The Association of Manitoba Municipalities wants to make sure the Power Smart program will continue, even if it won’t be part of Manitoba Hydro.
The creation of a separate energy efficiency agency was part of Progressive Conservative campaign promises in 2015, drawn from a 2014 recommendation by the Public Utilities Board.
In the November 2016 throne speech, the provincial government announced it would legislate “a stand-alone energy efficiency agency to help households and businesses reduce their energy needs, saving Manitobans money now and into the future.”
The announcement was met with questions from the AMM, whose members have used Power Smart to lower operating costs in municipal recreational facilities.
“This has been an issue for a number of years with our members, you know, the concern of high costs for running these rec centres, power, costs of electricity to run them and so on,” said Joe Masi, AMM executive director. “Initially, our members had been pushing for a resolution to deal with demand billing, which would be a special rate for rec facilities.
“We were just not getting anywhere with that, so we worked with Manitoba Hydro staff to develop a Power Smart program to help decrease the cost of these rec centres,” he said.
About 25 facilities participated in the program, which recommended possible energy use reduction strategies. Masi noted that older facilities were most impacted, as new facilities often have energy-saving aspects built in.
Representatives from the AMM and Crown Services Minister Ron Schuler met Feb. 23 to discuss municipal concerns, including a continued Power Smart program, with resources and staff to allow more municipalities to join.
“It’s a good program for a lot of our members. We just wanted to get an idea of where this program is going now,” Masi said.
According to Masi, the minister committed to “a full briefing” to the AMM once details of the new agency have been unveiled.
Bruce Owen, public affairs officer with Manitoba Hydro, said the company would ensure a smooth transition of Power Smart to any new agency.
“This changeover to the new entity would include the transition of successful programs such as Power Smart For Business, the program that has helped a number of businesses and recreational facilities in the province reduce their energy consumption,” he said.
Bipole III grants
Manitoba Hydro’s Bipole III Community Development Initiative was also on the agenda during the Feb. 23 meeting.
The program was established in 2010 to provide development grants for First Nations communities, local councils, municipalities, towns and villages within 40 kilometres of the line.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities has renewed efforts to include cities in the program’s eligibility, an issue first raised with the previous provincial government.
“If there’s going to be such a program, cities should be included as part of recipients for these grants,” Masi said.
In response to interview requests, a spokesperson for Minister Schuler issued the following statement:
“While the minister was pleased to meet with the AMM to discuss areas of shared interest, as a standard practice we don’t discuss the content of private stakeholder meetings.”