As a seaside town, Saint Andrews knows it will be directly affected by climate change. St. Stephen is looking for new, cleaner energy sources and job creation projects with the decommissioning of the Milltown Generating Station.
Both communities are working toward solutions as part of the QUEST New Brunswick Smart Energy Communities Accelerator Pilot Program. Nine small New Brunswick municipalities and one First Nations community are taking part in the program.
QUEST Canada is a national non-profit that supports communities in Canada on their pathway to net-zero. Since 2007, they have been facilitating connections, empowering community champions and influencing decision-makers to implement efficient and integrated energy systems that best meet community needs and maximize local opportunities.
Kev Sumner, St. Stephen’s Director of Community Services, says the program’s information, goals, and strategies will help the town develop and execute clean energy plans that also help facilitate economic development.
“It would help us in our long term aims for saving energy, not just through facility management, but across many gamuts of the municipality,” says Sumner.
Saint Andrews Councillor Marc Blanchard says the town became involved through the efforts of Paul Nopper, the Town Clerk and Environmental Advisory Committee member.
“There has been a move for a while in [Saint Andrews] towards greening the town infrastructure or reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Blanchard.
He says the town takes climate change very seriously because it will be affected by the effects of climate change as a seaside community.
“Sea-level rise and more intense storms and storm surges associated with that flooding, those are all things that have impacted Saint Andrews and we will continue to be impacted by them in the future,” says Blanchard.
QUEST supports and guides the communities through the Accelerator Plan, helping them identify what areas they want to focus on and provide them with the expertise to follow through with their plans.
The planning process consists of interactive workshops focused on the development and implementation of community energy plans, monthly touchpoint meetings with QUEST and fellow participants, and access to customized services and tools.
Sumner says they’re taking an integrated, big-picture look at the needs and opportunities across the community.
“We were seeing this through the entire municipality [of St. Stephen] in future planning, whether it be subdivisions or industrial parks,” says Sumner. “If we are planning these projects, we want to know we’ve got the resources available from the accelerator initiative.”
The communities and their stakeholders have entered Stage 3 of the program, where they concentrate on mapping and developing their Community Energy Plan, with an emphasis on collaboration and local engagement.
“The program is helping us develop an action plan or a roadmap,” Blanchard said. “For a town of our size, it’s beneficial to have that expertise and be able to focus our attention, efforts and resources – that to me is the big advantage of the program.”
He adds they’re looking at different areas in Saint Andrews where their Community Energy Plan could have the most impact, accounting for limited resources within the community.
We don’t have any heavy industry in town, so the focus is on energy consumption,” he says. “The plan looks at where we can find efficiencies or where we can take other measures to protect and conserve energy.”
The program is especially enticing to St. Stephen due to the decommissioning of the Milltown Generating Station, which was a significant employer for the area. By investing in clean energy sectors, they are building new industries and sectors of economic development.
One example is St. Stephen’s partnership with Eastern Charlotte Waterways on an electric vehicle sharing program. Sumner is also working on a tender for an electric hybrid vehicle service for the Community Services Department.
“We’ve looked at how we can improve the usage of our vehicles, rather than them sitting in storage for three to six months,” said Sumner. “There’s electric and hybrid vehicles out there and it saves a lot of energy in the long run. We’ll use that as our little pilot project – see how that runs and we’ll go from there.”
Blanchard says the QUEST program is an opportunity to get buy-in from the people of Saint Andrews.
“Through education and partnerships, we can bring the rest of the community along with us,” he says. “[But] I think the community, by and large, is supportive of the direction that we’re taking.”
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