City of Dawson Creek
Community Energy Plan
Dawson Creek undertook an energy planning process in January 2005 to make municipal operations more environmentally and financially sustainable. The city carried out a baseline study to assess the current state of energy consumption in its buildings, infrastructure and vehicle fleet. The resulting recommendations gave rise to a number of projects that have helped the city meet its sustainability goals. Using low-voltage, high-pressure sodium street lights has reduced annual electricity consumption by 100,000 kWh and has saved the city $14,400 per year. Solar hot water systems in several municipal buildings each year offset approximately 60 GJ of natural gas and 3.3 tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions. The new purchasing policy regarding green vehicles has led to a more sustainable municipal fleet that produces eight fewer tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) per year. This will save the city more than $15,000 per vehicle over five years.
Dawson Creek, a small city with approximately 11,000 residents, is located in the northeastern region of British Columbia. Its economy is based largely on agriculture and natural gas. This project was the first large-scale investigation of the municipality's energy consumption and the first strategic plan for dealing with its environmental implications. The project showed that the residents wanted the city to be a leader in energy and climate change issues.
The city has learned from the experiences of larger communities. However, it also faces unique challenges and opportunities with its rural, northern, resource-based economy. The goal of the municipality was to account for environmental, social and economic costs and benefits in all of its decisions. Closely related to this goal is the city's integrated sustainability planning process, begun in 2006. This planning process aims to provide the city with a clear direction in community development areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water and governance.
The South Peace River region of British Columbia is known for its long hours of daylight, and Dawson Creek receives 17.5 hours of sunlight at the summer solstice. Because of the high levels of sunlight, solar technology could become one of the city's most cost-effective methods for reducing GHGs. Calvin Kruk, the mayor of Dawson Creek, is also the co-chair of BC Solar Taskforce's 100,000 Solar Roofs project, which aims to incorporate significant solar energy into the province's energy portfolio.
- The tool for purchasing green vehicles has simplified the decision-making process by allowing the city to quickly compare the full environmental and economic costs of various vehicle models. Subsequent purchasing decisions have already reduced the annual GHG emissions of the city's fleet by eight tonnes, while also saving more than $15,000 per vehicle over five years. Similar tools are being developed to establish criteria for buildings and infrastructure expenditures.
- Retrofitting street lights has reduced electricity consumption by approximately 100,000 kWh each year, imparting immediate environmental benefits. The monthly savings of $1,200, together with the savings generated by LED traffic lights, will be used to fund the recommended building retrofits. An estimated 40 per cent reduction in GHG emissions is expected from these buildings.
- Solar hot water systems at city hall and the fire hall offset over three tonnes of GHG emissions annually and replace the demand for 60 GJ of natural gas. Using these systems has reduced the city's risk from natural gas price fluctuations. The RCMP station is currently a large emitter, producing over 80 tonnes of GHG annually, so the planned solar hot water installation will immediately benefit local air quality.
- Council members and senior staff have benefited from the sustainability training offered at workshops conducted by The Natural Step, an international non-governmental organization. Municipal decision makers are now better equipped to understand and communicate sustainability initiatives.
- CONDUCT A SOLID BASELINE STUDY. There was a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the consumption data supplied by the utility companies. "In our case," says Machado, "knowing that information really motivated council and staff to be creative in finding ways to reduce energy costs and emissions."
- BUILD STRONG PARTNERSHIPS. "Partners such as The Natural Step and the Pembina Institute," Machado states, "are most helpful in first helping us to understand the process and then providing the necessary support."
- ESTABLISH GOOD INTERNAL COMMUNICATION. The city owes much of its success to the strong support council has given to energy and sustainable planning initiatives. The sustainability workshops and training encouraged this positive support.
- SOLICIT SUPPORT FROM THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT. Provincial ministries provided advice and financial support throughout the planning process. Through the Community Action on Energy Efficiency initiative, the B.C. government helped Dawson Creek and 19 other municipalities pursue efficiency targets in their buildings. The program has allowed Dawson Creek to build networks with other similarly motivated municipalities, fostering an exchange of ideas and support.
- CAPITALIZE ON PUBLIC INTEREST. The project revealed a desire for change and a citizen demand for the municipality to take a leadership role in these areas. This interest has sparked a community-wide energy planning process, which will focus on the city as a whole, rather than just on municipal operations.
Partners and Collaboration
- BC Hydro
- BC Solar Taskforce
- BC Sustainable Energy Association
- Community Energy Association
- Government of British Columbia
- Northern Lights Community College
- Pacific Northern Gas
- Peace Energy Co-op
- Pembina Institute
- The Natural Step