Enabling Communities with Energy Efficiency Advocates

Webinar on September 16, 2022

As an enabling strategy, the Community Energy Efficiency Program, and Indigenous Community Energy Efficiency Program offer financial and technical support for municipalities and First Nation communities to hire an Energy Efficiency Advocate.  The Advocate works directly with Efficiency Manitoba program staff and technical experts who assist with identifying energy efficiency opportunities, making use of their programs, and developing a long-term energy efficiency plan for the community.


  • Amy Tuck, Indigenous Programs Lead, Efficiency Manitoba


  • Allison Mostowich, Director of Engagement, Efficiency Canada


Allison: Welcome again. My name is Allison Mostowich I’m the Director of Engagement at Efficiency Canada. I am joining you from Calgary, Alberta, home of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Tsuut’ina, the Stoney Nakota nations, the Metis nation region 3, and all the people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

While we are a remote workplace, Efficiency Canada is based at Carleton University, which is located in the traditional unceded territories of the Algonquin nation. So before we get started just a reminder to everybody that our guest speaker will present for about 20 minutes, and then we will open the floor to questions.

So if you look at the bottom of your screen, there is a QA box. Then we’ll just ask you to put all of your questions in the Q &A box. And there’s also an up vote function. So if you like a question that somebody’s asked, hit the like button and that’ll make sure the question gets asked quicker. I try to prioritize the questions that have more likes, just so we get to the really good ones.

 So we do have a hard stop at 1245 respecting important meetings, like lunch for everybody here, on the Eastern time zone anyways. So we may not be able to get to all the questions, but Amy, if you are comfortable leaving your contact information or Art, then I’m sure, people would love to chat at the end if we can’t get to their question.

So with that today we have Amy Tuck, who is the Indigenous Programs Lead at Efficiency Manitoba. So they are here to talk to us about their community energy efficiency program, an indigenous community energy efficiency program. So with that please join me in welcoming Amy and Art, who is her backup man and technology master. Over to you, Amy.

Amy: Thank you. Good morning, Allison. Before I start, I would just like to acknowledge that Efficiency Manitoba is on Treaty 1 territory, the home of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Ojibway-Cree, Dakota, and Dene people.

And the Heartland of the Metis Nation. So thank you for that and to get started. Allison introduced me I am Amy Tuck I am the lead for Efficiency Manitoba’s Indigenous/community and income- based programs. I’ve not done one of these before, so we just put together some information that we thought would be interesting for you to hear.

For those that don’t know, Efficiency Manitoba is the crown corporation which became our roll April 1st, 2020. And with our first plan, we put out the community energy efficiency program. So this is an enabling strategy that offers municipalities financial and technical support. But we also give so that financial support is to hire an energy efficiency advocate. So really the role of the energy efficiency advocate is to create an implement a community energy efficiency plan, and we provide technical guidance, program expertise – Really the goal of this for us is to actually increase participation in Efficiency Manitoba’s programs.

So Efficiency Manitoba currently has over 40 programs in the market. And what we’ve seen through our energy efficiency time is we’ve, a lot of the times, focus on residential, focused on industrial focused on commercial, but there hasn’t been a lot of focus here in Manitoba, on the community as a whole.

And so really that’s why this enabling strategy, we’re really excited to talk about it. So I’m going to give you a few examples of what we’re doing, we’ll start with Selkirk. We’re really looking at trying to be creative with what we’re doing here, recognizing this is unprecedented times and we need to try to be flexible and really how can we encourage energy efficiency and sustainability and bring everyone in and meet them where they’re at.

So the first community that participated in our steep program is the city of Selkirk. So they are an ideal size for us to work with because they have a large enough residential commercial and industrial base. And they were a really good municipality to start with as they already have a lot of sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives on the go. So for us, it was really a natural fit. Like they’re what we would consider your ideal community to work with. They’re large enough. They’ve got industry. And as a town, they are really in really excited about sustainability and they have a lot of initiatives on the go.

