Tag Archives: EcoEnergy retrofit

Clean energy highlights of federal budget 2011

Okay, here are budget highlights related to clean energy and technology (in no particular order):

1) $97 million over two years to renew funding for technology and innovations in areas of clean energy and energy efficiency.

2) $8 million over two years to renew funding to promote the deployment of clean energy technologies in Aboriginal and Northern communities.

3) Accelerated capital cost allowance has been expanded to include investment in technologies that generate electricity using waste heat from industrial processes. The CCA allows the cost of eligible assets to be deducted for tax purposes at a rate of 50 per cent per year on a declining balance basis—which is faster than would be implied by the useful life of the assets.

4) Oil sands investments will see some reduced subsidies. The accelerated capital cost allowance will be reduced for “intangible capital expenses in oil sands projects”  to align them with existing rates for the conventional oil and gas setor. Question: Why does the conventional oil and gas sector still get this subsidy?

5) And, while the government continues to figure out how to sell of AECL’s commercial reactor division, Canadian taxpayers will pay another $405 million on a cash basis in 2011–12 to cover the crown corporation’s anticipated commercial losses and support the corporation’s operations, including to ensure a secure supply of medical isotopes and maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River Laboratories.

6) $870 million over two years to support the government’s Clean Air Agenda, including $400 million in 2011 and 2012 to temporarily revive the EcoEnergy retrofits program and $252 million to support “regulatory activities to address climate change and air quality,” whatever that means. Also included in this larger figure is $86 million to support clean energy regulatory actions that focus on energy efficiency; $48 million to develop transportation sector regulations and next-generation clean transportation initiatives; $58 million for projects that improve our understanding of climate change impacts; and $25 million to advance Canada’s engagement in international negotiations and support the Canada-U.S. Clean Energy Dialogue.

7) Finally, $40 million over two years will go to Sustainable Development Technology Canada. It’s not a lot of money compared to the more than $50 million it has issued annually in previous years, but it keeps the agency alive and supporting new energy innovations.

I’ll comment on these more later…

New ecoEnergy money is nice, but it doesn’t erase harm already done

So, it seems the Harper government has plans to inject an additional $400 million into its ecoEnergy home retrofit program as part of Tuesday’s federal budget. This, in part, is being viewed as a compromise to get support from the NDP and dodge a vote of no confidence that would trigger an election.

The ecoEnergy program was a successful energy conservation program that gave incentives to homeowners who added insulation, bought energy-efficient furnaces and air conditioners, and went ahead with other retrofits that reduced home energy use.  The federal government stopped accepting pre-retrofit energy audit requests in March 2010, meaning the program was effectively dead except for those already approved for audits. Officially, the program will come to an end for everyone next week. The expected infusion of new cash into the program will be welcome news for hundreds of businesses that emerged because of the original program.

That doesn’t let the Harper government off the hook, in my mind. The fact is, this government needlessly left an entire Canadian industry in limbo for a year and many businesses have since gone belly up. Many individuals who went to school specifically to become energy auditors were forced to get jobs elsewhere because of the uncertainty created by this government. What is it about politicians not understanding the dangers of creating boom-bust scenarios for industry, especially when it’s so well established that public investment in energy efficiency and retrofits is the lowest-cost way of achieving greenhouse-gas reduction targets?

NDP MP Nathan Cullen put it best last May during proceedings of a federal government Standing Committee on Natural Resources: “The government creates a program. People like it, with 50,000 applications at the high point per month. The government is able to leverage, in tough economic times, $10 for every $1. They put a buck in and ten bucks get put in by individuals. It reduces pollution and it saves Canadians $330 million-odd in energy bills. The government, in its celebration of such a successful program, cancels it.” WTF?

I wrote about the insanity of this decision last year, but only now, when it can be used to its political advantage, does the Harper government throw the industry a bone. Fact is, Harper isn’t pro-business — he’s pro big business — because if he cared about small business he wouldn’t keep jerking their chain like this. Anyway, the $400 million will be welcome news for those businesses that have managed to hold on over the last year. Hopefully, the Ontario government will continue to match the federal incentives, as it did before. Again, if either the feds or Ontario are serious about reducing GHGs, this is the best bang for the public buck. It’s also a great way to boost job creation.

A word of advice to the power’s that be: if you’re planning future changes to this program, do it carefully and gradually, not abruptly and without warning.

Energy auditors speak out, and they’re angry

Earlier I had a post that asked energy auditors and anyone else affected by the premature halting of the federal ecoEnergy program to share their concerns. Dozens wrote back, and for the most part they’re extremely disappointed with the federal government but still holding out hope that the provinces will step up to fill the gap, or that the feds will have second thoughts. Here is a sample of how the decision to scrap the federal program is affecting folks:

Laid off 4 of the 5 I originally hired. Laying off 2 to 3 more staff over the next few weeks. No plans on hiring the 12 staff I was originally going to hire. $1.5 million in sales disappeared. I do not know if my company will have enough sales in my other divisions to keep the larger rental space I took specifically for solar. I may have to claim bankruptcy because of this early cancellation of a program that was supposed to run until March 31, 2011.  Continue reading Energy auditors speak out, and they’re angry

Conservatives cap energy retrofit program, let Canadians down once again

UPDATE: What does $91 million get you? The EcoEnergy program has to date saved Canadians more that 3 terawatt-hours (3 billion kilowatt-hours) of energy, according to the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance. That works out to $339 million in electricity costs every years. To now cut this program is mindboggling, and idiotic.

It continues to amaze me how hostile Canada’s current federal government is to programs aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Word tonight is that the Harper government is winding down its EcoEnergy home retrofit program. But, as is often the case, it didn’t give homeowners advance warning. The program technically runs until March 31, 2011, but if you haven’t already done or booked a pre-retrofit energy audit you’re out of luck — only those who have already booked this first audit can continue to benefit from the federal program, which pays out up to $5,000 in incentives for people who do home energy retrofits (matching incentives from the provinces may still be in effect).

This means if you’re considering solar thermal, ground-source heat pumps, a new high-efficiency furnace, a high-efficiency air conditioner, or measures to make your home more air-tight, you’ve pretty much missed the boat. It would have been nice to see some numbers from the government to justify this move.  We know that 85,000 people have already had audits that eventually led to $91 million in incentives being paid out. How much energy savings resulted? How much of a reduction in greenhouse gases did we see? How many jobs did it create? I would love to see these numbers, given that most energy experts will tell you that incentives for home energy retrofits represent one of the lowest-cost ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If the Harper government is discontinuing a climate program considered cheap compared to other alternatives, then it’s crystal clear that this government couldn’t care less about meeting its international obligations or even meeting its own greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

Let’s keep in mind it has also killed future funding for its EcoEnergy for Renewables program, taking away federal incentives for developers of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable projects. It has also failed to promote, let alone acknowledge the potential of geothermal power projects in Canada. It helped undermine climate talks in Copenhagen. It cut funding for climate research. It is one of the only major developed countries to refuse membership in the newly created International Agency for Renewable Energy. You can see where this list is going…