Albertans looking to greener future after oil’s bust, but some waiting for incentives

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WATCH: As Alberta homeowners and businesses wait for the government to announce incentives to use green power, some groups are already seeing the light. But some farmers and municipalities can now access grants to install solar panels. As Reid Fiest reports, laid off oil patch workers are also seeing a brighter future with more sustainable power sources – Mar 3, 2016

CALGARY — For close to two decades, Curtis Buxton worked on improving the efficiency of drilling crews in Alberta’s oil patch.

But, his career in the oil industry ended a year ago when his company laid him off.

Twelve months later, he’s settling into his new job at SkyFire Energy, one of Alberta’s largest solar power companies.

“I didn’t expect that I would be doing this,” Buxton said. “I had spent almost 18 years at Schlumberger (an oilfield services company) in the oil and gas industry.”

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Buxton wasn’t naïve. Buxton wasn’t naïve. He predicted he’d be out of a job and he already had sights on a position in this new emerging industry.

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“I’m happy. I’m making a better world for my kids, by using more renewable energy and not being a part of taking out all the fossil fuels,” Buxton said.

The salaries are not what big oil companies would pay, but Buxton says money isn’t everything.

Many Albertans know it’s time to diversify and live greener.

But after last fall’s historic carbon tax announcement by the Alberta government, no incentives have been announced for homeowners and businesses to go green with more sustainable energy sources like wind or solar.

“People are holding off purchasing at this point,” SkyFire Energy’s CEO Dave Kelly told Global News. “It’s what it feels like, waiting for some type of incentive to come out.”

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A statement on behalf of Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks says details of the program are still being worked out.

“That work is underway and will continue in the months leading up to the phase-in of an economy-wide carbon price beginning in 2017.”

A program for municipalities and farms was announced in February.

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READ MORE: Alberta offers rebates to municipalities, farms that set up solar power

It’s welcome news to the Haeni Family dairy farm near Didsbury, Alta. The family said it will apply for a grant.

The 95-cow operation will soon install over $60,000 worth of solar panels, which could power close to 90 per cent of the operation during ideal conditions.

“We truly believe that you have to start with yourself… to make a difference,” Adrian Haeni told Global News.

Once fully installed, the panels could cut more than 80 per cent off their $1,000-a-month power bill.

“There’s going to be a time where this unit is going to pay for itself and it’s going to be a money saving cost,” Haeni said.

But, it will take about 10 years to pay off the investment.

It’s money well spent said Haeni, who wants his farm to be a leader in sustainable growth for generations to come.

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