May 14, 2019 8:31 pm

Bridgewater, N.S., wins Smart Cities Challenge, earns $5M towards reducing energy poverty

The Town of Bridgewater has won Infrastructure Canada's Smart Cities Challenge.

Jennifer Grudic/Global News

A town of 8,700 people in Nova Scotia will be the recipient of $5 million from Infrastructure Canada after winning the Smart Cities Challenge for their proposal to reduce energy poverty.

The Town of Bridgewater was one of five finalists in the challenge’s $5-million prize category — and on Tuesday afternoon, the town found out they won.

Bridgewater’s mayor, David Mitchell, was in Ottawa to receive the prize. He told Global News that the feeling of shock was quickly overtaken by pride.

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“It’s that swell of emotion you have when you know what [$5 million] is going to do for your people,” he said in a phone interview from Ottawa.

READ MORE: Guelph, Wellington County win $10M prize in Smart Cities Canada Challenge

The town’s Energy Poverty Reduction Program is designed to lift its residents out of energy poverty, an issue that 38 per cent of Bridgewater households currently experience due to aging, leaky homes, as well as high energy and transportation costs.

Energy poverty is when a household spends 10 per cent or more of its after-tax income on energy. That includes fuel and electricity needed for the home as well as the costs of transportation.

The Energy Poverty Reduction Program is to reduce the energy poverty rate by 20 per cent by 2025, putting them on track to reduce its overall energy poverty rate in half by 2028.

Mitchell said the town planned to carry out the program regardless of whether they won the challenge or not, but that Tuesday’s news and the accompanying funding will allow them to complete the project within a generation.

READ MORE: Rising energy costs and poverty collide in rural Ontario (2016)

And the model isn’t just applicable to the Town of Bridgewater, Mitchell said. He believes it’s something that can be scaled for Nova Scotia and other regions of Canada, if not the world.

“We were [at] a conference in April in Spain where we heard from the former-Spanish ambassador to the EU,” Mitchell said.

“[He] singled out the Bridgewater plan as the path forward to lifting the European Union out of energy poverty. That’s 500 million people that could use the Energize Bridgewater plan.”

WATCH: Edmonton a finalist in $50M Smart Cities Challenge

Mitchell says the team will celebrate their win, but the work is just beginning in Bridgewater.

“Now [our team] has to get right back at it,” he said.

“The rubber has to hit the road and I know they’re excited as I am about that.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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