Bridgewater wins $5M from federal program to improve energy efficiency

Bridgewater, N.S., has won $5 million from the federal government to help people renovate their homes to be more energy efficient.

"It's an incredible moment for our community," said Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell.

"It's emotional. Forty 40 per cent of our community live in energy poverty and knowing what this now means for them, I'm just proud of my staff my council and my community."

Energy poverty means people are spending more than 10 per cent of their income on their energy needs like heat and light, said Mitchell.

The $5 million comes from Infrastructure Canada's Smart Cities Challenge program.

It was a competition open to all communities across the country, It asked leaders to supply a plan to improve the lives of residents through innovation and technology. 

"This provides the resources that we need to begin the process of retrofitting homes in our community to make them more energy efficient," said Mitchell. 

The town's plan is to reduce the rate of energy poverty 20 per cent by 2025. 

Robert Short/CBC

Mitchell believes Bridgewater's plan stood out because it could be adapted for municipalities of any size.

The town's energy efficiency program, called Energize Bridgewater, is up and running. Residents can already ask for an energy audit of their home and then apply to have their home renovated.

The $5 million just means that the program will be able to achieve its goals faster, said Mitchell. 

In total, the Smart Cities Challenge offered four prizes, one $5 million prize for communities with fewer than 30,000 people, which Bridgewater won.

Two prizes of $10 million for areas with populations under 500,000 went to locations in Nunavut and Ontario. One prize of $50 million for a community of any size went to Montreal.

The money will be given to each community in installments as they reach milestones with their programs. 

The winners were announced at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon in Ottawa.