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New Energy Efficiency Programs Coming to Alberta

By Jesse Row

Back in 2014, Alberta was the only jurisdiction in Canada or the U.S. without energy efficiency programs for the public. This is changing now that the Provincial Government has announced three new programs coming to Alberta this year.

The first program is open to single family and multi-family homes, both owners and renters. It’s called the Residential No-Cost Energy Savings Program and will bring high efficiency lightbulbs and other basic energy saving products to homes across the province at no-cost. The program will also give energy saving tips and let consumers know about other programs they can participate in.

The second program for homes is a Residential Retail Products Program that will offer rebates on high efficiency appliances, insulation and lighting. Other products like consumer electronics and water heaters are expected to be added over time.

The third program is a Business, Non-Profit and Institutional Energy Savings Program that will offer incentives for high efficiency lighting, heating and cooling systems, and hot water heating.

The exact launch dates of these programs have not been set, but many are expecting them in the April-May timeframe. You can receive updates on these programs, and other energy efficiency initiatives in the province, by signing up to the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance LinkedIn Group at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4836089.

These programs are just the start for Energy Efficiency Alberta – a new agency tasked with increasing the uptake of energy efficiency and community energy systems in the province.

Last year, an Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel was established to provide advice to this new agency while it was being created. The results of that advice can be found in the panel’s final report at https://www.alberta.ca/documents/climate/EEAP-Report-Getting-It-Right-Complete.pdf. The Panel’s report contains 39 recommendations for Energy Efficiency Alberta that includes a long-term vision, suggestions for initial programming and opportunities for engaging Albertans.

The overall message from the Panel focuses on the opportunities that exist to help save money, create jobs and reduce emissions all at the same time through energy efficiency and community energy systems. Considerable pent-up demand and interest was also identified throughout the province as a key opportunity for the new agency.

The opportunity for energy efficiency in Alberta is significant and will lead to many different benefits. Energy efficiency upgrades improve the quality of buildings and enhance property values; households and businesses save money; jobs are created; emissions are reduced; and real estate professionals and other service providers are able to provide value-added services to their clients. Energy efficiency programs are a win-win opportunity for many different sectors and that’s why they are so widely used around the world.

It’s good to see Alberta re-entering the energy efficiency space with this initial offering of programs. We certainly want to see this continue so Albertans can take advantage of all the benefits energy efficiency has to offer.

 

Jesse Row is the Executive Director of the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance and was a member of the Provincial Government’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel.

The Newtonian Shift: playing an energy transition game

By Jennifer Allford

“Endure the chaos,” the facilitator says. “It’s part of the game.” And with that, a few dozen of us start playing the Newtonian Shift, a half-day “role-playing simulation” in a boardroom in downtown Calgary.

Think Monopoly on steroids. But instead of buying and selling property, we’re buying and selling infrastructure and different sources of energy. And we don’t sit around the table rolling the dice and moving a top hat or fancy boot along the board.  Everyone is up moving around the room, cutting deals with other players, going to the table that acts as the energy marketplace and watching as the grid grows and changes on the map of Newtonia in the middle of the room.

Newtonia is a fictitious land with an old electricity grid. Its leaders want to build a more sustainable system that uses fewer fossil fuels and has a new grid that can accommodate using more renewables. Each of us in the room is a player in that very complex system. We take on a title that’s foreign to us. Business people represent NGOs. Environmentalists run energy companies. Oil and gas engineers represent municipalities. We play roles in First Nations communities, the agriculture industry, a giant tech company or a steel supplier.

Years of change is compressed into a few hours. Every few minutes, the facilitator announces the passing of another month and we give each other panicked looks. It’s moving so fast. We haven’t replaced coal with enough solar. The municipality has no power. The strips of plastic that represent the grid don’t yet reach the First Nations community.

Every now and then there is a policy announcement from the government—subsidies for solar, a new tax on fossil fuels. Regular news flashes throw a wrench in the works—an especially cold winter sees energy prices skyrocket, a malfunction in the system is causing outages in the industrial district.

It is indeed chaos. And instructive. And fun.

