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Jean Marie River gets energy-aware
Monthly raffle, building retrofits boost awareness of electricity usage

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Monday, May 2, 2016

Those who see the face of a disgruntled emu staring out from a poster around town should take it as a reminder to monitor electricity usage.

The emu, a clever twist on Electricity Monitoring Unit (EMU), refers to a recent initiative from the Arctic Energy Alliance to help Jean Marie River residents be more aware of the amount of power they use around their home.

Part of that is a monthly raffle for energy-saving prizes, where residents have to answer a question that requires them to interact with their EMU.

The monitor reads data from special household meters and ties into a pilot project launched in March, which saw those meters installed on 28 households in the community as well as 15 commercial buildings.

This month, the question for residents is what uses the most electricity in their house at one time.

"The whole point of these monitors is community engagement," said Teresa Chilkowich, the regional energy community co-ordinator for Arctic Energy Alliance.

"(That) goes toward the purpose of better understanding our electricity usage and demand."

Chilkowich and her colleague Tom Gross were in Jean Marie River from April 11 to 13 to finish distributing the EMUs to community members who had not yet received one.

"Community engagement is more effective when (residents) have an increased awareness of their situation," Chilkowich said.

"These EMUs bring something more relevant to people's everyday experience."

That is the point of the monthly draw as well - to keep residents engaged and curious about their energy usage.

The bar for engagement has already been set by the band itself which responded to the organization's call-out for energy audits.

That led to six buildings being audited: the band office, the fire hall, the water treatment plant, public works and two garages. Those audits identified ways the buildings could improve their energy usage.

This month, Jean Marie River finished retrofitting its community government buildings to align with recommendations from the audit, installing LED lighting and programmable thermostats in the buildings.

Chilkowich said the Arctic Energy Alliance targets diesel-fuelled communities for those audits. Smaller, more remote communities usually have higher power costs, so savings from retrofits can go a long way.

The Arctic Energy Alliance's raffle will feature a different question each month with answers due at the end of every month. Answers can be submitted to the band office, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation office in Fort Simpson or the Arctic Energy Alliance office at Dehcho First Nations.

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