PEI

P.E.I. looking for Islanders to champion sustainable energy projects

The province is asking people to submit their ideas for how to make their community's energy generation self-sustaining.

‘We're looking for big vision and people who want to lead their communities to the next level’

Minister Steven Myers says they're open to receiving all kinds of ideas, from wind and solar to district heating systems and others. (vchal/Shutterstock)

The province is asking people to submit their ideas for how to make their community's energy generation self-sustaining.

The call out comes after a provincial delegation travelled to Denmark and Germany and saw communities using self-sustaining energy-generation methods. Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Steven Myers told Island Morning's Mitch Cormier this was an opportunity for the delegation to bring the concept back to P.E.I. and invest in communities and help make them sustainable.

"We're looking for big vision and people who want to lead their communities to the next level, and I think there's numerous people across Prince Edward Island who are capable of doing that for their community," Myers said. 

Government is seeking what it's calling "community champions," and it is not expecting communities to have an energy expert to execute the vision.

"If you're one of those people and you don't currently sit in a community council, come to us anyways and be the community champion. You know, you can set up a co-op or you can set up a subsidiary of your community council or any number of things to make this happen," he said.

"Right from the start, we've always said that we're gonna have to come to the table and help on the design aspect of it."

'A lot of excitement'

Myers said the initial stage is just showing interest and demonstrating vision, and the challenge for the public is to show that they understand the importance of sustainability in their communities.

The Danish island of Samsø generates more energy than they require from renewables and biomass. (Slim ALLAGUI/AFP/Getty Images)

They also want to know how these champions would use the money generated to invest back into building communities and making them successful.

"We could see a combination of wind and solar to create energy, we could see district heating systems come forward, we could see communities look at … electrifying their own community and putting electric heat inside all the homes and generating electricity themselves," said Myers.

As for how the projects would be funded, Myers said they're able to tap into the infrastructure program — and they pitched the idea to some federal ministers in December and asked for help. 

"There's a lot of excitement through the federal chains," he said. "I think we're going to have a good opportunity to put together a fund that's going to match."

European Inspiration

A release sent earlier this week said the delegation was inspired by two communities: Samsø Island in Denmark and Göttingen, Germany.

In Göttingen, the delegates toured a power plant that fuels two villages with the production of electricity and district heat from corn, and is one of 9,000 similar plants in Germany, said the release.

We're allowing the communities to lead their own charge.— Minister Steven Myers

Samsø ​​is a carbon-neutral island with a population of just under 4,000 people. The release said it reduced its heating costs by 40 per cent and created local energy businesses that don't rely on imported oil while generating more energy than the community uses. 

Samsø has four district heating plants where they burn straw or waste wood and use solar or wind power. It buys the straw from local farmers at a rate above market price and the heat generated from the burning straw goes to heat homes for a much lower price than burning fossil fuels.

Myers said the province wants to scale similar initiatives to the all of P.E.I. by breaking it up on a community-by-community basis.

"Our approach is going to be slightly different in that we're allowing the communities to lead their own charge, but if you view each community as the Samsø ​​​​​​of their own, then yes [it's] absolutely attainable," he said. 

The province plans to host community information sessions on the topic across P.E.I. in the coming weeks.

More from CBC P.E.I.

with files from Island Morning

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