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City receives federal funding for Community Energy Plan

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The good work done by community energy manager Steven Sobering will continue, as the City of Dauphin received a $125,000 federally funded Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
Sobering explained the city is developing a Community Energy Plan (CEP) in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the community.
“For the last two years, I’ve been working with Manitoba Hydro, reducing its energy use, through PowerSmart,” he said.
“What this grant is going to do, is allow us to continue that effort for about another year.”
The CEP will include a baseline GHG emissions inventory, Sobering said, set emissions reduction targets and outline actions to reduce GHG emissions and energy consumption at both the corporate and community levels.
Once Dauphin has a baseline, he said, the project will not only focus on energy consumption, but also fleet services, such as vehicles and equipment, plus active transportation.
With a baseline, Sobering added, the CEP will compare Dauphin to other communities, to create benchmarks and then identify opportunities.
“The whole purpose is clean air, clean water and sustainable practices,” he said.
“And it ties perfectly into the existing efforts to be a sustainable community.”
The long-term goal is to achieve a net zero community, Sobering explained, as former Mayor Eric Irwin had a vision to move the city toward generating as much energy as it consumes.
He pointed out Dauphin won the Winter 2017 Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award and the goal is to continue with, and add to the successes already realized in the community.
The province will be introducing a carbon tax and Sobering wants the city to be at a point where it can use it to the best advantage.
In addition to energy use and GHG reductions, he said, the CEP will also focus on mitigation of the effects of water run-off, flooding and erosion.
With the carbon tax, Sobering noted, there may be a way for producers to profit when incorporating best practises for water management.
“Whatever those practises are, that’s another thing we can help identify through this,” he added.
It is a direction much of the world is taking, he said, in terms of long-term adaptation strategies, designed to reduce the risk of climate change-related impacts.
“I think any time you incorporate efficiencies, it also equates to more profit,” Sobering said, noting once the GHG reduction plan is created, it offers the city an opportunity to access further funds for larger capital projects.
There is funding out there for brown field reclamation, he added, which assists with the remediation of contaminated land.
A prime example is in the centre of the city, Sobering said, referring to the Forman Ford property destroyed by fire several years ago.
With the FCM grant funding, the city will set a one-year timeline with a list of tasks.
‘Basically we’re developing a formal plan where we can identify the opportunities and then the next step would be acting on those opportunities,” he said.
Depending on the size and scope of some of the opportunities, Sobering said, the city may start some of them, with larger projects moving to a long term schedule.
Sobering also anticipates there may be some municipal policies created, as a result of these initiatives.
During his two years as a community energy manager, Sobering has been developing a body of knowledge or expertise of energy use, offering support on various local projects.
With the additional year from the FCM grant, he will have the opportunity to investigate options, cost it out, determine what the investment would be and calculate an estimated return on that investment.
“To provide decision-makers with the information they need to make responsible choices,” he explained.
In the last two years, direction from the community energy manager has resulted in the participation of many businesses in several energy reduction programs.
It is not as easy for Sobering to determine similar involvement from the residential community, as he does not have access to that information, but information shared by PowerSmart showed a 400 per cent increase in residential participation in programs for insulation and affordable energy reduction programs.
As Sobering works with the FCM grant, he will continue his relationship with Manitoba Hydro, sharing resources and information.
Dauphin applied for the FCM grant in early 2018.
City manager Brad Collett noted the grant was the result of a push by Irwin, as he saw the big picture and hoped that by obtaining this grant, it would open the door to future, larger grants for Dauphin, related to climate change initiatives.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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