Energy Poverty and an Equitable Transition

In December 2023, Efficiency One published their report, Energy Poverty and an Equitable Transition to a Net-Zero Carbon Future in Nova Scotia. New Dawn was honoured to be a "Voice from the Community" in the report.

To read the full paper as a PDF, click here: Energy Poverty and an Equitable Transition

To read the full paper on the Efficiency One website, click here: Energy Poverty and an Equitable Transition (web) 

Notably, 9 of the 10 communities experiencing the worst energy povety in Nova Scotia are in Cape Breton.

New Dawn’s excerpt in the report can be found on Page 13 and is copied below:

Voices From the Community – New Dawn Enterprises

New Dawn Enterprises is a non-profit organization in Cape Breton established in 1976. It provides a variety of services including affordable and low-market housing, immigration setlement, homecare, and affordable arts and community spaces. Their mission is to engage the community to create and support a culture of self-reliance.

One program, Meals on Wheels, provides healthy meals to people in Cape Breton Regional Municipality unable to prepare meals for themselves.

Many of the Meals on Wheels clients are seniors or people with disabilities. In some cases, their home needs major repairs: leaking roofs, broken windows, doors that don’t close properly, and more. The majority of Meals on Wheels seniors live below the poverty level on a fixed income that doesn’t keep up with inflation. For a variety of reasons, Meals on Wheels (which charges a fee based on income) is often the only way for these people to get consistent healthy meals. It is a vital service enabling seniors to live longer in their homes and communities.

New Dawn has worked with seniors who do not have enough money to pay all their expenses. Rising energy costs in recent years has led some seniors to wrestle with the tough decision of whether to “heat or eat.” For over a decade, New Dawn has received multiple calls each month from seniors who are forced to make this trade-off.

According to New Dawn, “They often have to make the choice between a meal-provision service (getting healthy, dietary appropriate meals delivered to their door) or to keep the heat going through the winter months.”

In some cases, seniors have asked for temporary assistance to defer payments through the winter, so they can continue to pay for heating while securing enough food to eat. In other cases, participants have dropped out of the Meals on Wheels program altogether. With energy prices expected to rise in the future, more seniors on insufficient fixed incomes will be impacted.

While there are programs to help seniors upgrade older homes and complete energy efficiency assessments and retrofits, connecting to and navigating these programs can be difficult for many. Poverty, social isolation, literacy, financial literacy, and access to the internet all pose challenges that keep seniors (particularly low-income seniors) from accessing the programs intended to ease some of their energy costs. Because of this, many don’t apply, and of those who do apply, many don’t make their way through to the end of the process.

An equitable transition to a low-carbon future should include special consideration and efforts geared at elders living in our communities. One way to beter reach low-income seniors is to partner with non-profit organizatuons and government agencies regularly serving this population. Just as important is ensuring that for house repair or energy retrofit offerings, anyone who struggles with literacy, internet access, and social isolation can be assigned a case worker to help them identify programs for which they are eligible, undertake necessary assessments, work with local contractors, and complete any post-renovation paperwork needed to secure funding and rebates. “We must be careful not to assume that all Nova Scotians are able to navigate each step in these processes with the same ease and success.”