Alberta’s new United Conservative Party (UCP) government may be stepping away from one of its more rash campaign promises, opting to review each of the 20 programs run by Energy Efficiency Alberta rather than scrapping the entire effort.
But uncertainty over the agency’s future is still leaving homeowners in limbo and could cost the province thousands of jobs.
“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,” the Calgary Herald recalls. “During the provincial election campaign, [UCP leader, now Alberta Premier Jason] Kenney not only pledged to eliminate the carbon tax, but added programs offered under Energy Efficiency Alberta would be ‘gone’.”
But now, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Jason Nixon says the province is taking a closer look at the agency established by the previous NDP government in 2017. “Our government was elected on a mandate to provide value and efficiency for Alberta taxpayers,” spokesperson Jess Sinclair told the Herald. “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.”
But while that consideration runs its course, companies and homeowners that bought into the program may be caught short. Sinclair said decisions will be announced when the UCP tables its first budget this fall, and funds will not be topped up before then—which means oversubscribed programs, like EEA’s residential and commercial solar initiative, will be turning down new applications.
“Sinclair said applications that have already been approved will still be processed,” the Herald writes. But 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 C$100 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,” translating into 1,000 to 1,500 jobs created or supported.
“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,” Domenico said.
Mike Daciw, owner of Calgary-based EVOLVsolar, told the Herald his company had submitted seven or eight rebate applications that won’t likely be approved. “We’re going to be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of work this summer,” he said. “We’ve actually already switched a lot of our focus over to Saskatchewan, where just in general, the regulations around solar are more favourable.”
In contrast to Kenney’s campaign sloganeering that “we don’t need bureaucrats changing our showerheads and our lightbulbs,” EEA’s $132-million annual budget “does more than just hand out free LEDs,” the Herald notes. “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 operating in the last Canadian province to establish energy efficiency programming, the agency invested $170 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Now, “Albertans need to continue the momentum and keep up with other jurisdictions that are increasing their energy savings, creating new jobs, and making their economies more competitive,” said Corey Diamond, executive director of Efficiency Canada. He cited modelling that shows efficiency bringing Alberta 8,600 jobs and $5.1 billion in GDP through 2030.