Questions are still swirling around the future of Alberta’s solar rebate program, as all the money budgeted to subsidize solar projects on homes and businesses has been spent, according to the province.
Numbers provided to Global News by the Ministry of Environment and Parks show 948 solar projects were left unapproved when the funding ran out, including 24 projects for non-profit organizations.
The rebate was doled out by Energy Efficiency Alberta, a government agency created by the NDP that provides programs and services related to energy efficiency and energy conservation.
But, Alberta’s current minister of environment and parks said the government is changing its direction when it comes to climate change.
“We were clear during the last election that our approach on climate change would not include rebates on solar,” Jason Nixon said Friday.
“The solar programs that were in place prior to the election were already oversubscribed before election day, so they were done for the year either way, but the direction we’re headed is on the large emitter side and we will not be proceeding with solar.”
Solar panels are the newest addition to Prospect Human Services, a non-profit organization in northeast Calgary that helps veterans, people with disabilities, mental health and addictions get jobs.
The organization has 13 different programs in Calgary and Edmonton and sees about 15,000 clients annually.
Prospect has been in the same building since 2000 and has made smaller retrofits to improve sustainability, with their solar panels up and running for about six weeks.
“The business case showed that we could help redirect costs through the savings from solar to support four additional Albertans to get work on an annual basis,” Prospect Human Services CEO Kevin McNichol said. “So it was a no-brainer for us.”
The 66-kilowatt system was installed by Virtuoso Energy and is expected to offset 25 per cent of the building’s energy usage.
The project cost $7,000 and was paid for by three grants; two from Energy Efficiency Alberta.
“It helped them give back to the services they offer which is what we try to do,” Virtuoso Energy director of operations Kai Fahrion said. “Without funding, if you did the full project by itself, you’re looking at around $100,000.”
Virtuoso Energy has been around for the past five years and focuses primarily on solar energy and electric vehicle infrastructure.
The company’s projects span across residential and commercial, but the founders said they have seen an increase in projects in the non-profit sector.
Fahrion said the disappearance of the rebate has been a challenge in the marketplace.
“It hasn’t completely slowed down everything because other funding does pick up on it too,” Fahrion said. “But the Energy Efficiency funding was definitely a huge part of making sure that not-for-profits and organizations can move forward on these projects, and that’s hurt a little bit.”
It remains unclear what will happen to Energy Efficiency Alberta now that the carbon tax has been scrapped, but the organization is under a review.
A decision on its over 20 programs is expected once the UCP government tables its first budget in the fall.