At the end of the game we are all exhausted from running around the room frantically trying to change the energy system of Newtonia. We happily sit down at our tables and go around the room recounting what we were able to accomplish and where we failed. We analyze deals that were made and others that fell apart. We hear from each other and each and every sector.

As we pack up the map of Newtonia, picking up the gold strips of the new grid and the black strips for the old one, we have all seen firsthand the incredible complexity of transitioning from fossil fuels to a cleaner energy system.

After being immersed in unfamiliar roles and representing other sectors, we leave for the day knowing that as well a new grid, Alberta’s energy transition is going to require a lot of understanding across the board and plenty of dialogue among the many players.

The Newtonian Shift was developed in the Netherlands and adapted for use in Alberta with a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

See the game in action here.

 

New Tool Available to Assist with Community Energy Plan Implementation 

An open source guide, the Community Energy Implementation Framework, designed to help communities move Community Energy Plans from a vision to implementation, was released today in beta at QUEST2016 – Smart Energy Communities for Jobs, Infrastructure and Climate Action by the Community Energy Association, QUEST – Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow, and Sustainable Prosperity.

The Community Energy Implementation Framework contains 10 strategies that provide advice on political, staff and stakeholder engagement, staff and financial capacity and embedding energy into local government plans and processes.

“Across Canada, over 200 communities, representing more than 50 percent of the population, have a Community Energy Plan.” said Dale Littlejohn, Executive Director of the Community Energy Association, “Despite the acceleration of community energy planning across Canada, communities continue to face challenges when it comes to implementation, and this guide offers a tool to overcome many of those challenges.”

Laid out in an easy to use online format, the Framework also includes an Implementation Readiness Survey – a self-evaluation tool intended to help communities identify areas of strength and weakness for implementation.

“Canadian communities have an important role to play in energy. They influence nearly 60 percent of energy use and 50 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions nationally,” explains Brent Gilmour, Executive Director of QUEST. “The Community Energy Implementation Framework offers a solution to help communities do their part in helping Canada meet its GHG emission reduction targets.”

The GTI team welcomes you to share comments and questions about the beta version of the Framework to smarchionda@questcanada.org.

For more information: Access the Framework: http://www.framework.gettingtoimplementation.ca

About Community Energy Association (CEA)

CEA supports local governments in developing and implementing community energy and emissions plans (also known as climate action plans, community energy plans, and local action plans). We also help local governments with carbon neutral action plans for their operations.

About QUEST

QUEST is the leader advancing Smart Energy Communities that reduce GHG emissions, lower energy use, drive the adoption of clean technologies, and foster local economic development in Canada. Established in 2007, QUEST has a national grassroots network including over 10,000 contacts in organizations across Canada from local, provincial and territorial governments, utilities, energy service providers, building and land owners and operators, and clean technology companies working at the community level to advance Smart Energy Communities. Follow us: @QUESTCanada

About Sustainable Prosperity (SP)

SP is a national research and policy network, based at the University of Ottawa. SP focuses on market-based approaches to build a greener, more competitive economy. It brings together business, policy and academic leaders to help innovative ideas inform policy development. Follow us: @sustpro

For additional information:

QUEST

Tonja Leach, Director, Communications & National Affairs

Tel.: 613-627-2938 x706

E: tleach@questcanada.org

 

Community Energy Association

Dale Littlejohn , Executive Director

Tel.: 604-628-7076

E: dlittlejohn@communityenergy.bc.ca

Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) has launched its redesigned website

Service Alberta through the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) has launched its redesigned website.

This new, interactive resource will help consumers, especially vulnerable Albertans; make informed choices about their electricity and natural gas services.

The website is mobile and tablet responsive and has several innovative new features, all of which are intended to provide a high quality user/consumer experience:

• An interactive Cost Comparison Tool to give consumers the delivered cost of energy;

• Prominent and clear information about the services of the UCA’s Consumer Mediation Team;

• Revamped content that’s easy to read, understand and ensures search engine optimization (SEO); and

• A searchable database that displays historical natural gas and electricity rates in a user-friendly format.

Visit: http://ucahelps.alberta.ca/

 

New Energy Efficiency Agency Coming to Alberta

The recent announcement of a new energy efficiency agency for Alberta is good news for the real estate sector as energy efficiency programs have a proven track record of helping consumers save money and increasing the value of real estate.

