June 19, 2014
Building on a successful pilot project last year, Manitoba Hydro announced a new Power Smart program that will see the utility finance the installation of over 1,200 geothermal systems over the next three years in a unique partnership with First Nations, Manitoba Hydro, the provincial government, the Manitoba Geothermal Energy Alliance and Aki Energy.
The Community Geothermal Program is being launched using Pay As You Save (PAYS) financing. Under PAYS, Hydro provides the upfront capital cost of the installation based on the value of the energy saved over the lifespan of the equipment. Manitoba Hydro's commitment will bring total investment in the program - including customer contributions paid back to the utility through PAYS - to nearly $19 million by 2017, saving more than 20 gigawatt hours of electricity and creating good jobs in First Nation communities.
Under last summer's pilot project, Chief Peguis Construction and Fisher River Builders converted 113 homes on the two Interlake First Nations to geothermal with a total capital investment of over $1.6 million. The capital cost is being paid for by utility bill reductions, estimated in the first year to be nearly $150,000. The impact on residents was impressive.
Despite record cold temperatures this winter, Fisher River Cree Nation resident David Hart had the lowest heating bills he has ever seen. "I looked at my Hydro bill in February and I couldn't believe it," said Hart. "I thought there must have been a mistake!" In total, Hart saved over $195 compared to his bill in February 2013.
"Our government is committed to helping Manitoba families and businesses invest in energy efficiency to keep their hydro and gas bills among the lowest in North America," said Stan Struthers, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro.
"Converting electrically heated homes on First Nations to geothermal lowers energy bills for residents, provides training opportunities for young people, and creates good jobs in the community."
"Helping our customers use energy more efficiently to control their energy costs is important to us," said Scott Thomson, President and CEO of Manitoba Hydro, "and we believe that in the right setting, geothermal heating and cooling is a great way to do just that. Our head office in Winnipeg utilizes this same technology on a much larger scale, and we have had excellent results in terms of efficiency, lower energy costs and enhanced building comfort."
This year the Aboriginal social enterprise Aki Energy is expanding the project to Long Plain First Nation, Sagkeeng First Nation and Chemawawin First Nation, targeting 250 installations in the next six months for a total capital investment of $3.7 million. Nineteen students from those communities are completing a five-week training program and will receive certification as geothermal designers and installers from Manitoba Geothermal Energy Alliance. In total, 40 people will be employed full time this year installing geothermal in their own communities.
"The Peguis First Nation is proud to be an international leader in the green economy on First Nations. It's been an amazing first year and we are keen to see more green growth," said Glenn Hudson, Chief of Peguis First Nation.
"We are pleased to be growing our local economic activity by installing geothermal in our community," said David Crate, Chief of Fisher River First Nation. "The jobs and environmental improvement represent the kind of business development that we want to see now and in the future."
Manitoba Hydro is committing to aggressive new energy efficiency targets that will see investments in the utility's Power Smart programs more than double over the next three years. These investments will save customers $157 million in 2017, bringing total cumulative savings to $1.4 billion since the Power Smart program was launched.
In total, cumulative energy savings since the inception of Power Smart will equal 905 megawatts of capacity and 3,358 GW.h of electricity by 2017 - equivalent to about half the electrical needs of all residential and commercial customers in the city of Winnipeg. The new plan also aims to reduce natural gas use by about 32 million cubic metres over the same period and 133 million cubic metres combined with past efforts - equivalent to twice the natural gas needs of Brandon's commercial and residential customers.
The goal is to ensure Manitobans continue to enjoy the benefits of reliable, renewable hydroelectricity at some of the lowest rates in Canada, while minimizing their overall energy costs.
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