Published 13:51 May 04, 2022

By Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Town of Pincher Creek is interested in making the community more eco-friendly and plans to introduce multiple municipally managed electric vehicle charging stations.

Council recently made the decision to start researching the project and administration has already begun to investigate potential placement areas. Tristan Walker, the town’s new municipal energy project lead, will be heading up the process.

“I think it’ll be great for the community to see these opportunities coming,” he says. “It kind of gives them an option to go green with their own vehicles, to see that it’s OK to get an electrical vehicle because you’re getting infrastructure to support that.”

Walker, originally from Terrace, B.C., is a recent arrival in Pincher Creek. He took over the position from David Desabrais, who is now working for the MD as a utilities and infrastructure specialist.

With a background in renewables, Walker has experience devising innovative solutions to reduce emissions and energy consumption and sourcing money for eco-friendly projects.

He owns and operates a company called Step3Project, a non-profit based out of B.C., which fundraises money for sustainable energy initiatives.

The company helped set up a greenhouse for Caledonia Secondary School in Terrace, designed an off-grid solar system for a backcountry cabin located in the Coast Mountains, completed an LED light retrofit for Skeena Valley Golf Course and, most recently, powered a remote fish counting station with solar energy for a non-profit based out of Vancouver Island.

As for the charging stations in Pincher Creek, a few potential locations have been proposed, including the multipurpose facility on Main Street, the public works facility and the golf course. Although no final decisions have been made, Walker says the station at public works could be used to service municipal maintenance vehicles should electric models be used in the future.

The stations will most likely be of Level 2 charging capacity, Walker explains. Level 1 takes a long time to charge and Level 3, although fast, is costly for the utility supplying the electricity.

“The Level 2 is kind of like your middle ground. It’s got the best of both worlds,” he says, adding that users can get about 30 to 90 kilometres of range from an hour-long charge with a cost of about one to two dollars per charge.

Funding for the stations is available through the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Electric Vehicle Charging Program, which launched in January.

In total, $3.4 million is available through the program, with the maximum amount of funding a municipality can apply for being $200,000.

It is expected to cover all costs associated with the purchase and installation of a charging station, but the town would still need to pay annual network operating costs along with general maintenance costs. A final financial estimate for this has yet to be determined and will be largely dependent on chosen equipment and instalment locations.

In order to be eligible for the funding, the stations must be installed on municipal land or at a municipal-owned facility.

The matter will be brought back to council for final decision prior to the official signing of the funding offer. 

At present, Pincher Creek has one charging station, located in the Vision Credit Union parking lot at 750 Kettles St., which was built by Peaks to Prairies, a local community-driven initiative that has established a network of charging stations in rural communities across southern Alberta.

As more chargers are built and more people buy electric vehicles, there will be a benefit to having municipally operated stations as opposed to relying only on those run by private companies, Walker says.

“If they’re a private company, the bottom line is that they need to make money, whereas, the town, we need to hopefully break even, but we’re more about offering services for the people, so we’re not going to price gouge.”

Another plus is that the chargers will be easily accessible.

“It’s not like it’s off in the fields somewhere because that’s where somebody had to buy land,” he says. “It’s going to be in central locations.”

Overall, Walker says he sees a lot of opportunities in the region, particularly for wind and solar, and he’s looking forward to working with the community both on town projects and projects that his non-profit undertakes.

This item reprinted with permission from Shootin’ the Breeze, Pincher Creek, Alberta