EDMONTON - Alberta is preparing a rebate program to encourage homeowners to purchase energy-efficient appliances and help the province reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Environment Minister Robin Campbell said the program would cost up to $30 million in the first year. He wants to make the announcement in early October.
"We are looking at incentives for residential homes. Looking at people replacing their furnaces, fridges, washer-dryers," he said.
"One of the holdups right now that we are still discussing is if we could make a big enough incentive for some people ... (who) wanted to look at solar for their homes."
The money for the program would come from a fund that large industrial companies pay into when they can't meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The government would pay part of the cost of energy efficient upgrades based on receipts submitted by homeowners, Campbell said.
A similar program in Alberta that ran between 2009 and 2012 issued more than 173,000 rebates worth more than $52 million.
The provincial government has been under pressure from conservation groups to take new measures to help reduce Alberta's carbon footprint.
The Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance issued a report in January that noted the province is the only jurisdiction in Canada or the United States that doesn't offer homeowners and businesses financial incentives to become more energy efficient.
The alliance followed up its report with the results of an Ipsos Reid survey it commissioned. The poll suggested 77 per cent of Albertans surveyed last month supported using money from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund to improve the energy efficiency of homes and commercial buildings.
Jesse Row, the alliance's executive director, said Campbell's plan would be a good first step that could be expanded in the future. He said the $30 million would save consumers about $100 million over the life of the appliance upgrades.
Such programs not only reduce energy consumption, Row said, they also encourage people to think about the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"Incentive programs have a history of both helping people take action and raising awareness around the issue," Row said Thursday.
"Just going out with information programs without incentives — people don't pay as much attention."
The alliance includes the cities of Calgary and Edmonton, Suncor Energy (TSX:SU), Atco Gas (TSX:ACO.X), Shell Canada (TSX:SHC), the Pembina Institute, the Canada Green Building Council and other businesses and groups.
Under Alberta law, large industrial greenhouse gas emitters must reduce their emissions intensity by 12 per cent below their 2004-2005 baseline intensity.
Companies that can't meet the requirement must either buy carbon credits from other Alberta-based organizations or pay $15 into the climate change fund for every tonne over the limit.
Campbell said the government is considering increasing the $15 carbon price as it looks at updating its climate change strategy.
"We are having a fiery robust discussion right now within our own government as to what that is going to look like," he said. "I hope to have a seamless transition this fall."
Alberta has collected more than $400 million in the climate change fund since it was created in 2007. Since then, about $240 million has been spent on projects and research aimed at reducing CO2 emissions.
The government's original climate change plan announced in 2008 set a goal of reducing Alberta's greenhouse gas emissions by 50 megatonnes by 2020.
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