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Solar Colwood: A Community-level Energy Project

Lead proponent:  City of Colwood
Location: Colwood, British Columbia
CEF contribution:  $ 2.1 M
Project total:  $ 11.9 M

Project Background

Colwood, B.C. is a rapidly growing city on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island, with a current population of just over 16,000 that is expected to double to over 33,000 in the coming decades.  In 2007, Colwood signed on to the BC Climate Action Charter, and in the following year it struck a Task Force on Energy and Emissions (TFEE). TFEE developed a “Community Energy and Emissions Plan”, which showed that although a focus on efficient new home construction would be very important to the growing community, retrofits of existing buildings would also be necessary in order to reach its Climate Action Charter commitments.  It was determined that each existing building would have to reduce its GHG emissions by more than 33% in order to reach the city’s overall target.

The Task Force sought innovative means to reach these savings and created “Solar Colwood: A Community-level Energy Project”.  The Clean Energy Fund contributed $2.1M to Solar Colwood, for the city to demonstrate a “whole community change” towards energy conservation and renewable clean energy, as well as to reach its energy and emissions targets. 

Arial view of the city of Colwood

Arial view of the city of Colwood.

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Figure 1

Arial view of the city of Colwood.

Colwood is a rapidly growing city with a current population of just over 16,000 that is expected to double to over 33,000 in the coming decades.


Between June 2011 and March 2015, Solar Colwood offered incentives to residents and businesses for installation of solar hot water systems, ductless split heat pumps, electric vehicle charging stations, solar photovoltaics, and smart home monitoring systems, as well as, building-science based advice for energy saving and renewable energy upgrades.

Colwood is now one of the leaders in Canada in per-capita solar thermal retrofits - 39 private solar hot water systems received Solar Colwood incentives.  The program was expanded in April 2014 to the Capital Region District (CRD) which allowed for the installation of 41 additional systems, resulting in a total of 82 private solar hot water systems.  Capital Region District (CRD) jurisdiction encompasses the southern tip of Vancouver Island and the surrounding 70 Gulf Islands.  Moreover, with support from BC Hydro, incentives for ductless heat pump retrofits were included in the Colwood program and resulted in 120 installations.  BC Hydro also provided technical support for the electric vehicle portion of the program which offered incentives for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  As a result, charging stations were installed at nine public sites and twelve private homes.

In addition to incentives, the Solar Colwood program also provided solar installation training for members of the local T’Sou-ke First Nation – eleven of which became CanSIA certified solar installers.  Four qualified individuals from the wider community received Solar Colwood scholarships for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Solar Thermal Exam.  Furthermore, the Project supported the development of a “Smart Home For Us” system – a monitoring and management system designed by a local company (Horizon Technologies) that improves energy literacy and reduces energy waste.  The system completed several phases of product development and field trials during the Project.

Benefits to Canada:

In total, the Solar Colwood program resulted in modelled energy savings of 4.96 million kWh/year, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of 651 tonnes of C02e/year, and total cost savings for the residents of Colwood of $525,552 per year at utility prices at the time of the project. Elements of the Solar Colwood program are already being replicated in various communities across the province.  As new communities roll out their programs, the energy savings and cumulative GHG reductions resulting from energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades will benefit all of Canada.

Next Steps:

The city of Colwood has ambitious energy and emissions targets.  It will take the lessons learned from the Solar Colwood experience to inform future programs and strategies, and optimize them to achieve greater GHG reductions.

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