An evaluation of energy efficiency and its applicability to low income, inner city groups in West Broadway, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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Miko, Roselle M.
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Half of the properties in West Broadway are rental properties. West Broadway's socio-economic demographics such as high unemployment, low incomes, and higher crime rates have resulted in the City of Winnipeg's designation of "Major Improvement Area." West Broadway's local development corporation is helping revitalize housing and the neighbourhood. To date, energy efficiency has been underutilized in retrofits by low income groups and local community groups due to factors including retrofit costs, lack of targeted information, and barriers to program access. While programs and policies targeting improving energy efficiency in the residential sector exist, these programs and policies have not focused on low income groups or low income housing providers. For low income groups, improving energy efficiency is important in light of potentially rising heating bills (high energy costs) and the inability of the lower income community to afford to pay these increasingly higher energy (heating) bills. This combination of low income groups and rising energy costs presented an opportunity for examining how low income groups access energy efficiency programming. This project examined program availability across Canada, other country's energy policies and potential models that could be incorporated into the City of Winnipeg's zoning and taxation laws and sustainability goals. As well, low income groups provided feedback about improving Manitoba Hydro's existing programming. This project recommended that a variety of stakeholders assume responsibility for improving energy efficiency for low income groups. Housing providers must incorporate energy in housing they provide, the City of Winnpeg must develop ordinances such as Residential Energy Conservation Ordinances, and programmers such as Manitoba Hydro must develop accessible programming designed for low income groups. Ongoing energy efficiency education is recommended for all stakeholders. The upfront costs of completing energy upgrades be lowered for low income groups. Mechanisms to lower the upfront cost of upgrades include interest rates, energy mortgages, and community modeled savings programs. More needs to be done to connect people who most need to lower their heating bills--but cannot afford to--to programs they can afford, access, understand, and use.