In fact, energy efficiency programs currently exist in every province in Canada and state in the U.S. except Alberta. This was discovered as part of research undertaken by the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance (AEEA), a grantee of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

“Energy efficiency programs have been saving consumers money since the 1970s,” sums up Jesse Row, Executive Director of the AEEA. “In Alberta, we’ve been funding energy efficiency programs just when there’s a government surplus, but the opposite approach is taken just about everywhere else.”

Research conducted by the AEEA has identified that most energy efficiency programs in Canada and the U.S. are funded every month through a modest charge on utility bills. The funds are then used to help households and businesses reduce their energy consumption and save three to four times more money than they cost.

“Most energy efficiency programs need to report publicly to an energy regulator to make sure they’re making good use of consumer dollars,” adds Row. “Not only have programs demonstrated a suitable return on investment for consumers over the years, provinces and states have increased their funding as they’ve seen that energy efficiency is the cheapest way to meet increasing energy demand.”

More recently, energy efficiency programs have also been used to stimulate the economy and create jobs during economic downturns. During the last recession and recovery in the U.S., numbers compiled by the AEEA show that funding for energy efficiency programs went from US$3 billion in 2007 to US$8 billion in 2011. This funding increase happened at both the state level and through the U.S. federal government (mainly though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). Not only did energy efficiency programming in the U.S. increase during their last recession, it has maintained this level of funding as states continue to see a strong return on these investments.

For the real estate sector, the launch of an energy efficiency agency in Alberta creates opportunities to deliver more value-added services to clients. Energy efficiency programs in other provinces and states are very popular with households and businesses. These programs typically provide direct support for consumers, including financial incentives, to save energy through a combination of behaviour changes and physical upgrades to properties. The real estate sector is ideally positioned to help consumers take advantage of these new programs.

Once these programs are in place, the benefits to Alberta’s real estate sector are significant. A recent study commissioned by the AEEA shows that even an average-sized energy efficiency program for Alberta has the potential to result in over $200 million in additional energy efficiency upgrades to homes and buildings in the province each year. These investments lead directly to increased property values and over $500 million in annual energy bill savings for consumers. These savings can then be reinvested into other parts of the economy and create additional economic benefits for the province.

Keep up to date on the latest energy efficiency developments in Alberta through the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) or by signing up for an AEEA membership.

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Energy Poverty in Alberta

A surprising number of Albertans are being left out in the cold… inside their own homes.

They are the energy poor, those hard pressed to pay their utility bills. Living in cold, damp homes impacts their health and well being, especially the elderly, young, disabled and those with long-term illnesses. Needless to say, they can ill afford the energy-efficiency measures that would improve their lives and benefit the environment.

About 455,000 Albertans live in energy poverty. These low-income families spend three times more disposable income on home energy—heating, cooking and lighting—than the average household. For the poorest, it’s more than 9 per cent of their after-tax income.

The energy poor must often make difficult choices between competing necessities such as energy, water, food and clothing. The most dramatic choice for some is to “heat or eat.” Indeed, evidence suggests the poorest households, especially among seniors, spend less on food in winter to pay for additional heating.

Living in cold homes can contribute to heart disease, reduced lung function, suppressed immune systems, asthma attacks and exacerbated arthritis. It is also associated with increased stress, social isolation and, for children, impaired educational success.

Energy poverty thus results in increased public costs for health care and social services. One study suggests that every $1 spent on raising living temperatures to acceptable standards saves 42 cents in health-care costs.

Alberta’s energy poor could also be disproportionately impacted by any changes to the provincial government’s climate-change policies. Such changes will likely lead to increased energy prices, hurting poorer households, which ironically emit fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the norm.

The most cost-effective, sustainable solution to this problem is to increase the energy efficiency of energy-poor households, starting with those most in need. Realistically, this can only happen with substantial subsidies.

Many jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. operate and fund energy efficiency and conservation programs for low-income households. In Calgary, All One Sky Foundation has for several years operated a demonstration Energy Angel program, which provides energy-efficiency upgrades to the homes of low-income seniors.