And so for us natural fit, like I said, and we’ve had an energy efficiency advocate in place now I think for about a year. And their goal really is to talk to citizens, talk to businesses increase energy efficiency, awareness. And like I said, drive participation to our programs.

Now on the flip side we have, a small municipality such as Hamiota and they’re a municipality that really needs a lot of support to move their energy efficiency initiatives along. And so that’s another reason why these enabling strategies are so important so that we can bring energy efficiency and sustainability to the forefront and help these municipalities where they might not get that help, or they might not know where to start. And so really for us we help them, guide them along with that. And again, like I said, we’re trying to be really flexible. What might work for Selkirk with the population of 10,000 might not work for Hamiota.

So here we have a part-time economic development officer who is acting as the energy efficiency advocate, but why this is also a great fit is, they have that economic development background and it can really play well into energy efficiency initiatives. Another Innovative partnership that we have going on through our community energy efficiency program is working with Eco-West and three bilingual municipalities in Manitoba.

So this is really more of a cohort approach where, these municipalities share commonalities of language and demographics. And what we saw here is with the benefit of using a third party is that they don’t need the same level of training or understanding of sustainability and energy efficiency.

And they were able to hit the ground running and really build on a lot of those initiatives that the municipalities were already working on. So this is a really exciting one too because we’re able to work with three municipalities at once. And how we also got innovative is, the populations aren’t that large, they didn’t each warrant their own energy efficiency advocate, but then working together and sharing that advocate will be able to bring benefits to all three of those municipalities.

And then our last community energy efficiency program participant is the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. And so this is interesting in that it is not what you would categorize as a community energy efficiency program participant. It’s not a municipality, it’s a Chamber of Commerce. So again, we were really looking at innovative ways of Trying to create participation in our programs while bringing in that culture of conservation and bringing sustainability, climate change, energy efficiency to the forefront.

And this is just new. So we haven’t been doing this particular partnership very long. It is still brand new, but why it is interesting is we’re considering, the membership of the Chamber of Commerce, of 2000 businesses, a community. And so having an energy efficiency advocate on the ground, who is dedicated to those chamber members provides them access to someone who can tell them how can they lower their energy bills, what can they do to be more sustainable and combat climate change. It helps them organize their goals and commitments towards energy efficiency and sustainability. So this is a two year position, like all of the energy efficiency advocate positions.

They’re all two years, we provide two years of funding. And this one is just getting started and we’re really excited to see where this one can go, because like I said, it’s not our typical work with the community. It’s a chamber. And if this, pilot works, then maybe there is an opportunity to have a champion with another chamber of commerce within Manitoba.

So that really sums up what we’re doing for CEEP, our community energy efficiency program. Again, we are two years in and we are currently in our intake period for the next round of municipalities who wanna participate. So then that brings us to our indigenous community energy efficiency program.

So this is again, another enabling strategy. Working with First Nation communities. We again are providing funding for two years to provide an energy efficiency advocate in First Nation communities. So I’ve been working with First Nation communities for about 10 years. And the thing that we hear all the time is not that there is a lack of capacity, but we really need to help enhance the capacity.

And so this is the perfect enabling strategy to enhance that capacity in First Nation communities that can provide support and resources and help them with that energy efficiency advocate and really look at energy use and how to bring down those bill savings. Goals of this program: reduce energy use in the community; develop an understanding of energy use and requirements; identify energy, saving opportunities in communities; and set energy efficiency, goals, and encourage long term sustainability and help them develop an action plan to achieve that.

The communities that we work with, they know they wanna reduce their bills. They know that they use 20 to 30% more energy in a residential home than off reserve and how can we help them? And so this is helping enhancing that capacity to help First Nations reach their goals.

Back in October, 2019, Manitoba had a really horrible snowstorm. And those that were most adversely affected were our First Nation communities. And there were communities who were without power for over two, up to three weeks. And that is something that we’re hearing all the time too, is how can first nations improve their resiliency to climate change?

