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St. Albert could earn eco-boon with CEIP, group finds

PACE-like fund could add $17 mil to economy
1302 StAlPace carbon challenge CC 6544
GREENER ROOF — A recent study suggests that St. Albert could add $17 million to its economy if it brought in a Clean Energy Improvement Program. Such programs make it easier for residents to finance major energy efficiency upgrades to their homes, such as this huge solar array installed in Erin Ridge by Dave Pearson (shown) in 2015. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert could add $17 million to its economy in four years if it green-lights a $5-million plan to let people pay for energy upgrades through their taxes, a recent report suggests. 

St. Albert’s environmental advisory committee (EAC) received the results of the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP) market study Jan. 28. 

CEIP is Alberta’s version of Property Assessed Clean Energy, which is an initiative that lets people make energy-efficient upgrades to properties without having to put money down. Popular in the U.S., PACE is catching on as a way to circumvent the high up-front costs of such upgrades to reduce greenhouse emissions and save people money. 

The EAC has been studying CEIP in recent months to see if St. Albert should make it available to residents. 

CEIP would let homeowners apply to add more insulation, efficient windows, solar panels or other upgrades to a home, explained city environment manager Christian Benson in an interview. The city would front the cash for the upgrades and the owner would pay them back over 25 years or so through higher property taxes. The higher taxes would be offset, potentially in their entirety, by the upgraded home’s energy savings.  

“It’s a very affordable, low-cost way to do efficiency upgrades,” Benson said.  

The U.S. has done about $8 billion PACE-style projects in the last decade, and Ontario and Nova Scotia have started doing them too, said Kara Orr of the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (which runs CEIP in Alberta). Canmore, Devon and Rocky Mountain House have passed the necessary legislation to start CEIP, while Edmonton is about to do so, having already received a $9.6-million grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to run it. 

Green benefits 

The climate change action centre did a market study of CEIP for St. Albert to estimate its potential impact based on the region’s past participation in Energy Efficiency Alberta’s rebate programs, Benson said. 

The study found that in four years about 254 homeowners would participate in CEIP if it were available, with each investing $18,000 to $21,000 into energy efficiency improvements. A $5-million, four-year program would save homeowners $4.1 million over the lifetime of these upgrades, employ 73 people for a year, and add $17 million to the economy. The upgrades would also prevent about 30,683 tonnes of greenhouse gases over 19 years – that’s more than enough to offset all emissions produced by City of St. Albert operations in 2019. 

Benson said each of these projects would create local jobs, raise property values and lower greenhouse gas emissions and energy bills. 

“The financial impact to the city is none,” Benson said – the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is offering substantial grants and loans to finance CEIP, and any debt the city takes on for it would not count against its debt limit. 

Coun. Jacquie Hansen, who sits on the city’s environmental committee, said she thought CEIP is a really good fit for St. Albert and would prove popular if introduced. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to facilitate a greener way of life for our residents,” she said, many of whom have called on the city to support their efforts to go green.   

The environmental advisory committee will likely finalize its advice to council on CEIP later this month, Benson said.  

Kevin Ma

About the 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.
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