But this is just a start for what needs to be a much more widespread effort. Tackling energy poverty in Alberta offers a potential win-win-win for three important environmental and social policy agendas: climate-change mitigation and greenhouse gas reduction; health and well-being; and poverty alleviation.

Read All One Sky Foundation’s “Energy Poverty – An Agenda for Alberta” report here.

All-One-Sky-Foundation

 

 

*Image: Helen Corbett, Executive Director of the All One Sky Foundation with Alberta Real Estate Foundation Past Chair Gary Willson.

 

AREF Announces Support of the Energy Futures Lab

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) approved a grant of $250,000 to foster community engagement with a focus on energy literacy across Alberta through the Energy Futures Lab. This is a bold commitment by AREF toward co-creating the province’s energy future as part of the Foundation’s 25th anniversary.

“This is an important conversation to have in the province and it affects all Albertans.” Charlie Ponde, Chair of the AREF Board of Governors states. “The Board is pleased that the Energy Futures Lab is representing a microcosm of Alberta as a whole by engaging industry, government, academia, non-for-profit and First Nations to achieve a robust and constructive conversation.”

Cheryl De Paoli, AREF’s Executive Director, and an EFL Steering Committee Member for the past year, adds, “We want people to really understand where their energy comes from, and to understand what it means to talk about renewables and innovation. We have to get beyond an “Us vs. Them” argument and a commitment to energy literacy is going to be a big part of getting us there.”

AREF’s funding is to support the Energy Futures Lab’s public engagement commitment to share more broadly EFL Fellowship discussions, prototyping and new innovations with communities across Alberta.

“Our grant to the Energy Futures Lab is AREF’s commitment to Alberta’s innovative spirit.” Cheryl De Paoli states, “We have a history of incredible ingenuity in getting oil and gas out of the ground and to market. And this spirit will be critical in setting ourselves on a path to move beyond oil and gas, and to position Alberta as a global energy leader now and into the future.”

One of the major opportunities to engage Albertans in shaping their energy future is the Newtonian Shift game which is an immersive simulation game that condenses 20 years of energy transition into a single day. Players take on one of a variety of roles within an outdated and inefficient energy system and collaborate in order to create the energy system of the future or risk being left behind. Over the coming year, a series of game sessions will be hosted in communities across Alberta. The first two of these will be held in Calgary on Thursday, April 7 and Edmonton on Thursday, April 14.

Read the full announcement on the Energy Futures Lab here.

The grant is made under the AREF’s new Community Innovation funding stream which supports projects, practices and ideas that encourage experimentation with the goal of creating new ways of realizing community potential and character within Alberta.

Community Energy Plans drive economic development, cut energy costs, reduce emissions and create jobs

The Foundation is involved in the Community Energy Planning Getting to Implementation in Canada (GTI) Initiative. GTI is a multi-year national initiative that is empowering communities to take a leading role on energy, including innovative energy projects such as renewable electricity, district energy, biomass, landfill gas capture, clean transportation, electric vehicles and others.

On February 10th, GTI released a new research report Community Energy Planning: The Value Proposition prepared by Sustainable Prosperity. The report states that Canadian communities have untapped opportunities to strengthen local economies, reduce current and future energy costs and emissions, and create jobs by investing in smarter and more integrated approaches to energy use at the local level. In addition, community energy planning has a positive effect on environmental and community health goals, as well as economic ones.

To read the full report please visit: www.gettingtoimplementation.ca/research

Edmonton Library Users Can Test Home Energy Consumption

Homeowners are now able to perform an informal energy audit of their home with Green HomeEnergy Toolkits available from Edmonton Public Libraries. A grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) to the City of Edmonton helped make the kits available.

Each kit is self-contained in a sturdy case and includes a digital thermometer, power meters, instructional booklets, and other tools to help homeowners examine their utility consumption. Once the excess uses of power, heat, or water are found, homeowners can reduce the waste and save on the cost of utilities.

Charlie Ponde, AREF chair, joined Edmonton City Councillor Michael Walters and the Manager of Collections, Management and Access Division, Edmonton Public Library, Sharon Karr, on January 14 to announce the kits’ availability.