Because we know that this is what we’re going to see more and more. And so that’s, again, one of the other great benefits of having this program and helping communities develop their own plan. So we had our first application intake period September 1st, 2021. And we invited all 63 First Nation communities in Manitoba to participate.

Not really knowing if we would be able to support them all. We quite honestly, were only thinking we were maybe going to do three the first year. However, of the 63 First Nation communities in Manitoba, we had 11 communities apply and 11 communities that were funding, which is a pretty big win for us that we put this program out there hoping that there would be interest and there was. So that’s almost 20% of our First Nations in Manitoba that we are providing an energy efficiency advocate or funding for an energy efficiency advocate and that dedicated support where we can help them reach their energy efficiency goals.

And we also, to supplement that, we actually have dedicated First Nation and Indigenous programs with that in mind, like how do we work with these communities and have them go through our programs? Not just our dedicated First Nation and Indigenous programs, but other programs as well.

So that energy efficiency advocate is really there to be that champion. And even come back to us and say, Hey, that program that you have. That doesn’t really work well for our community. And this is what we’re seeing, and this is what would work better for us. And it really provides an opportunity for ongoing feedback and helps us for program implementation and design.

And so there’s really a lot of benefits for having this community champion in these First Nation communities. So outside of the 11 First Nations that we’re providing funding for, we also are working with the Manitoba Metis Federation. So the Manitoba Metis Federation is the democratic government for Manitoba Metis, the Red River Metis.

And so we’re working with them as well, where we are funding an energy efficiency advocate. And so they’ll be servicing all of Manitoba. And all of the Metis citizens within the province. So what we have for them and what the energy efficiency advocate offers are our Metis specific programs.

So we have two Metis specific programs, or Metis energy efficiency offers, and our Metis small business program. So that’s really what we’re doing here at Efficiency Manitoba for our community based programs. Again, the goal is to drive participation through our 40 energy efficiency programs, initiatives, and offers.

And we’re really excited to see how this is going to play out for us to really measure. The way we’re measuring this is, are we seeing increased participation in programs in these areas where there’s an energy efficiency advocate? What’s the engagement like with residences? Are our businesses participating? And those are really going to be our key performance indicators of the success of this.

Allison: Awesome. Thanks so much, Amy. Okay, let’s talk about how the funding actually supports these different energy efficiency advocates. So do the communities hire the advocates with your funding or does the program hire and assign them to communities? Can you tell us a little bit how that works?

Amy: Oh, for sure. It is completely community and municipality led, so they hire who they think is the best fit for their community or their municipality with our funding. The support that we provide is, tell them these are the duties that we think they’ll have to perform. And these can be some of the questions that you ask in your interview. So we provide that kind of support, but really it’s ultimately up to the communities and the municipality. We really want it to be led by them. We don’t think it would be as impactful if we said:

“Here, this is who’s coming to your community to do that.” That’s that’s not how you bring a community together and that’s not what we do. Take our money and hire who you think is best.

Allison: Yeah. Amazing. Yeah, that really is community driven programming. So just a quick question about the funding.

So where does the funding actually come from? Is it Manitoba government? Is it federal?

Amy: It’s Efficiency Manitoba’s funding.

Allison: Yeah. Awesome. All right, let’s go to Liam’s question. The energy efficiency advocate: are they there to promote programs or support the communities to also move through Efficiency Manitoba’s programs? What’s their sort of major role?

Amy: There are a lot pieces and parts to it. It is really to develop that community energy efficiency program goals through using our programs. So really the top goal is: driving participation through our programs to help lower overall community consumption and bringing, sustainability, climate change and energy efficiency to the forefront.

It’s a tall order. We get that! There’s a lot.

Allison: I think the next two questions are quite similar. So just about the integration of these people into the community. Have you seen the communities are willing to integrate the advocates into their permanent staffing? Or are they picking up funding? What does that look like?

