© Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
Tracey Allen, left, Summerside Municipal Works director Greg Gaudet, center, and Bobby Dunn, Summerside Heat for Less Program, take part in discussions about establishing an Island-wide renewable energy group.
SUMMERSIDE – Policy changes and education were two priorities that emerged from a second meeting aimed at establishing an Island-wide renewable energy advocacy group on Prince Edward Island.
Tracey Allen, a well-known advocate for renewable energy in P.E.I., in conjunction with the City of Summerside, held a session Monday involving area people involved in renewable energy, along with interested members of the public.
“We’re working to form a volunteer group, almost like an industry association,” Allen said. “We’ve the IT industry for years and bio-alliance; we’d like to have a renewable P.E.I. but not the same structure. It would be all volunteers as opposed to government-funded and making sure that it’s representative Island-wide from each of the counties.”
A small group gathered at Credit Union Place Monday night and listened while representatives from the City of Summerside discussed its wind turbine generation project and the efforts to minimize the city’s carbon footprint by reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.
The city produces more wind energy than it can consume at one time and is now offering customers thermal storage heating units and water heaters to help reduce their electrical costs.
The city’s Heat for Less program offers Summerside utility customers a guaranteed electrical rate of eight cents per kilowatt-hour for a five-year period.
Municipal Services director Greg Gaudet said this computes to paying 69 cents for a litre of oil. He said at today’s oil prices, the city’s program is offering a 30 per cent savings on current home heating costs.
While the city is making progress in renewable energy, the discussions centered around what needs to be done to improve the initiative on a province-wide basis.
“Policy change, that was the big, big thing,” Allen said following the discussions. “Whether it’s fees and tariffs or whether it’s allowing or recognizing renewable energy, the group saw a need for co-operation between the three levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal to get policies in place that recognize renewable energy and help promote it,” she said.
“They want the electric cars for both storage and infrastructure,” Allen said. “They see that as the future and policy definitely has to change in order to make a lot of the changes they see that need to be changed.”
Education was another priority the group had. They said there is a need for the public to understand that renewable energy projects are not science fiction, but are here today and will not only help the environment but also save them money.
“People don’t want to talk kilowatts,” Allen said. “They want to talk dollars and cents. What does it mean to me?”
Allen said the meeting in Summerside had a different focus than the one held previously in Charlottetown.
“What was interesting was the meeting in Charlottetown had a whole different feel to it and issues,” she said. “It’s nice that every area seems to have a different focus. When we go Oct. 26 to Fortune Bridge for the east end of the Island, they’ll probably have a whole different view too.”