FortisBC’s climate action partners: meet Ehsan Haghi

January 31, 2022

Our climate action partners program works with local governments and organizations throughout BC to help achieve our shared climate action goals.

We collaborate with our partners to hire a specialist who will work to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency and/or foster more affordable energy solutions in their community. They achieve their climate action goals using our suite of lower carbon and renewable energy solutions.

Here's how Ehsan Haghi, community energy specialist with Musqueam Indian Band (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), is taking climate action for his community.

Why did you get involved with the climate action partners program at FortisBC?

I’m originally from Iran. I came to Canada when I was 25, which is when I got my PhD from the University of Waterloo.

Energy was always a hot topic throughout my education. I care about this planet as much as anyone, and we all need to do our part to preserve it for future generations. It’s actually one of the big reasons I became an engineer – I wanted to learn some practical concepts and skills that I could use to make the environment, and people’s lives, better.

Coming from Iran, I feel I had a unique perspective. Every developed country has grand thoughts on how to overcome climate change, but what about developing countries who may not be able to afford some of these more ambitious ideas? Or even in those developed countries, what about lower income families and communities who are grappling with financial constraints, and trying to balance living standards with their carbon footprint? They need a voice at the table, and I want to make sure everyone is listening to them.

I’ve always been passionate about affordable climate action that’s sustainable long term. It’s amazing to think that my hobby is now my work. I joined the climate action partners program in December 2020 as a community energy specialist with Musqueam Indian Band (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), and it’s been absolutely incredible.

Can you share more about your work as a community energy specialist?

I’d love to. I work with two departments – housing and public works.

With the housing department, I’m working to improve energy efficiency for Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) homes. We use FortisBC’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program and the Indigenous Communities Conservation Program for assessing energy use in homes. We also host community events to raise awareness of energy efficiency.

For public works, I do similar work but for on-reserve buildings owned by Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm). This includes replacing old and inefficient equipment with higher-efficiency equipment, retrofitting appliances and lighting, you name it. We’re assessing all public buildings and we even had a cool pilot project with FortisBC to install a gas absorption heat pump.

What are the benefits of this work to Musqueam Indian Band (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm)?

There is so much potential within this community to save energy and reduce utility bills. Many residents are elderly and don’t have the financial resources to continuously buy new appliances or equipment.

But it’s not just about energy efficiency, it’s about health and safety. Many of these homes are old and aren’t built to today’s standards. Over time, they show their issues. By improving energy components such as adequate insulation, we are making these homes more energy efficient and safer to live in.

With the climate action partners program and funding, we’re improving the health and safety of the residents of the community while reducing costs and emissions, all at the same time.

Anything else you’d like to share?

We know we need to fight climate change, but there’s also a financial price to pay. Low income people and vulnerable communities can’t afford to pay a high financial price for climate action. Sometimes it’s easy to forget others don’t have as much money, but financial policies can hit lower income households the hardest.

Communities such as Musqueam Indian Band (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) have very different needs than large municipalities. The impacts of wildfires, floods and other disasters will impact these communities differently. We have to remember that every community has different needs, and our climate change policies need to reflect that.

We absolutely need to beat climate change, but it needs to be affordable for everyone, and sustainable long term.

Connect with us to learn more about being a climate action partner

Our climate action partners are part of a large community of like-minded organizations that are working to advance a lower carbon future. We encourage any local governments and organizations that share these values to connect with our climate action partners team to discuss how we can tackle climate action together.