Environmental Issues Discussion: Energy Empowerment

On May 17, the Environmental Issues Discussion Series welcomed Rebecca Davidson of SAIT, Helen Corbett of All One Sky, and Nirmala Naidoo of Energy Efficiency Alberta to discuss Energy Empowerment.

Measures to increase the energy efficiency of our homes can save us money.  Rebecca went through a typical power bill to indicate where most of us could be saving energy – yes, there are light bulbs and appliances that use less than the others in their categories, but how much of a difference can it make?  The appliances that have the greatest consumption costs to us are clothes dryers and hair dryers.  Your power company’s website has tools to show you how your consumption compares with similar homes, and hints as to what measures you can take to reduce your consumption and power bills.  Rebecca also showed us that a large portion of our power bill is “administrative fees,” so saving money is not the only incentive.

At SAIT, Rebecca works on ways to increase the energy efficiency of new construction.   Helen at All One Sky primarily assists seniors in retrofitting their homes.  Older homes often have doors that are not well sealed or don’t have good insulation.  Sometimes fixing a single door or window can make a huge difference in the costs of heating the home, but also to the comfort of the inhabitants.

When we consider energy efficiency, it is not only for our own comfort and costs – climate change affects women around the world.   Helen discussed walking miles to get water from a well in a northern community.  When there were issues with the well, she had to decide if she would take the fouled water, or walk an extra hour to get water (and an hour or more carrying it back).  Such decisions will face more and more women around the world as climate patterns change.   Closer to home, extreme weather events cost us in terms of losses, repairs and scarcity.  As the people who make less money in society, women are disproportionately affected by these challenges.

Until June 11, the Government of Alberta is funding a point of sale discount on energy efficient bulbs, power bars, thermostats and timers.  There is also assistance for purchasing low-flow water fixtures, and bigger changes such as insulation, appliances, windows and water heaters. The program will return in the fall.  The hope is that this program will particularly reach people who could not afford to make the changes on their own.  Even if you are not able to take advantage of these purchase incentives at this time, everyone should also ensure that they file their taxes!  Filing your taxes ensures that the government has a record of your income, and energy rebate cheques have already been sent out to those who qualify by virtue of their family income.

Nirmala and Energy Efficiency Alberta also want to hear from you!  What measures and incentives would help you reduce your energy consumption?  What are the barriers to making the changes you may be interested in?  How can we spread the message and get more people involved and making those changes?  Send your comments to Krystal at krystal@womenscentrecalgary.org.

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