways to save energy and reduce energy costs, and share tips with other residents.
• Have a safer, healthier, and more comfortable home through better heating and cooling, and improved indoor air quality.
• We will work with landlords directly to make property improvements so rental homes or apartments become safer and more affordable.
• Have more affordable and accessible transportation options in the community.
• Find more training and job opportunities in the skilled trades and the clean technology sectors.
• Reach out to a real person to help navigate through any community services residents may need; this service is nonjudgmental and confidential.
The full Energy Poverty Reduction Program will take time to set up properly. The Town of Bridgewater will likely start taking applications in 2020 or 2021. That’s a long wait for people who need this help today, but help is already available in the form of community support, emergency fuel funds, free home energy upgrades, and other solutions. The Town is already working with community partners to better connect residents to these existing services.
There will be regular information sessions for Bridgewater residents and businesses as we go through the process. Community feedback and interest in the program is important to us. Here’s how to learn more at: