City council proposes energy retrofit program

Provincial legislation required

Red Deer wants to lead the way to help retrofit homes or businesses to improve energy efficiency.

On Monday city council passed a resolution that calls on the province to change legislation to enable municipalities to allow citizens to amortize the cost of retrofits on their property tax bills if they want to install solar panels or energy efficient furnaces, or complete other work to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Coun. Paul Harris said similar programs already operate elsewhere in Canada like Toronto’s Home Energy Loan Program and Halifax’s Solar City.

Harris said he’s already talked to Alberta’s ministers of infrastructure, diversification and finance are they are keen on the idea and council’s resolution sends them the signal to get started.

“We are the third largest city. If we say we’re interested this could set the tone for other municipalities,” said Harris who put forward the notice of motion Enhancing Economic Diversification Through Energy Retrofit Programs.

“People are out of work and we’ve got a depressed province. We’re trying to find industries for people to work in so when you introduce a program like this which is a policy shift — that’s all — you’re creating a whole new set of industries whether it’s installing solar panels, putting energy efficient furnaces in, whatever it is.”

He said it’s a win all the way around.

“It’s not a loan to a person. It’s a loan to a property. When you move, it stays with the property, but the immediate benefit you would have is it would reduce your utility bills. Your taxes may go up a little bit for the loan, but your utility bills go down so it costs you nothing.”

Councillors Frank Wong, Lawrence Lee and Tanya Handley voted against the motion.

Handley said lending is not a business the city should be in and advocating on yet another issue will water down the city’s provincial advocacy efforts by allowing the province to pick and choose.

“The carbon tax we’ve been promised has many different initiatives and opportunities for individuals to go the green route and I think we need to wait and allow that initiative to take care of it,” Handley said.

Harris said advocating for the needs of the community and representing its citizens is the job of city council.

Other council decisions included:

  • Approving first reading of the Chicken Bylaw amendment to increase the cap on annual chicken licences to 100 from 67. Second and third reading were postponed to allow residents to provide feedback.
  • First reading of a Land Use Bylaw amendment was passed to limit the number of election signs allowed by candidates in municipal, provincial and federal elections and to reduce the length of time signs are permitted. A public hearing will be held April 3.

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