'The less electricity we use, the less fuel we burn.'

Picco plays nice to promote green lights


Last year, Energy Minister Ed Picco tried to use a stick to get Nunavummiut to switch from power-hungry incandescent light bulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescents.

This year he's offering a carrot.

Qulliq Energy Corporation will distribute one of the new-wave compact fluorescent light bulbs for every person in Nunavut.

"The less electricity we use, the less fuel we burn, which ultimately means less greenhouse gas emissions," Picco said in a news release. "By becoming familiar with this technology we hope to see Nunavummiut going out to purchase their own energy-efficient light bulbs."

Last year, Picco tried to get MLAs to ban on the old-style incandescent bulbs as part of Bill 13, Nunavut's proposed Energy Efficiency Act.

But regular members balked at the move, because people are switching voluntarily to compact fluorescents, which are more economical than the old bulbs.

The federal government is also phasing out the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2012, making Nunavut's legislation redundant, MLAs said.

Compact fluorescents use 75 per cent less electricity than the old incandescents, while lasting longer, up to nine years, said Wiz Mohammed, manager of the Nunavut Energy Centre in Iqaluit.

"It will end up saving Nunavummiut, whoever is responsible for paying power bills, quite a significant amount of money," he said.

Mohammed said that while the switch to CFL bulbs is a small part of QEC's push toward more energy efficiency, with record-high oil prices and a power system that runs exclusively on diesel, every little bit helps.

"It doesn't matter what economist you talk to, with $120 a barrel (for oil) now, it's not sustainable for the local consumers to continue to pay this high rate, particularly in their own neighbourhood where we depend on diesel."

There's just one problem with CFLs: the bulbs contain a tiny dollop of toxic mercury, which vapourizes when the bulbs are broken. The amount, roughly the same quantity as the ink on the tip of a ballpoint pen, is just a fraction of the mercury found in other household devices like watch batteries and thermometers.

But when the bulbs break, the federal government's Office of Energy Efficiency still recommends opening windows and cleaning the area thoroughly while wearing gloves and avoiding skin contact with the debris.

For instructions on how to clean up a broken CFL bulb, please visit: http://www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/energystar/english/consumers/questions-answers.cfm#how-to-dispose.

Mohammed said the Government of Nunavut will buy a "light bulb eater" to properly dispose of CFL bulbs over the long term. Such devices are commercially available and convert the bulbs into recyclable material.

It's not yet known how many of the devices the government will buy or where they'll be located.

To get your free compact fluorescent light bulb, fill out the form with your August power bill and bring it to your local power plant, the Nunavut Power administrative offices in Rankin Inlet or Cambridge Bay, or to the Nunavut Energy Centre in Iqaluit.

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