Whistler set to power down for Earth Hour 

RMOW led the province in energy reduction in 2014

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Following up its B.C.-leading performance last year, Whistler is once again gearing up to power down for Earth Hour on Saturday, March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

In 2014, Whistler posted the biggest energy savings in the province, reducing consumption by six per cent.

"We reduced our energy consumption by a significant amount," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"(But) really, the idea of it is to encourage people to reduce energy consumption all the time, not just for an hour on Saturday."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has long been committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, posting a 17-per-cent reduction since 2007.

"The municipality was one of the first towns in Canada to have a formal community Energy Air Quality and GHG Emissions Management Plan, and we've been carbon neutral since 2010," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"But we still have a long way to go, and Canadians are amongst the highest per-capita contributors of GHG emissions in the world.

"There's more that can be done, that's for sure."

The RMOW is holding a candlelight skate at Whistler Olympic Plaza during Earth Hour this year.

The Fairmont will also once again be holding its Pedal Power for Earth Hour, where participants can ride a stationary bike in the hotel's lobby that produces the power to blend their own organic smoothie.

Wilhelm-Morden has participated in previous years but said she won't make it this year because of the Audain Art Museum Sneak Peek Gala.

"They invited me to do it again this year but in my little cocktail dress I won't be hopping on the bike this time," she said with a laugh.

"That could be interesting."

Despite the reduction in Whistler's GHG emissions, energy consumption has remained high, said Cheeying Ho, executive director for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

"While we have reduced our GHGs... that's mainly due to a few one-time events, like capturing the landfill gas, converting propane to natural gas for lots of the heating and then the energy retrofits at Meadow Park," Ho said.

"So these three significant one-time investments have reduced our GHG emissions significantly, but we're not doing those again, obviously, so it's going to be a challenge to continue reducing our GHGs."

Ho said a huge contributor to GHG and energy consumption in Whistler is private vehicles.

Passenger vehicles made up 58 per cent of the community's GHG emissions in 2013, according to the RMOW's website.

"The Earth Hour thing is really about turning off your lights and energy use at home, but it doesn't really talk about the other impacts that are significant in our community like driving," Ho said.

"So it would be great to have Earth Hour-type things increased to day-long events and tie it into things like Bike to Work Week, which has been in place for a number of years now, but we really need to get at the transportation issue here."

It would also be beneficial to get the commercial sector together to look at potential innovations in energy reduction, Ho said.

"Before we had these task forces where people from the commercial sector came together to talk about energy reduction initiatives, and we don't do that anymore," she said.

"It would be great to just be able to have people come together and come up with action plans or to be more proactive in their individual energy reduction plans."

For tips on how to reduce energy consumption in your own home visit www.powersmart.ca.



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