Some uncertainty in future of solar in Alberta

One industry expert says no matter what Jason Kenney decides, solar movement has already started

The future of Alberta’s energy-efficiency industry is up in the air.

That has created uncertainty, says Caleb Schmidt, the owner of Red Deer’s Sunfind Solar Products Inc.

“Everything is unknown right now,” said Schmidt, adding he is waiting for more information from the new provincial government.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

He has about 20 projects in Alberta in a limbo at the moment. A third of those are in central Alberta.

The former NDP government introduced energy efficiency programs that provide rebates to residential and commercial properties under the Residential and Commercial Solar Program.

A report from Energy Efficiency Alberta in October confirmed central Albertans embraced energy efficiency initiatives.

Red Deer had one of the highest per capita participation rates in the Residential No-Charge Energy Savings program, with one out of every 10 homes (a total of 4,778 residences) taking advantage.

The city was one of the top communities for participation in home improvement and online incentives, with 285 participants adding insulation, replacing windows, opting for drain water heat recovery or installing a tankless hot water heater.

If Premier Jason Kenney decides to scrap the rebates, there may be a short-term drop in people’s interest in the energy-efficiency programs, because Albertans look at both savings and the subsidies attached to the initiatives, Schmidt said.

“The rebates will definitely make a difference, but there are other factors, such as low energy prices, which also hinders our market,” he said, adding if the future is not favourable, it will impact his business.

“There are very few people who switch for the environmental reasons alone.

“The bottom line is there’s a ton of uncertainty – all the changes and everything is a bit frustrating right now, but that’s where we’re at.”

Another central Alberta business owner said the energy-efficiency movement has already started, regardless of what Kenney decides to do.

The Sol Invictus Energy Services co-owner in central Alberta, Chelsah Thomas, said what the new government decides to do with these programs will not have an impact on those who want to be more energy efficient.

“The grants provided exposure, accessibility and options to Albertans, and because of the exposure, lots of Albertans know about it and know it’s an option for them, so I think the job has been done.”

She also noted the solar industry is “still extremely low priced” in Alberta, even without subsidies.

Both Thomas and Schmidt agreed if municipalities stepped up like Edmonton has done, it will be a motivator for people to become more energy efficient.

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