Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s plan to cancel his province’s carbon tax has produced anxiety about the future of the solar and energy efficiency rebates introduced by the previous Rachel Notley government.
“Given that it’s early days for the newly-elected provincial government, it will take some time to determine the future of this program,” said Energy Efficiency Alberta spokesperson Doris Kaufmann Woodcock. “Once decisions are made, we will share information publicly, including with the solar industry.”
Citing Kaufmann Woodcock, CBC reports that Alberta has completed more than 1,500 home and commercial solar projects, and has another 900 under way. The vast majority, 2,200, are residential. The original plan was to invest C$36 million and generate 48 megawatts of electricity by 2020, and Kauffman Woodcock said the industry was “well on its way to meeting this goal,” investing $134 million in projects along the way.
The shift is disconcerting for homeowners like Gerald Krabbe, a retired math teacher who liked the numbers enough to add solar panels to his roof, and Mike Daciw, a former fossil worker who now employs 23 people at one of the province’s 250 solar companies. “Just looking at the trends and the cost of solar coming down over the years, we thought this was kind of the wave of the future, and we just wanted to jump on it,” he told CBC.
He added that about 50 of those companies will disappear if the provincial rebate is cancelled—and he might well leave the province.
“Without the rebate, the payback would be around 18 years. With the rebate, 10 to 12, and lots of homeowners can see that far out,” he said. “For the province of Alberta, it’s a shame. Rule 1 of investing is to diversify, and if we put all of our eggs in one [fossil energy] basket, I think it’s a lot of risk to bear.”
Canadian Solar Industries Association President Wes Johnston cited a recent study projecting 10,000 solar jobs in Alberta within 10 years. While no one in the industry expected (or would have wanted) subsidies to last forever, Simon Fraser University energy modeller Chris Bataille said it’s too soon to end them now.
“Once the industry is built, you really don’t want rebates in the long haul; you want it to move on its own,” he said. But cancelling is “a bad thing in the short term,” particularly when “we’re just on the cusp of a transition in order to meet our Paris Agreement goals. We need to dramatically reduce our emissions.”
Bataille urged the new provincial government to “realize that this is a job-builder…This is an industry-builder. This is Alberta’s future that you’re playing with here; you need to encourage the growth of this industry.”