Amy: That is a great question, because it’s a bit of a mix of both. So we have situations where they are working in the municipality office. And that’s also part of our application, so we ask, ” how will you support the energy efficiency advocate?” We take that into consideration too. In our First Nation communities, they’re working in the band office, they’re given a laptop, they have their phone. And that can all be funded through our funding.

Or if they need additional funding, they can use additional funding as well. That’s the other thing is that we’re not saying there is only our funding. If there are other funding opportunities for them. To use for the energy efficiency advocate for other things, we welcome that.

Allison: Definitely. So this one is particularly for Ontario: Have you seen any other programs that sort of offer this energy advocate approach?

Amy: I have, and this was born a bit out of one of our programs, it’s our lower income program, our energy efficiency assistance program. We’ve been using an energy efficiency advocate in neighborhoods with higher incidence of lower income.

And so really using that community based approach, having an energy efficiency advocate, working with the local neighborhood renewal corporation, that’s what we were doing. And so really it’s taking that, but just at a whole municipality or community level.

Allison: Yeah. And it’s similar to Empower Me.

So it sounds like it’s a little bit of strategic energy management, but it’s a lot bigger than that. So where do those technical elements come in versus the community elements and how would it differ from your typical traditional strategic energy management program?

Amy: So really we have a number of technical staff. And so with the energy efficiency advocate, if they have questions, if they have a building envelope question, if they have, a question about lighting, we provide them and match them up with our technical resource, recognizing that they’re not there to be an energy advisor.

So we aren’t expecting our energy efficiency advocates to have all of the technical knowledge. That’s not the role. So I wanna be clear about that too. Because we’re not expecting someone to come into this role and then, be an engineer. So really that comes from us.

Linking them with our technical staff and then someone else in the community who might have a question about their building. And it’s really having that conduit right into Efficiency Manitoba, and right into our technical teams and in our program teams as well.

Allison: That’s a huge differentiator. That’s so important. And that actually leads into Tammy’s question that she asked. Once they’re hired, you’re saying it’s just two years. What other additional supports training does one of these sort of energy advocates get?

Amy: Yeah, we train them on all of our programs. There’s a bit of “Energy Efficiency 101”, like what’s energy efficiency. That’s the training that we do and then we support them with what’s happening in your community do we need to do marketing materials and we’ll support them with those kinds of things.

We’ll support them with a community event. We will support them in through their reporting, if they’re having problems or, challenges garnering participation and support, that’s where we’ll come in and we can help them with that. So it’s really municipality and community specific of what they need, but we’re really there to support them in whatever way that they need.

Allison: So you’re building a community of these energy advocates there. Do you bring them together ever for learnings and to share that sort of stuff?

Amy: We have and that is the goal. So for our indigenous community energy efficiency program, We’re just getting everyone hired and getting everyone started.

And our First Nation energy advisor works very closely with them and that is, something that we will be doing when the majority of them are in place. And outside of that, Efficiency Manitoba has an indigenous energy efficiency working group where we invite everyone from the 63 First Nations, the Management Metis Federation, our tribal councils and our Northern and Southern indigenous political organizations to meet, two or three times a year. To talk about all of these things. Talk about energy efficiency, talk about our programming. What are you seeing in your community what’s happening in your organization? How can we help? How can we change our programs? How can we implement differently? How can we design differently?

We also leverage that as well.

Allison: Yeah. Sounds like Efficiency Manitoba gets as much back as you’re giving in a sense. What would you say the biggest learning for you have been working with these communities? Was there something that just came outta left field and you were like, wow, I did not see that coming? Even with some of the municipalities about the way that you administer programming.

Amy: No, nothing that really surprised me. Something that I was happy to see is that people are really passionate about change in their municipality, and in their community right now. And it’s really great to see.

