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Back-up power pilot program coming to Lardeau Valley

Project will address the area’s frequent and prolonged power failures
Kootenay Lake at Lardeau. Photo: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Residents of the north end of Kootenay Lake will be taking part in a pilot program this fall designed to build energy resilience in their homes. If the program proves successful, it could be rolled out to other areas of the regional district experiencing frequent and prolonged power failures.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s Community Sustainable Living Advisory Committee (CSLAC) approved spending $6,500 on the project, which will be run by the Lardeau Valley Opportunity (LINKS) Society.

Another $50,000 will come from Area D community-directed funds.

Home consultants

The pilot program resembles the FireSmart initiative, where consultants come to a home and outline steps the homeowner can take to mitigate the threat from wildfires. In this case, the consultant will offer solutions for the homeowner to minimize the impact of the many power outages that plague the area.

The home assessments will be free to residents. Upon completion of assessment, the homeowner is eligible for a $1,000 rebate to implement the consultant’s recommendations.

The budget allows for about 20 people to take part in the pilot program this fall. But that will be an important first step, staff told committee members.

“This will give us an opportunity to understand household levels of energy grid resilience, and it is a relatively small contribution from CSLAC to gain information that could be of benefit at the regional level,” said RDCK sustainability planner Paris Marshall Smith.

Low-carbon alternatives

A staff report said the focus is supporting home resilience for critical services like well pumps (for drinking water and wildfire response), food storage, and lights.

The project will be looking at low-carbon solutions instead of diesel or propane generators.

“Implementation could result in not only more energy resiliency in emergency situations of power outages, but could also be used with tiered-pricing structures and smart homes to shave peak demand during typical operation – charging battery systems during off-peak hours and discharging to supply load during peak hours,” the report notes.

The project won’t be looking at new or untried backup power concepts, but rather seeing what known technologies – like battery packs – are most appropriate for the conditions in the Lardeau Valley.

The assessors would follow up after the work is done, to support implementation and provide any necessary maintenance training on the equipment.

“This program would prioritize those most in need considering medical, income and other quality of life metrics to those that are unable to achieve recommendations immediately due to costs and/or supply,” the report from staff notes.

The RDCK will advertise when they’re ready to accept applications from interested homeowners, likely in the fall. The inspections and assessments will take place over the winter, with review of the project in the spring of 2024.

If successful, the program could potentially be rolled out to the east shore of Kootenay Lake, the Arrow Lakes and Slocan Valley – all areas with frequent power issues, Marshall Smith noted.

That however would take funding from more sources.

The project was approved by the CSLAC committee, as it aligns with the RDCK’s plan to reduce carbon pollution in the region by half by 2030.