The City of Rossland and communities around the West Kootenay are making the big move to 100 per cent renewable energy.
Transitioning completely to renewable energy may seem a stretch for some, however, local governments have embraced the 100 per cent Renewable Energy Plan whose target is to make it a reality by 2050.
“We have nine local government partners on that, and this project has been going on for over a year, putting together this plan, and Rossland has just passed it,” said Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore. “We’ve adopted it.”
Rossland, Warfield, Kaslo, Castlegar, Nelson, New Denver, Silverton, and Slocan as well as the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), have passed resolutions or, like Rossland, have already adopted the renewable energy plan, pledging to reach 100 per cent renewable energy in transportation, heating and cooling, electricity and waste management.
“It’s a very ambitious, long-term goal, and the goal is to be 100 per cent renewable energy reliant by 2050,” explained Moore. “But there are some interim steps that we start taking, because if you don’t have a map you’re not going to get to your destination, and this plan is really a map.”
The 230-page report requires action, and is built around four Big Moves each of which includes a variety of policy, infrastructure, and outreach actions to help community members save money and reduce pollution in their daily lives.
The first Big Move addresses changes on how we move around, including electrification of passenger vehicles, decarbonizing commercial vehicles, increasing public transit, as well as walking, biking and other modes of active transportation.
The second Big Move considers the buildings where we live, work, and play, and how communities can integrate the BC Energy Step Code program to increase energy efficiency.
Big Move 3 considers reducing waste and what we use and throw away, including composting, landfill gas capture, and landfill diversion.
And finally Big Move 4, offers options on how we can generate energy that is both clean and efficient.
The plan calls on municipalities to attack the low hanging fruit first, some of which communities have already done or are in the process.
“The initial steps we are going to take is to get involved with the regional organics pick up program, and get an Electric Vehicle strategy put in place,” said Moore. “We’ll work on our Step Code and helping builders comply with Step Codes, and establish and improve the trail network in Rossland, and between Rossland and Trail.”
Dubbed a High-Performance Staircase, the BC Energy Step Code is a 5-step initiative that requires incremental improvements to energy efficient buildings.
Step 1 is enhanced compliance, Step-2 requires 10 per cent efficiencies, Step-3 20 per cent, and Step-4 40 per cent. Step 5 brings us to the top of the staircase where a net-zero building produces as much energy as it uses.
The province’s goal is to have all new residential buildings at zero heat loss by 2032, but currently, the province has made it voluntary for municipalities to adopt the Step Code.
Rossland, meanwhile, has committed to an aggressive timetable for adopting the Step Code, with Step 1 already in place, and Steps 2 and 3 planned for 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Local community groups are already stepping up to improve their buildings and asked council for letters of support in efforts to acquire funding through Columbia Basin Trust’s Energy Sustainability Grants Program.
The 2nd Rossland Scout Group is looking to upgrade the furnace, improve insulation, seal the building and install solar panels in the Scout’s hall in an effort to reduce costs and their impact on the environment.
Similarly, the Rossland Arena Society plan to make improvements by installing LED lighting and controls, as well as replace existing windows and seal exterior doors, while also renovating the upstairs lounge/family room.
While residential buildings are the largest users of energy, passenger vehicles represent the greatest source of emissions.
A transition to electric vehicles, enhanced public transportation, and an improved trail network will go a long way to get residents out of their vehicles and into a more healthy lifestyle, that is better for both the individual and the community.
“The goal would be to take cars off the road,” said Moore, adding that the municipality needs to improve current trails like the Wagon Road trail or the Rail grade, to accommodate commuters as well as mountain bike riders.
“So we’re looking for grants for that kind of thing, and those sorts of things encourage people to get out of their vehicles, and walking or biking, especially if they can walk or bike to work, would be great.”
Moore and other Greater Trail mayors foresee a scenic trail connecting all communities, but recognize that it will take a concerted and cooperative effort.
“What we’d like to do is to make the trail go all the way to Fruitvale, but it’s going to take community champions along the way,” added Moore. “It would be wonderful, not only for commuters, but just be a great asset to have in our region.”
The plan lays out a variety of potential sources of local renewable energy, including solar panels, hydroelectricity, geothermal, wind and biomass. How and whether local communities access this energy depends on factors such as cost,
abundance, and the willingness to accept economic and ecosystem impacts.
“It’s a really unique plan, and we have to go forward, we have to go to a low carbon future, we need to do it,” said Moore.
“People who think the status quo is okay, they really are dinosaurs at this point, in more ways than one.
“Using those fossil fuels it’s just not sustainable.”
According to the plan, local governments can prevent 1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution by 2050 by implementing these actions. It’s equivalent to the pollution produced by 10,000 rail cars of coal, or 30 years of driving 13,000 cars.