Sturgeon County residents will get to re-insulate their homes and put up solar panels for no money down as early as next year under a just-approved $7.3-million initiative.
County council approved its Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP) tax bylaw April 12.
CEIP is the Alberta term for property assessed clean energy, a program where people pay for energy efficiency improvements to buildings through property taxes over time.
Buildings account for 13 to 18 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions, the federal government reports. Climate researchers say all nations must reduce all carbon emissions to net zero in the near future if they are to stabilize global temperatures and prevent further floods, fires, and droughts caused by global warming. Carbon-cutting upgrades such as insulation and solar panels can help, but such upgrades often have steep up-front costs which deter people from buying them.
CEIP sidesteps this problem by letting owners pay for energy efficiency upgrades through property taxes over such a long time that the upgrades pay for themselves through energy savings. Those payments also stick with the property, not the owner, so an owner only pays for an upgrade so long as they own and benefit from it.
Sturgeon County’s CEIP bylaw lets property owners get loans to buy renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for their buildings and pay for them over up to 25 years through property taxes, similar to how they would pay for a new road through a local improvement tax.
The law lets owners apply for one loan of at least $3,000 per property per year provided they are not bankrupt or in arrears on their taxes and their property is up to safety codes. Applicants can get up to $50,000 for residential, $300,000 for farmland, and $1 million for non-residential projects. Designated industrial properties (such as oil pipelines and refineries) are not eligible for the program.
Council agreed to borrow $7.3 million instead of the $6.8 million proposed at first reading to fund this program. Administration told council the increase was based on observed uptake for CEIP in other jurisdictions and high energy prices. Council previously heard this money could come from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and would not be counted against the county’s debt limit.
Council has heard that this program would be run by the Alberta Municipal Services Corporation and cover a wide array of upgrades, including windows, insulation, and solar power, creating local jobs while lowering energy costs and carbon emissions.
A report to council showed that some $2.7 million in residential and $4.5 million in non-residential projects would be funded through the program after four years.
CEIP is projected to launch in Sturgeon County sometime next year.