Premier Jason Kenney may not scrap all of the energy efficiency programs currently funded by Alberta’s carbon tax, though the UCP government remains uninterested in “subsidizing the installation of shower heads and lightbulbs.”
A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Jason Nixon confirmed Thursday that a decision has not been made about the fate of the 20 different programs currently offered under the umbrella of Energy Efficiency Alberta, a provincial agency established in 2017 by Rachel Notley’s NDP government.
“Our government was elected on a mandate to provide value and efficiency for Alberta taxpayers,” said Jess Sinclair in an email. “We will consider the merits of each program encapsulated by the EEA on their own merits, and we are approaching this process with an open mind.”
Energy Efficiency Alberta — which uses revenue from Alberta’s carbon tax to fund rebates and programs designed to help homeowners, municipalities and businesses improve their energy efficiency and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions — came under considerable fire from the conservative Opposition at the time of its creation. During the provincial election campaign, Kenney not only pledged to eliminate the carbon tax, but added programs offered under Energy Efficiency Alberta would be “gone.”
“We don’t need bureaucrats changing our showerheads and our lightbulbs,” Kenney said during a campaign news conference.
But the provincial agency, which has an annual budget of $132 million, does more than just hand out free LED lightbulbs (though those, along with low-flow showerheads, were among the products on offer through a specific program called the Residential No-Charge Energy Savings program).
CEO Monica Curtis said in March that every single postal code area in the province has taken advantage of Energy Efficiency Alberta programming in one way or another, whether through instant in-store savings, residential and community solar, a business energy savings program or a host of education and training grants. In its first 18 months of operations, she said, the agency invested $170 million into energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The UCP government is expected to table its first budget this fall, at which point, a decision on the fate of each of the programs will be made, Sinclair said. Until then, the government will not be topping up funding to any of Energy Efficiency Alberta’s programs, meaning those that are already oversubscribed — such as the Residential and Commercial Solar Program — will no longer be accepting new applications.
While Sinclair said applications that have already been approved will still be processed, Geoff Domenico, president of Calgary-based solar installation company KCP Energy Inc., said that still leaves a significant number of homeowners and businesses in limbo. He said industry estimates suggest there could be $100 million to $150 million worth of small-scale solar projects across the province that have submitted all the required paperwork for rebates and are awaiting approval.
“We would suggest that translates to 1,000 or 1,500 jobs being created or supported in order to get those jobs done,” Domenico said. “I’m hoping they would at least consider enabling that logjam of projects to continue and then look for what the opportunities are to put something in place that both aligns with the new government’s objectives and can continue the exponential growth of solar in this province.”
Mike Daciw, owner of Calgary-based EVOLVsolar — which engineers, installs and services solar systems throughout Western Canada — said his business has submitted seven or eight applications for rebates through Energy Efficiency Alberta that now will likely not be approved.
“We’re going to be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of work this summer,” said Daciw. “We’ve actually already switched a lot of our focus over to Saskatchewan, where just in general, the regulations around solar are more favourable.”
Alberta was the last province in Canada to develop an energy efficiency program. According to Efficiency Canada, a Carleton University-based think tank that aims to make the country a global leader in energy efficiency — Alberta will be the only jurisdiction in North America without such a program if Energy Efficiency Alberta is scrapped entirely.
Corey Diamond, executive director of Efficiency Canada, said there is every reason for Kenney to continue to support energy efficiency programs. He said economic modelling shows that ramping up towards more aggressive energy efficiency in Alberta would create 8,600 annual jobs and boost the provincial GDP by $5.1 billion a year, on average, between now and 2030.
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