Edmonton prefers province runs renewable energy home improvement program

Stephen Gilbert shows off the solar panels he's using to power his home, two electric cars, and save big money.
Stephen Gilbert shows off the solar panels he's using to power his home, two electric cars, and save big money. Neetu Garcha/ Global News

A new report heading to Edmonton City Council’s executive committee says the city itself could take the lead role in administering a new program that would help to make people’s homes or businesses become more energy efficient.

Edmonton staff are ready to go on a scheme that would see Edmontonians green their property with a loan that’s paid back on their property taxes.

“The municipality could move forward with being the program administrator, in the event that the province actually would issue a ministerial order for us to become that administrator,” confirmed Mike Mellross, the city’s supervisor for energy transition and utility supply. “So it’s still in the province’s court.”

The problem is, the city has no indication if the Kenney government will continue to operate Energy Efficiency Alberta (EEA).

“I have not heard one way or the other,” Mellross said.

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The report details the business case for two administrative models: one for the province handling the program, and two more if the city takes over both administering loans for City of Edmonton residents only, or for those in the greater metro area.

READ MORE: Edmonton could potentially beat its own 2030 target to transition to green energy

The preferred option, according to the city, would see EEA run things with a projected average annual cost of $215,000. That jumps to $393,000 if it’s city run, and even higher ($480,000) if the city has to handle the entire metro region.

“From the municipality’s perspective, it’s the lower cost and lower-risk approach because they are actually administering all of the mechanics of the program, where we’re just providing the financing and collecting the repayment of that financing through the property tax system,” Mellross said.

“Energy Efficiency Alberta is able to — or some centralized agency can — manage all of the contractor management, all the individual contracts for each of the building owners and all of the residential homeowners that would be involved in the program — so it’s just a lower cost, lower-risk approach for the City of Edmonton.”

The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is set up so Edmontonians can get loans to do the upgrades and then pay back that loan through their property taxes. If Edmontonians sell and move, whoever buys their property takes over the repayment plan. The cost savings on Edmontonians’ energy or utility bills would be used to pay back the loan.

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Watch below: (From May 16, 2019) 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.

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There are limits on how expensive this can be, or how much people can invest, Mellross said.

“One is $50,000 per home, or doubling of your property taxes annually — so those two limiters are put on it.’

“Thats’s how much financing is available to do retrofits,” he said.

Legislation was brought in by the province under the NDP that took effect at the beginning of the year. The federal budget has $300 million to be directed to EcoEfficiency Acceleration programs through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

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The city intends on a soft launch of its Clean Energy Improvement Program before the end of the year the report said.

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