West Kootenay EcoSociety executive director Montana Burgess says Castlegar is already well ahead when it comes to reducing its energy footprint. (File photo)

Castlegar already well on path to energy-wise future, says community activist

Eco-Society executive director asks council to take 100-per-cent-renewable-energy pledge

A group pushing to make West Kootenay communities greener says they’re happy with the reception they received from Castlegar city council Monday night.

“I thought it went very well,” says Montana Burgess, executive director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety. “The mayor and council asked really great questions … I thought they touched upon a lot of the really important nuances, so it was great to have that conversation with council.”

The EcoSociety was asking council join a drive to make the West Kootenay the largest geographical region in North America committed to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050.

As part of their presentation, the group delivered a 1,000-name petition of locals who support the concept. About 30 people also showed up Monday night to show approval for the idea.

“I think generally everyone is pretty supportive,” says Burgess. “The questions we heard were around how council would work with other levels of government, and utility companies. If we’re going to be increasing the amount of electricity we use, we’ll need the utilities involved.”

If council decides to adopt the policy, Castlegar would join Rossland, Slocan, Nelson, New Denver, Silverton, and the Regional District of the Central Kootenay in the initiative.

Burgess says at this point they’re asking council for a high-level commitment to the principles.

“It’s setting a vision and goal for the community,” she says. “Where all planning choices can go through this lens. And the next step is to build a plan, to figure how to achieve this.”

Fully renewable energy means that by 2050 Castlegar will be carbon-neutral in heating and cooling, electricity, transportation, and waste management in civic operations.

SEE: Castlegar council to be asked to join green drive for Kootenay energy

The EcoSociety recently received a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to work with local governments in the Kootenays to develop their plans.

Burgess notes Castlegar already has made significant strides in reducing its greenhouse gas footprint, with innovative sewage treatment techniques and high energy-efficient buildings, like city hall. She also points to the bike lanes on Columbia Avenue and hiking trails as important examples of carbon-reducing steps a city can take.

“I focused on where Castlegar is already at in the progress of transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency, and I think Castlegar is already far ahead,” she says. “As is the whole region. We’re not starting at zero.

“There are some projects that are already quite innovative. Those showpieces are so important for the community so folks can understand what energy efficiency means, and to see what renewable energy actually looks like.”

Council will consider a motion to adopt the 100-per-cent renewable pledge at its next meeting in August. In the meantime, Burgess says her group will continue to add names to its supporters list for the project. She says 15 businesses and more than 10 per cent of the city’s population have signed a petition supporting the initiative.

“When I think of Castlegar I think of so many opportunities and such a committed community for working together,” she says. “And it will be a lot of fun and really exciting to hear what experts and others in the community have for ideas on how we can do this.”

More than 100 cities in the U.S. have committed to some form of 100 per cent renewable energy, along with over 150 others around the world.

Fifty per cent of Canada’s carbon pollution falls under the policy purview of municipalities, according to the EcoSociety.

You can sign the petition (and sign up to help the cause) by visiting the group’s website, renewablekootenays.ca.

Burgess says the group will attend the August council meeting to help encourage councillors to pass a motion of support.

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