“For the last 25 years, our foundation has strived to support initiatives that make a real difference in the industry and in the lives of Albertans,” said Ponde. “By taking the initiative on energy efficiency, the City of Edmonton is a model for many other municipalities across the province.”

There is no cost to borrow a kit. The kits can be ordered and checked out of any Edmonton Public Library branch like books or records and kept for up to three weeks. There is already a backlog of several hundred requests for the kits. The City of Edmonton has also placed kits with the two school boards for use by students and has kits available for promotional purposes at trade shows and exhibits.

Similar kits are available in other communities in Alberta (Red Deer) and the interest in Edmonton is spurring other municipalities (St. Albert and Okotoks) and library systems to acquire their own kits.

Unlocking the door to Smart Energy Communities – a Framework for Implementation

Communities – the places where we live, work and play – account for 60% of energy use in Canada, as well as over half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In other words, when we invest, plan and implement effectively for Smart Energy Communities, we can have a direct impact on addressing Canada’s energy and GHG challenges.

QUEST believes that there are three fundamental features of a Smart Energy Community that you can view by watching this video.

  • First, a Smart Energy Community integrates conventional energy networks. That means that the electricity, natural gas, district energy and transportation fuel networks in a community are better coordinated to match energy needs with the most efficient energy source.
  • Second, a Smart Energy Community integrates land use, recognizing that poor land use can equal a whole lot of energy waste.
  • Third, a Smart Energy Community harnesses local energy opportunities.

Many cities and communities in Canada have taken ownership over their energy, recognizing the significant impact energy has on the local economy, health and community resilience. These communities are exemplifying some of the features of a Smart Energy Community.

Consider Surrey, British Columbia, where the municipal government is building a district energy system that will efficiently provide heating and cooling to buildings in the City Centre. Surrey is also developing the largest Organic Biofuels facility in Canada which will turn organic waste into renewable natural gas that will replace diesel and gasoline fueling for municipal vehicle fleets.

Consider also Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, which successfully completed a 10-year community energy plan and exceeded greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by 100%, in part by converting from oil to renewable wood-pellet burning heating systems throughout the city.

And finally, consider Guelph, Ontario where the municipal government and electric utility have collaborated to develop the Galt District Energy system, seven solar energy facilities, a small-scale combined heat and power system, and plans for both a large-scale combined heat and power facility and biomass projects. Guelph is also playing host to net-zero residential developments.

These and many other communities are blazing trails – led in particular by the initiative and leadership of the municipal and provincial governments, gas and electric utilities, and real estate stakeholders that make them up.

Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a Smart Energy Community, Surrey, Yellowknife and Guelph each use a Community Energy Plan to guide decision making around energy.  Lessons learned in these communities can be applied in every community across Canada.

A Community Energy Plan is a tool that helps communities define priorities around energy with a view to improving efficiency, cutting emissions and driving economic development. Community Energy Plans are an important and effective enabler for becoming a Smart Energy Community.

Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada

That is why QUEST has partnered with The Community Energy Association and Sustainable Prosperity, Canada’s leading community energy experts, to launch a national initiative entitled Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada. The objective of this multiyear initiative is to build the capacity of Canadian communities to develop and implement Community Energy Plans. This will be done through the development of a Community Energy Implementation Framework.

Over the next year, the project will be drawing on lessons learned from communities across Canada through research, as well as a series of national workshops, to develop the Implementation Framework.  The Framework will help communities navigate the challenges faced when it comes to implementing Community Energy Plans and will provide them with the tools they need to become Smart Energy Communities.

QUEST recognizes that every community will have its own unique set of opportunities and challenges for advancing Smart Energy Communities. The solutions will vary from community to community. The Getting to Implementation initiative is one of the first steps for identifying the success factors and barriers for CEP implementation. Understanding these will bring QUEST one step closer to defining how other communities across Canada can develop and implement Community Energy Plans effectively, and become Smart Energy Communities.

Be sure to attend Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Alberta on June 18th 9:30 am – 3:30 pm at the University of Alberta. Register here.

By: Eric Campbell, Acting Director, Programs & Service, QUEST and Sarah Marchionda, Manager, Research & Education, QUEST