Solar Colwood looks at breaking boundaries

The idea would mean solar hot water heaters would be available to all homeowners in the Capital Regional District

Solar Colwood is looking to expand both its borders and its deadline in the hopes of moving more product.

If proposed changes are passed by both Colwood and Natural Resources Canada, the primary source of funding for Solar Colwood, grants for the solar hot water heaters would be available to all homeowners in the Capital Regional District.

Uptake for the solar hot water heater grants has been slow in Colwood. Only 34 grants out of an available 880 have been used. On a per capita basis, the success is greater than that of Solar B.C. or any other community in Canada, organizers say, but still well below targets.

“We always knew (targets) were high,” Coun. Judith Cullington said. “We’ve done very well in all of the other aspects of the program, but this is the area where we’re clearly falling below targets and so how do we do a better job of putting our solar installers to work?”

At a joint meeting of the city’s transportation and public infrastructure and financial and administration committees the proposal was approved to go before council.

“I’m very excited about these changes,” Cullington said. “I think it’s a terrific way to go; I think it would benefit people throughout this region.”

The changes would also see the deadline for the program extending to March 2015.

The main reason for the extension is to give the under-construction Capital City Centre in Colwood the opportunity to get in on the deal. The development has been a part of the program since the beginning and about $500,000 of the total $3.9 million dollar grant from Natural Resources Canada was allocated for the project.

“The timing is just too tight if we don’t extend for a year,” Cullington said. “If the timing doesn’t work, the money gets left on the table and Capital City Centre doesn’t get the benefit from it.”

Solar Colwood has been ongoing since June 2011. The city has spent a total of $8,366 so far, with further in-kind time from staff valued at $41,002. Cullington said the changes would come at no further cost to the city.

“We’re very conscious that we want to do this in a way that has no impact on the Colwood taxpayer,” Cullington said, adding “there’s no impact on other municipalities.”

With the proposed changes approved by the committee, council took a look at them Monday night to decide whether to endorse the move. If approved by council, the changes will then have go to Natural Resources Canada for its approval.

Some initial conversations have shown that NRCan is willing to look at the idea, but requires a formal proposal before it can go ahead.

Cullington has hopes the changes will come into effect sometime this summer.

Although it would join the project as a partner, the CRD can approve its contribution at the staff level, said Cullington, and the changes won’t have to come before its directors for a vote. CRD staff will be providing in-kind time.