Just, as someone who works in energy efficiency and in the space of sustainability, It’s wonderful to see that there are so many other like-minded people out there and that they really want to affect change. And that’s just been really great for us. And just small ideas and small things that having these programs and creating this opportunity for these relationships to be built. It’s like you’re having a conversation with a friend, and they’ll say, “have you thought about this?” They feel really comfortable giving feedback to a crown corporation, which is a huge win for us.

Allison: So when you developed the program for the indigenous communities, how did you do that while considering the decolonization of the programming how it looked to indigenous communities? What was that engagement like as you were developing this program?

Amy: That’s a good question.

Prior to starting the program, Efficiency Manitoba has a mandated stakeholder committee. And part of that is our energy efficiency advisory group. And on there, there are three indigenous organizations. And so through those relationships it was just conversations.

It is what’s happening in your community. Would this be helpful? How can we do this? And so for us, we put the program out, but then we also have this working group where everyone is invited to participate. And we talk about our programs and these are the initiatives that we’re going to launch.

What are your thoughts? So really it’s taking what we’re hearing and putting it out there. Because our first intake period was last year for ICEEP and we’re just getting the advocates now, who knows what this is gonna look like in the future. So we’re using this as well as a really powerful engagement piece.

Allison: I feel like that could be an amazing story for other program administrators to say, ” here’s the feedback we got.” And obviously it depends on the communities that you’re working with, but that’s a really powerful story to understand that this was built with communities and that’s really the only way you can do it.

I wanted to switch over to municipalities and just ask about communities. I think the term communities can be applied in so many different ways and it sounds like Efficiency Manitoba is finding some innovative ways to apply that definition. So for you guys, what does the term “community” mean? Who could it apply to, and then are there other things that you wouldn’t necessarily consider a community?

Amy: That’s an interesting one. I think for us ” community” is a really broad term. And initially when we launched the community energy efficiency program we had a definition of what a community was. They were a part of the association of Manitoba municipalities and you had to be registered with AMM and that’s what CEEP was, and you could apply if you were that. And then we really started thinking of how can we be more innovative and are there other ways to look at this? And like I said, the Winnipeg chamber of commerce we’re looking at as a community, because it’s a community of businesses.

And I think that for us we just really wanna see are there other communities, are there other municipalities that were maybe missing? And I don’t really think that we know, I guess what I’m trying to say is we thought we had a definition and then, this other idea came and we just broadened the definition. Just to try something new.

Allison: I like that. So I worked in community energy a little bit, like community energy capacity building or development, It’s astounding what some people will come at you with when they look at the definition of community, we even considered condo corporations a community where there’s a group of people.

So that’s really interesting to know that you guys are flexible on the definition of community and if it’s gonna benefit and maybe producing economies at scale at some point that would work. So that’s awesome. So we’re running down the list of questions here, where we’re getting to the end.

I just wanted to to understand more about some of the different programs that you had. When there’s all this capacity being built in these communities I think it’s easy for municipalities to get these economies of scale when you’re talking about residential, when you’re talking about businesses.

But traditionally it’s been a bit tough to define projects for people that don’t own their own house. So how are these different communities accessing your other programs when they decide there’s a program they want to go forward. Like if an indigenous community was gonna go forward with the project, like what incentives could they access?

Amy: Oh, we have dedicated and specific indigenous programs. So we have our installation and direct install program where we’re working directly with the first nation community to insulate homes, provide direct install materials, shower heads, light bulbs faucet aerators, adding smart thermostats and closed washers. And so we have these programs available that they can access. We recognize that a lot of programs out there exist in other jurisdictions as well.

And, as in our own, sometimes are required to be a homeowner. We don’t want that to be a barrier, right? So that’s why we have our own programs where we’re working with the band housing manager. And this is what the ICEEP helps with as well, is having that person in the community. So we’ll work with the community as a whole.

And all of our programs are available to everyone on reserve or off reserve.


Allison: I think that’s a really great way to, to close the question period. Perfect. Thank you so much, Amy. That was amazing.



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