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Nova Scotia Community College

NSCC is using data to reduce energy poverty

The Town of Bridgewater has made a name for itself as a community that is going above and beyond to tackle climate change and affordable housing challenges. Continuously thinking outside of the box, Bridgewater’s investments in green business ideas and research have attracted entrepreneurs and innovators with similar ambitions to work in this thriving Nova Scotian town.

Energize Bridgewater aims to reduce energy poverty and address the climate crisis in a way that includes the most vulnerable residents of the community. This visionary work presented an ideal opportunity to collaborate with the Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC) Applied Energy Research Lab. Led by Dr. Wayne Groszko, the AERLab works with industry and communities to solve energy challenges.

“Our lab has extensive experience in energy monitoring and communicating data-driven findings related to energy use,” said Dr. Groszko. “We decided to work together to develop a proof-of-concept for a residential energy management information system. This project draws on my team’s skills and aligns with the Town’s goals.”

Jessica McDonald, the Town of Bridgewater’s Energize Bridgewater Project Director, explains how an energy management information system is an important piece of supporting infrastructure and will help them meet their ambitious goals:

An energy management information system is an integrated system that collects data on energy usage in a building and provides feedback on how to manage that energy usage to save money and reduce emissions. Once fully developed and deployed, this tool will help our residents cut their energy bills and help us measure progress towards our sustainability goals.

The sophisticated system measures data such as household energy consumption, heating performance, air quality and many other vital pieces of information. What makes this project unique is that this complex system that is usually only available for larger commercial buildings will be deployed community-wide at the household level. Even more interesting is that these systems will first be offered to households in situations where it is difficult for them to pay their energy bills.

“Nova Scotia has one of the highest rates of energy poverty in the country,” said Bridgewater’s mayor, David Mitchell. “The Town of Bridgewater envisions a future for our community where energy poverty reduction strategies work together with clean and efficient energy systems to confront energy poverty at its core.”

Dr. Groszko and his team are currently testing the proof-of-concept for the energy management information system in their lab at Ivany Campus in Dartmouth. They hope to participate in field trials with beta-test users in the coming months.

“We are preparing the scope of work for the field-testing stage and for the design of a follow-up support system,” said Groszko. “This next step speaks to the relationship between the energy management information system and the residents who will be invited to make use of it. It will address questions on how to make the information understandable and actionable, how residents will know if their energy situation is improving and who to call if they have a question. We are part of the team that will be looking at these human factors.”

NSCC is excited to be working with the Town of Bridgewater on this forward-thinking project. Once it is operating, this project could be used in communities across Canada to provide residents with information on their energy usage and show them ways to save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

Adrienne Madden

Adrienne Madden

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