Province stumps $2 million for municipal eco-retrofits

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St. Albert likely to cash in, says city

By Kevin Ma

St. Albert is well positioned to tap into the $2 million pot that the province unveiled this week to make city buildings more energy efficient, says the city’s environmental manager.

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced Thursday that the province was adding $2 million to a provincial fund that’s meant to help municipalities cut greenhouse gas emissions.

That fund, administered by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, has previously helped St. Albert retrofit two hockey arenas.

“Supporting efforts of local governments to reduce the carbon footprint of their communities is not only good for the environment, it also creates good local jobs, reduces energy costs for taxpayers, and in turn frees up more resources for investments in the priorities of Alberta families,” Phillips said in a press conference.

Beaumont recently used this fund to retrofit its town hall, fire hall and RCMP station, cutting its energy use by 13 per cent and its carbon footprint by 11 per cent, Phillips said. Calgary is now saving $67,000 a year on energy due to similar retrofits.

“This is a small step,” she continued. The province was also doing a review of its energy efficiency programs and its renewable energy strategy.

While Phillips said the province would also bring in a green retrofit loan program for Alberta residents, she didn’t say when that program would start.

Good investment

The climate change action centre was created in 2011 and has $6 million to its name as of this announcement. The fund, which has backed some 54 projects at a cost of $800,000, gives municipalities up to $75,000 per building for retrofits of public facilities.

Cash for the fund comes from the province’s $15-a-tonne levy on large industrial emitters.

St. Albert previously received $25,000 to install new boilers and a waste-heat recovery system into the Kinex and Akinsdale arenas in 2013, reports the action centre’s website – moves estimated to save the city about $14,629 a year and reduce its emissions by 115 tonnes a year.

The city also expects to get an additional $10,000 from the fund based on the arenas’ greenhouse gas reductions, said city environment manager Mike Mellross. The grant covers up to $25,000 of a project’s capital cost and adds a $90 bonus per tonne of emissions reduced. The grants mean that the $63,650 retrofits should pay for themselves in about a year.

Grants such as these help cities show environmental leadership and teach residents about energy efficiency, Mellross said.

“Absolutely we intend to apply (again) in the future,” he said of the new funding. The city will be well positioned to apply soon, as it’s about to do energy audits of 11 of its buildings.

Unlike commercial buildings, where the owners often don’t pay power bills and the tenants don’t stick around – giving both little incentive to invest in energy efficiency – municipal buildings tend to have long-term tenants that pay their own bills, says Godo Stoyke, former St. Albert resident and president of the eco-audit firm Carbon Busters.

Stoyke noted that he recently helped Edmonton retrofit six community league buildings through this fund. The city was now saving about $8,891 a year and preventing some 55 tonnes of emissions per year as a result.

“You can have major cost reductions.”

Alberta cities are now saving about $400,000 a year on energy costs due to retrofits backed by this fund, said Helen Rice, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.

Those projects have also cut about 2,600 tonnes off of Alberta’s annual emissions, Phillips said.

Visit mccac.ca for more on the grants.

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About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.