Calgary

Alberta's energy efficiency panel stops in Calgary to gather advice on $645M agency

Alberta's new Energy Efficiency Panel hosted its first open house in Calgary on Monday, asking Albertans what they think should be done with the $645 million earmarked for a new provincial agency.

Programs could include everything from incentives on efficient appliances, to help for small businesses

David Wheeler, chair of Alberta's energy efficiency advisory panel, said he thinks Alberta can become a leader in energy efficiency. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Alberta's new Energy Efficiency Panel hosted its first open house in Calgary on Monday, asking Albertans what they think should be done with the $645 million earmarked for a new provincial agency. 

"Our job, really, is to make recommendations to the minister that will allow her to get the efficiency agency up and running as soon as possible and have programs in place as soon as possible in 2017," said David Wheeler, the president and vice chancellor of Cape Breton University, as well as the panel chair. 

The money will be doled out by the new arm's-length agency over the next four and a half years, and the panel's job is to come up with the best ways to spend it. 

"Everything will be tested to make sure that maximum value for money is achieved," he said. 

Choosing from best practices

There is an international smorgasbord of options to choose from, with Alberta lagging far behind many jurisdictions when it comes to promoting and supporting energy efficiency. The programs could include incentives for appliances, guidance for small businesses and more. 

"It's quite simple when you think about it, because we're not inventing anything brand new here," said Wheeler. 

"What we're doing is we're taking international and national best practices, we're learning from that and we're then fitting that to the particular circumstances of Alberta."

Wheeler said he's convinced Alberta can become a leader in new forms of energy, even as the economy will continue to rely on fossil fuels for some time to come. 

The money for the agency will come from the government's new carbon levy, something Wheeler believes is a win-win, with all paying into the levy, the levy funding efficiencies, and efficiencies saving everyone money.

'I want us to be winners'

It was a supportive crowd that showed up in Calgary.

Steven Bentley, an entrepreneur who is working on an app related to energy efficiency, is eager to see Alberta move towards more sustainable energy. 

"Ultimately, this shift is either going to be put down our throats, or we're going to show leadership and make money off of it and it's going to be an overall plus," he said. 

Bentley said moving away from fossil fuels is not only the right thing to do, but there's money to be made as well. 

"Ultimately there's going to be winners and losers in this race and I want us to be winners," he said.

'I hope Alberta turns a corner'

Dan Carse is already ahead of the game when it comes to energy savings and renewables. He installed solar panels on his house about four years ago that feed power back into the grid during peak sunshine. 

"I think it's long overdue. I'm applauding our current government for having the courage to move ahead on this," he said.

Carse said he's sick of the boom-bust cycle of the oil and gas economy and doesn't want to see another downturn. 

"I hope Alberta turns a corner," he said. 

The advisory panel will be in Edmonton on July 20 at the Robbins Health Learning Centre. If you can't get there in person, you can make an online submission. 

The panel will also consult with First Nations and technical stakeholders throughout the process and hopes to have the agency up and running by Jan. 1, 2017.

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