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Putting energy into energy program

Hydro working to get more homes involved

TODD Laliberty's basement is ground zero for Manitoba Hydro's aggressive new three-year energy-efficiency push aimed at selling more electricity to the Americans.

Laliberty's part in Hydro's renewed Power Smart plan, to double its original goal to conserve power, is to bring 20,000 more low-income homes up to today's standards.

The North End home, built in 1900, will see its basement insulated and insulation added to his exterior walls and attic -- at no cost to the owner -- over the coming months.

"This is an incredible program to actually have, to get this done," Laliberty said. "The less energy that we use, for every house, do you know what that does to our environment?"

Laliberty estimates the improvements will save him between $500 to $800 a year on heating costs, which ballooned during last winter's cold weather.

How others can participate in Hydro's Affordable Energy Program was unveiled Thursday outside Laliberty's home. It offers eligible low-income participants a free home-energy audit, free insulation upgrades, pipe wrapping, low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, energy-efficient lighting and free weatherstripping and caulking.

Lloyd Kuczek, Hydro's vice-president of energy conservation, said the immediate goal is to get more people enrolled in the program in Winnipeg and Brandon. It will see Hydro employees going door to door in targeted areas in both cities to sell the merits of conservation upgrades.

Kuczek said Hydro has only enrolled 8,000 people in the program in the six years it has been offered. The target is 20,000 homes. "To me, that's an awareness issue, so we're going to take a more aggressive approach," he said.

The next phase of the new Power Smart program will see the installation of more efficient and longer-lasting LED light bulbs in city streetlights, a change happening in other cities such as Ottawa.

"We do think it could use a kick-start here, to get more of it happening sooner," he said.

The benefits to more conservation are simple, Kuczek said.

On the electricity side, he said the less being needlessly used in homes like Laliberty's or for streetlights means the more power Hydro can sell to the Americans, who are facing tougher federal emissions restrictions for their coal plants and need new sources of power. That translates into more revenue coming into Hydro's coffers and less pressure on the utility to seek higher rates for all residential and industrial users.

The Public Utilities Board recently approved a 2.75 per cent hike retroactive to May 1, less than the 3.95 per cent boost Hydro wanted.

Hydro said its energy-efficiency push is aimed at saving ratepayers $157 million in 2017 and 411 megawatts of electricity -- the equivalent of twice the capacity of the new Wuskwatim generating station near Thompson.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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