Demand for energy auditors still high in Alberta months after federal grant launch
23,000 Albertans have applied for the Canada Greener Homes Grant
A federal grant program that partially reimburses homeowners who invest in energy-efficient retrofits has been so popular in Alberta that energy auditors say they can hardly keep up with demand.
Energy advisers told CBC News that demand for EnerGuide evaluations, which are required to qualify for up to $5,000 in rebates, has been high ever since the Canada Greener Homes Grant launched in May.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) has received about 120,000 grant applications, including nearly 23,000 from Albertans.
A shortage of registered energy advisers is delaying some homeowners' plans, especially outside Edmonton and Calgary.
Wanda Laurin, a former teacher planning to add more solar panels to her Peace River, Alta., home, could not find a local energy adviser.
Eventually, she convinced one to travel from Prince George after she rallied more than a dozen of her neighbours to book energy audits during the same time period.
"I have every certainty that he wouldn't have come if it had just been for one person," Laurin said.
Tyler Hermanson, a director at 4 Elements in Calgary and president of the Canadian Association of Consulting Energy Advisors, said his company hired three people and an administrator to try to keep up but they still had to turn away clients.
Patrick McMahon, who manages Alberta operations for Energuy, said the company hired six energy advisers in the province this year and is training more.
"It's certainly been a challenge to hire candidates," he said.
More advisers being trained
Mathieu Côte, executive director of the Canadian Institute for Energy Training, said it has nearly tripled the number of trained energy advisers this year.
Côte said before the grant launch, Alberta had relatively few energy advisers for its population — only 45, or five per cent of the total number in Canada. Alberta has about 12 per cent of Canada's population.
He said Albertans now make up 15 per cent of course participants.
Côte said multiple factors are contributing to the energy adviser shortage, including a lack of awareness about the job and not enough service organizations hiring workers.
"As crazy as it sounds, they don't have time to hire," he said.
Ottawa promised to invest $10 million to recruit 2,000 energy advisers and its call for proposals to recruit, train and mentor them closed this summer.
An NRCAN spokesperson said applicants will be notified of decisions this fall and information about successful proposals will be available soon.
The federal initiative also aims to increase the diversity of the energy adviser workforce — something Côte is already witnessing.
Most trainees used to come from the construction and HVAC industries, he said, but lately the centre has seen people from different fields, including hairdressing and child care.
Brett Murphy, an energy adviser and Alberta manager for Energy Werx, said he entered the industry a few months ago because he wanted a more predictable schedule and more time with his family.
Murphy, who previously worked in the military, said his new job is flexible and rewarding, with a promising future.
"We know that building codes and building practices are really only going one way," he said.
Waiting for windows
High demand for home retrofits is also putting pressure on suppliers of solar panels, windows and insulation.
"The entire construction industry, which we're a part of, is deeply overwhelmed right now," Hermanson said.
Yoneke Alexander, who is upgrading 26 windows in her northeast Edmonton home, said suppliers told her windows are taking several months to arrive.
"A few of them said, 'I can't even give you a quote because it's going to take so long for the windows to come in,'" she said.
The federal government plans to distribute up to 700,000 grants during the seven-year program.
According to NRCAN, homes and buildings make up 18 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.