EDMONTON — Alberta continues to be the only jurisdiction in Canada or the U.S. without an energy efficiency program, despite years of advice that even a basic policy would create jobs, reduce utility bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said that will change in the new year as part of the NDP government's climate change plan, which includes a broad-based carbon tax that kicks in in 2017.
Phillips said in the coming weeks the province will announce details of a new agency that is to come up with energy efficiency incentives.
"You need an agency that can really examine those matters and carefully design those policies so that we are not just simply writing cheques to people to do things that they might otherwise do,'' Phillips said.
"By the time that budget 2016-2017 rolls around we will have a sense of the costs, and second, of all the delivery mechanisms and the policy design.''
Phillips said the program will aim to reduce energy consumption by homeowners, businesses, municipalities, hospitals and schools.
"Energy efficiency is a real low-hanging fruit for any government interested in GDP, jobs and revenue."
For years a group called the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance has been recommending that the province use financial incentives and regulations to spur energy conservation.
Reports released by the group as recently as September have said an energy efficiency program would help Alberta's economy and generate up to $200 million in provincial revenue per year.
Earlier reports have said such a program could also reduce emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road.
"Energy efficiency is a real low-hanging fruit for any government interested in GDP, jobs and revenue,'' reads a consultant's report posted on the alliance's website.
Members of the alliance include the cities of Calgary and Edmonton, Suncor Energy, Atco Gas, Shell Canada, the Pembina Institute, the Canada Green Building Council and other businesses and groups.
The alliance has told the government it should consider what has worked well in other provinces, including financial incentives for upgrading buildings and for buying energy efficient appliances.
It also recommends incentives for upgraded heating equipment and energy efficient lighting.
The former Progressive Conservative government had planned to roll out a program in October 2014 that was to include rebates to encourage homeowners to purchase energy-efficient appliances.
At the time former environment minister Robin Campbell said the program would cost up to $30 million in the first year and the province would pay part of the cost based on receipts submitted by homeowners.
But the PC government never launched the program.
The money was to come from Alberta's Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund, which large industrial companies pay into when they can't meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Phillips would not say how much money the NDP government is prepared to spend on its program. She said some of the money would come from that fund.
Jesse Row, executive director of the alliance, said the group has been urging the province to take action since 2007.
He said Premier Rachel Notley and Phillips have shown a keen interest in energy efficiency.
"We're optimistic we'll see Alberta join leading provinces in harnessing a resource that not only reduces emissions; it also saves people money, and creates good jobs and economic growth,'' Row said in an email.
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