Low-income households in Swift Current have an opportunity to receive assistance with energy efficient upgrades through a new partnership between the City of Swift Current and SaskPower.
Councillors approved a three-year agreement at a regular council meeting on Aug. 24 to participate in SaskPower’s Energy Assistance Program.
“We have an opportunity to participate in a province-wide program that's going to do nothing but benefit people who are maybe struggling a little bit with making ends meet right now,” Councillor Ron Toles said. “I think it's a very minor cost to us, and a major influence to teach people how to be more energy efficient and not just for these three years, but to carry on into the future. … This program will end in three years, but the benefits will continue for them long afterwards.”
The program will accept a maximum of 15 applications per year from low-income households in Swift Current. The City of Swift Current will contribute $600 per household towards the program, which will amount to an annual cost of $9,000 and a total cost of $27,000 during the three-year period of the partnership.
City General Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Mitch Minken indicated the average expected cost per home for the customer education and direct installation of energy efficiency measures will be $800. The federal government is contributing 25 per cent matching funding towards this cost.
“In this case, we're just providing 75 per cent of the funding to the actual equipment that will be placed in the home,” he said during an online media briefing after the council meeting. “SaskPower is going to be doing all of the overhead marketing and running of the program. They'll be looking after the contractor, the third-party vendor that's going to be performing the work, and our portion of it basically comes down to just providing our share of the funding for the program.”
Information from Statistics Canada was used to set the number of applicants for Swift Current at 15 households per year. This data indicated that 1.4 per cent of participants can be expected to be from Swift Current in this province-wide program.
“We'll see what the rate looks like and after the three-year period see if it requires more than that or not, but at this point we're capping it at 15 per year,” he said. “SaskPower in their pilot determined the eligibility of those applicants. So they're pretty confident that will be the rate that we are. So in order to sort of protect ourselves, we capped it at the 15 per year.”
SaskPower initiated a pilot program in late 2019 that involved households in Regina and Saskatoon. The success of that initial program resulted in a decision by SaskPower to launch the Energy Assistance Program in August 2020 as a province-wide initiative. The City of Swift Current Light and Power as well as the City of Saskatoon are partnering with SaskPower to provide households in these urban areas with an opportunity to participate in the program.
“This is one of those programs that's designed to help people out,” Minken said. “In the end, it probably doesn't benefit us anywhere in terms of the utility other than, if people can afford to pay their utility bills then obviously that helps us out.”
The program can help participating households to save up to $230 per year on their utility bills through the implementation of energy efficient measures.
Home energy advisors will visit participating households to do a walk-through assessment of each home. They will provide tips to keep energy use down and they will also do free upgrades to make homes more energy efficient.
These upgrades will include items such as a smart thermostat, Energy Star LED light bulbs, a smart power strip, high-efficiency showerheads, aerators for use in a kitchen and bathroom, and a drying rack.
The eligibility criteria to participate in the program includes the income level of a household, which is related to the number of people living in a home. For example, a single-person household cannot have an income of more than $33,486. A two-person household cannot have an income of more than $41.685 and the income limit of a four-person household is $62,222.
The program is only available to households that own or rent a single-detached home or a semi-attached home, and they must live year-round in the home.
For more information about the SaskPower Energy Assistance Program and to apply, go to the SaskPower website at www.saskpower.com/energyassistance.