Dyer: Summerland envy

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Summerland has been in the news recently, as they have chosen a site for their six million dollar solar array. What is remarkable about Summerland is what they have done in addition to their municipal utility-scale array.. Since 2017 they have brought in $450,000 in clean energy funding. All 12 major municipal buildings have been audited for energy efficiency. Summerland is in the process of converting their parks department equipment to electric. They are using a new technology (Realice) at the ice arena, where treated water makes it possible to make denser ice without heating the water. All of the non-decorative street lights have now been converted to LEDs.

READ MORE: Have a say in Vernon’s Climate Action Plan

What makes Summerland significantly different from the rest of the Okanagan towns? There’s a few things. Summerland runs their own electric utility, purchasing from the wholesale market. This is unusual in British Columbia. Only Summerland, Penticton, Grand Forks, New Westminster, and Nelson have the utility under control of the town council. This encourages long term thinking about electricity price and makes it easier to make changes. Whether it is reducing paperwork for residential solar to connect to the grid, or building their own utility-scale solar farm, the “yes” and “no” decisions are in house, rather than negotiated with utility giants.

Running your own municipal electric utility brings “yes” and “no” decisions in-house

It does help that they have a full time Sustainability/Alternative Energy Coordinator on staff. Tami Rothery has been researching, promoting, and coordinating grants especially for the Solar+Storage project. In my column on

“What to do with a climate action plan”

I mentioned that Columbus, Wisconsin (pop 4,991) received a single $40,000 grant from its energy wholesaler. Faced with the fact that it was the only money they had for climate change and it was a one-time offer, they used the money to fund a new employee charged with economic development+sustainability. The newhire recruited companies with sustainable policies to relocate to Columbus and found more sources of funding. Columbus has now made it a permanent position. Clearly having a full time staff member not only increases options available to the elected officials, it also provide the women-hours needed to put in successful grant proposals, bringing in external funding.

READ MORE: Kelowna community group urges the city to do more in the fight climate change

Tami points out that Summerlands activities predate both her and her staff position: the ball got rolling in the 2011 Community Climate Action Plan, and was given momentum in the Council’s 2015-2019 strategic plan. “Our community has long recognized the value of climate action as well as renewable energy to our local economy and residents”. Because Summerland residents are committed, they elect a similarly committed council. Tami points out “(T)he real kudos belong to Council. They set the direction of the community, establish the budgets”.

”(T)he real kudos belong to Council. They set the direction of the community, establish the budgets”

Even with the focus on building the solar+storage project, Summerland is busy on other fronts. They are waiting to hear back about $575,000 worth of funding for electric vehicle chargers. Future work includes finalizing the “corporate” (which here means “local government”) climate action plan, doing a risk and vulnerability assessment that includes risks related to climate change, and are looking to implement the actions in a newly-updated community energy and emissions reduction plan. The Okanagan is a special place, it could be at the forefront of Canada’s energy revolution. We just need more towns emulating Summerland.

READ MORE: Peachland looks to hire climate action coordinator

Is your Okanagan town doing great things with their climate action plan? Or do you have a clean energy boondoggle? Tell me about it at Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: The road we didn’t take

About Kristy Dyer:

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Roots and Blues online festival live tonight on Black Press Media

Tune in to Black Press Media to watch the festival live Aug. 14, 15 and 16

Okanagan COVID-19 case count growth slows

BCCDC data shows a stark contrast between Okanagan-specific numbers released in July and August

Okanagan connection to Canada’s favourite TV dog

There’s a voice, that keeps on calling me. Down the road, that’s… Continue reading

Okanagan Correctional Centre outbreak due to training session: Interior Health

Interior Health said in a statement the staff members were at an off-site training session

Morning Start: A Texas law allows astronauts to vote from space

Your morning start for Friday, August 14, 2020

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Shuswap dragon boaters honour teammate’s cancer-fighting accomplishments

Friends Abreast team provides special recognition outside Salmon Arm hospital

‘She’s my baby’: Lake Country man searches for missing parrot

The Senegal parrot escaped from her cage Wednesday evening in the Carr’s Lake area

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

B.C.’s fuel suppliers to publish prices to provide accountability: minister

Bruce Ralston says move will ensure industry publicly accountable for unexplained prices increases

North Okanagan-Shuswap school district answers return-to-class questions

School District 83 shares current information ahead of its full safety plan

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

87-year-old Salmon Arm woman sinks hole-in-one

The Aug. 12 ace is Helen Bobbitt’s fourth.

Most Read