Earth Hour City Challenge: Colwood – Small, but mighty

By Colwood Municipal Councilor Judith Cullington
The City of Colwood is a coastal community located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in the far west of Canada. We may be small – a population of only 16,000 – but we have big ideas, and think our contributions can help to make a real impact on climate action by showing just how much individuals and neighbourhoods can do.

Colwood mayor

The city is showcasing success. Five years ago, we replaced an old pick-up with a plug-in electric truck; a similar upfront capital investment but it saves the city $3,500 a year in fuel costs, and performs a greater variety of tasks. Last year, we installed solar hot water and solar photovoltaic panels at the local fire station and generated 2675 Kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and over 17,000 megajoules (MJ) to heat water in the first six months. We are installing six free-charging stations for electric vehicles to promote ways to travel while using less greenhouse gases (GHGs). We are the second city in Canada to be recognized as a Solar City.
Our citizens are showcasing success. Since we launched our Solar Colwood program (July 2011), nearly 200 residents have undertaken energy assessments that provide vital information about ways to make homes more energy efficient. Many have taken simple steps like weatherstripping, some have added insulation to roofs and walls, and more than 100 have installed ductless split heat pumps or solar hot water systems, further reducing GHG production. Read about some of our local heroes at

SC sign family for web

Our developers are showcasing success. Two developments in Colwood use geothermal energy from the ground to heat and cool their buildings.  New developments are being created as ‘solar-ready,’ making it easy for homeowners to install solar hot water panels that reduce their energy bills. A major re-development of our town centre (in progress) will include a district energy sharing system that uses sewer heat for heating/cooling buildings, and there are plans to power that system using solar photovoltaics.
We’re working together. Solar Colwood is a huge partnership of about 15 organizations representing federal and provincial governments, First Nations, academia, business, utility companies, and technical experts. Our partners bring expertise, enthusiasm, and financial support to make our program possible.
We’re promoting innovation. From a Smart Home tablet that shows homeowners how much energy they use on a second-by-second basis and allows them to better manage and reduce energy usage, to the use of solar photovoltaics, power electric vehicles, and new solar hot water systems that are cheaper to install — we are finding ways to make it easier for people to save energy and take advantage of renewable options.
We’re promoting learning and research. Royal Roads University (RRU) is leading research into the social diffusion of home energy retrofits, as well as studying and monitoring many aspects of the Solar Colwood initiative. RRU and the T’Sou-ke Nation are reaching out into local schools to provide youth with knowledge to share with their families and to guide their own decisions.
We’re supporting the local green economy. We’ve been working with the local T’Sou-ke First Nation to train their band members and provide work for solar installers. We encourage homeowners to use local suppliers and installers where possible.
And we are sharing our learnings – the successes and the “we won’t do that again” moments with others. Because it’s not what the City of Colwood does, it’s about what we all do – collectively – to help the future of the planet.
Vote for your favorite sustainable city as part of the Earth Hour City Challenge People’s Choice Award. Online voting runs from now until March 15th.