BLACK DIAMOND - A small Foothills town is making yet another move towards environmental sustainability - this time by participating in a preventative plan that could benefit all communities across Alberta.
Black Diamond is among four municipalities selected to participate in QUEST’s Planning for Resilient Energy Infrastructure in Alberta project, which strives to determine how to adapt the province’s energy infrastructure to handle extreme weather events.
Also participating are Big Lake County, Ponoka County and the Town of Raymond.
Les Quinton, Black Diamond’s park and recreation manager, said the communities will meet monthly to discuss ways municipalities and utility companies can improve their energy resilience plans to mitigate the impact of prolonged power outages and energy supply disruptions.
The findings will be shared in either late 2020 or early 2021.
“What this is is it’s to build resilience for our electrical,” said Quinton. “When we have an event that knocks out our power it’s working to pre-set up something with the power companies and ourselves to minimize those occurrences and what we do in those occurrences.”
For instance, Quinton said a power outage caused by heavy frost or a storm in the middle of winter could become dangerous for residents, particularly seniors and those with mobility limitations.
“It’s to come up with more planning and organization for any type of event that knocks out power in our municipality,” he said. “Those types of events can put people at risk and we want to help to mitigate that risk before they happen.”
Quinton said some town facilities have back-up generators, such as the water and sewage treatment plant, as well as Oilfields General Hospital, but not all are protected.
The project will combine cutting-edge research on how more frequent extreme weather events disrupt the province’s energy system and the potential role of new technologies through workshops involving community stakeholders.
Quinton said Black Diamond was selected to participate because of its ongoing initiatives towards energy conservation, energy management and alterative energy. The Town has been working with Municipal Climate Change Action Centre on energy conservation initiatives since 2016, he said.
Power and phone outages during the 2013 flooding of the Sheep River made it apparent just how cut off a Town can be in the event of a weather event, said Quinton.
“Not only did it knock out the use of our bridges, it knocked out our communication system and one of our cellphone towers - we hardly had any cellphone communication,” he said. “Phone lines were down, electricity was off. We have to find ways to mitigate those risks.”
Each municipality will host a workshop, as well as participate in researching and gathering information during the yearlong program, said Quinton.
“We’ve got to put it all together in a report and try to come up with a plan,” he said. “It’s working with QUEST and their resources to help us figure all this out and what we can do to help prevent loss of power in a disaster.”
Quinton and chief administrative officer Sharlene Brown will work on the program with the participating municipalities throughout the year.
“I’m involved with collecting the data for our municipal buildings for electricity,” said Quinton. “I know how much we’re using and where we’re using it.”
QUEST is a Canadian non-government organization that works to accelerate the adoption of efficient and integrated community-scale energy systems.
QUEST’s Planning for Resilient Energy Infrastructure in Alberta project is funded through the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) and a partnership between Municipal Climate Change Action Centre and EQUS.
To learn more visit www.cec.org.