Conservation on the Coast 2017 – a Year in Review

The Conservation on the Coast (COTC) program is in its third summer of retrofitting homes to make them healthy, comfortable and energy efficient. The Power Corporations’ conservation programs continue to be implemented in all three communities and the Community Energy Plan process is drawing to a close with the production of a video highlighting the COTC work.

Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Fort Albany Power Corporations are required, as a condition of their operating license, to offer conservation programs to their customers. This is no different than any other power corporation in Ontario. The Power Corporations are working with FNEI, to deliver these programs.

The most visible program is the extensive energy retrofit of 10 homes per year in each community. The energy retrofit includes: detailed air sealing of the attic floor and exterior walls; taped air barrier and foam board (R 7.5) insulation on the exterior walls and foundation; and, attic insulation (R-50).

To improve the health and safety of the occupants COTC also installs plastic, sealed at all the seams, over the earthen crawlspace floor to stop moisture migration into the house. A “fresh air machine”, otherwise known as a Heat Recovery Ventilator or HRV is installed to maintain a healthy moisture level, which automatically controls mold growth, and provides an exchange of stale house air with fresh outdoor air. Operating an HRV continuously during the heating months is one of the best ways to keep a family healthy. When installed correctly and properly maintained an HRV uses the equivalent of one 60-Watt light bulb. That is a very small energy cost to pay for continuous fresh, clean air and controlled moisture levels in order to prevent mold. Mold is simply a moisture problem. With no condensation on windows and in cold corners mold cannot grow, making homes healthier and safer.

The homes chosen for the energy retrofit work must meet the following criteria:

  • high volume air leakage, as determined from the blower door test;
  • substandard insulation levels in the attic and exterior walls;
  • must have a solid foundation;
  • and roof that is in good condition (not leaking)

COTC works collaboratively with the respective Housing Managers to coordinate any needed foundation and roof repairs before the energy retrofit work is started and with homeowners who are providing “sweat equity” in other areas of their home.

By the fall of 2017 approximately 30 homes per community will have been retrofitted, resulting in healthier indoor air, greater comfort, and lower energy bills. The plan is to retrofit an additional 20 homes in each community over the next two years (2018 and 2019). Community members who have had the air sealing and insulation work done have reported that their home is much more comfortable, the indoor air smells clean and fresh, and they are burning less wood and using less electricity to keep their home warm. One person even said they stopped burning wood as it is now cheaper (and easier) to heat with electricity!

There is a local work crew, foreman and a Conservation Coordinator in each community doing the energy retrofits. Assisting the local staff and managing the conservation programs on behalf of the three Power Corporations is Craig Nootchtai, and providing ongoing technical assistance are Rick Brant and Gail Lawlor.

The Community Energy Plan (CEP) process has been ongoing over the past three years with multiple meetings with Chiefs and Councils, the youth and community members. In general, a CEP looks at opportunities for communities to reduce the amount of energy used, ways to use energy more efficiently and to explore the viability of producing energy from renewable sources.

Emerging key themes, as noted in our community consultations, include:

  • the need to build local capacity of skilled trades
  • explore options to resolve shifting foundations
  • improve housing through the implementation of housing policy (for
  • building new homes and maintaining existing homes), and
  • explore renewable energy opportunities

COTC has addressed some of these ideas through the annual training of our retrofit crews on HRV installation and general maintenance training for housing. The COTC staff share research on different foundation systems that work with wet soils, and encourage the development of local and regional housing policies. Our programs will be integrated into the Mushkegowuk regional housing strategy, which is underway. One of the five (5) strategies is sustainable development and better-designed homes.

Our 2017 COTC calendar (our 6th annual!) featured animals of the James Bay Lowlands and a CEP message for each month.

A video was filmed in June in all three communities to address the key elements of the Community Energy Plan. The video will be shown at a community meeting in early 2018. We have seen a sneak preview and we like what we see !!

The COTC and the CEP goals are the same – “Working together to make our homes safe, healthy, comfortable, durable and energy efficient.” Good progress is being made and we look forward to even more positive results in the coming years.