Solar companies concerned with Alberta rebate program uncertainty

Click to play video: 'Consumer raises concerns over Alberta solar rebate'
Consumer raises concerns over Alberta solar rebate
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said his government's first priority is to repeal the province's carbon tax, but what happens to programs that rely on that funding? As Adam MacVicar reports, there is concern in the solar industry – May 16, 2019

Alberta solar companies are beginning to voice their concerns over a potential backlog of applications for Alberta’s solar rebate program.

The program, called the Residential and Commercial Solar Program, was introduced by the NDP government as part of its Climate Leadership Plan.

Funded by the provincial carbon tax, the program provides a 30 per cent rebate on solar installation costs for homeowners; the rebate covers 25 per cent of installation costs for businesses and non-profits, up to $500,000.

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READ MORE: Alberta increasing solar rebates as the green energy industry grows 500% since 2015

“The rebate program has been a great kick-start for the solar industry here in Alberta,” KCP Energy president, Geoff Domenico, said.

But during the election campaign, the United Conservative Party vowed to scrap the carbon tax, along with Energy Efficiency Alberta.

Energy Efficiency Alberta is a government agency created by the NDP that provides programs and services related to energy efficiency and energy conservation.

The organization also doles out the solar rebates.

For a homeowner or business to receive a rebate, they must send an application to Energy Efficiency Alberta. It is then reviewed and it’s decided whether or not a rebate will be handed out.

But solar companies have noticed a slowdown since the UCP won a majority government in the spring election last month.

“We’ve seen applications that have been going in since the beginning of April have not been moving through the process with the same pace as they have before,” Domenico said.

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Global News reached out to Energy Efficiency Alberta to comment on whether or not the organization has put a pause on applications and approvals due to the result of the election, but did not receive a response.

But in an email obtained by Global News from Energy Efficiency Alberta sent to an applicant, there is no guarantee new rebates will be coming soon.

“The new government will be making decisions regarding funding and policy, including considerations for our agency and programs,” the email read.

“Until changes are made, Energy Efficiency Alberta continues to accept applications in good faith.

“We are still evaluating projects on a first-come, first-served basis and subject to available budgets – as noted in our Terms and Conditions, and cannot guarantee the approval of every project application.”

Watch below (Jan. 21): Alberta builder gets ready to install solar panels in every new home it builds 

Click to play video: 'Alberta builder gets ready to install solar panels in every new home it builds'
Alberta builder gets ready to install solar panels in every new home it builds

For Alberta solar companies, projects are on ice until the applications for rebates are approved, creating concern for companies with signed contracts.

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“We have a huge backlog of projects that we would really like to be working through the design phase. We’d like to be purchasing the equipment, we’d like to be getting them into the schedule, we’d like to be hiring the teams to get those in place,” Domenico said.

According to Domenico, internal company data and conversations with other solar companies in the province show there could be between $100 and $150 million in projects being held up in the application process.

“If (the provincial government) chose, or decides to choose different energy industries other than the solar industry, I think that would be a bad thing for the province, a sad thing for the solar industry within Alberta,” Domenico said.

“In the worst case, it could potentially even suggest to companies that they would need to be taking their business elsewhere outside of the province.”

Domenico is optimistic a solution could be found between the solar companies and the provincial government, rather than scrapping the rebate program altogether.

He plans to reach out to Energy Efficiency Alberta and the provincial government for answers on a timeline. He said the industry employs more than 2,000 people in Alberta, and the mindset of creating jobs and growing business resonates in both the solar industry and the UCP government.

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READ MORE: UCP wins Alberta election – here’s a look at the promises made by Jason Kenney

In a statement to Global News, the ministry of environment and parks said it will outline a plan following the repeal of the carbon tax.

“Newly-appointed Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon is currently being briefed on the department’s files ahead of spring session, including the carbon tax and climate change initiatives,” the statement read.

“Climate change is a real and important issue in our province, and our government will join global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while striking the right balance between protecting the environment and advancing economic growth.”

“We’ve heard countless stories about how the carbon tax is hurting Alberta’s families, and repealing this punitive tax will be our top priority when session gets underway this month.

“More details about programs tied to the carbon tax will be available in the coming weeks after we table Bill 1.”

But Domenico is hoping the uncertainty and calls for action around the rebate situation isn’t perceived as “us versus them.”

“Oil, gas, wind, solar, together is an extremely powerful combination — it’s the new Alberta energy equation, and it’s an exciting time for all those industries,” he said. “All of them should be successful, that should be our goal.”


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