Colwood’s emission-free drive to become the country’s greenest city has hit a speed bump.
Three electric-vehicle charging stations costing a total of about $100,000 have been installed and are ready to go but remain unplugged because someone forgot to include a sticker certifying them safe.
“It’s frustrating as hell,” said Colwood chief engineer Michael Baxter.
The problem is the charging station equipment was made in the U.S. but came without necessary Underwriters Laboratories of Canada stickers, Baxter said. Without a ULC sticker, a station can’t be approved for use by the B.C. Safety Authority, he said.
“It is an approved system and the stickers should have been on them when they came, but they came from the States and the people there forgot to put the Canadian sticker on them,” Baxter said.
The stations were installed about two weeks ago. The stickers were supposed to arrive last week, but as of Friday afternoon had not.
The new charging stations are located at the Juan de Fuca library, the park-and-ride on Ocean Boulevard and at Colwood city hall. The funding came through the Clean Energy Fund, a portion of a $3.9-million Solar Colwood federal grant.
“It’s pretty funny in one sense but not so funny in another,” Mayor Carol Hamilton said.
“The systems are all approved; everything is all good but they lack one of the ULC stickers.”
Meanwhile, about two years after the West Shore community of 16,000 launched Solar Colwood — a $12-million plan to equip 1,000 homes with solar-powered heat and hot water — the program seems to be languishing due to a lack of interest.
The hope was to install 1,000 solar units — hot water heaters and ductless split heat-pumps — over three years. But by the end of 2012, only 34 solar hot water heaters and 75 ductless heat pumps had been installed.
“The thousand-unit target was extremely ambitious,” said Baxter, adding that, on a per capita basis, Colwood has done better than anyone else with a solar program. “Nobody in Canada has ever got anywhere near that. The entire province only managed to put out 546 of these units, and we’re over 100 just in Colwood.”
Solar Colwood started in 2011 and is expected to run until 2014. Colwood is responsible for up to 3.5 per cent of the project budget — mostly through in-kind staff time and HST payments.
The program initially offered grants of up to $3,300 for people who signed up for a hot-water heating system and grants of up to $1,500 for heat pumps. (The amount of the available grant decreases as more residents participate.)
Solar Colwood was a hot topic during the last municipal election but, when the votes were counted, those in opposition largely weren’t elected.
Unsuccessful mayoral candidate and former councillor Brian Tucknott sees Solar Colwood as “an absolute disaster” that provides a poor return on investment. “I’ve had one of these evacuated tube solar systems for 20-odd years and it still has not paid for itself.”
Baxter said total out-of-pocket municipal expenses to date, including in-kind costs, are about $42,000.