North

Need a home energy audit in the N.W.T.? That'll take 'at least' a year

There's a huge wait-list for home energy evaluations in the N.W.T., according to the organization that carries them out. But the Arctic Energy Alliance said it's working on clearing lists of people waiting for rebates on energy efficient appliances and electric vehicles.

Backlog stems from pandemic delays, new federal rebate, says Arctic Energy Alliance

A photo of a blower door test being carried out as part of an energy audit in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA)'s audit also includes a blower door test which measures how much air is leaking from a home, and where it might be coming from. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

The Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA) has moved money around to address a backlog of people waiting for energy efficiency rebates in the N.W.T.  — but if you're looking for a home energy audit, that'll take more than a year. 

The audits are carried out by AEA-certified evaluators, and are designed to help people understand how their home uses energy and what improvements can be made to make it more energy efficient. 

Mark Heyck, the alliance's executive director, said the evaluations have been put on hold a few times because of the evolving COVID-19 situation in the territory. A backlog created by those pauses has been compounded by a spike in interest in audits after the federal government announced a new rebate program last year that requires them. 

"Our wait-list probably increased by about 50 per cent in length, as a result," he said.

The wait for an evaluation, if someone were to add themselves to the list now, would be "at least a year" and "likely longer," he added. 

Mark Heyck, the executive director of the AEA, seen here in a photo from when he was Yellowknife's mayor. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

To address the backlog, Heyck said the AEA is building up its own internal capacity and is also "exploring some options with contractors" who are qualified to do the evaluations. 

Though AEA is contemplating pausing the audits again after the territory tightened public health measures Tuesday, Heyck said the organization hopes to shorten the wait-list in the months ahead. 

"It's been a very challenging program to try to administer and catch up on." 

Rebate programs find more funding

The wait for an energy audit might be long — but for some N.W.T. residents, the wait for a rebate through the Energy Efficiency Incentive Program and for an electric vehicle is over. 

At the start of November, Heyck said there were 112 people on a wait-list for the incentive program, which aims to reduce peoples' energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by helping to pay for energy efficient appliances like LED light bulbs and Energy Star certified dishwashers. 

Cabin Radio first reported in late December that AEA had been able to reallocate funding to revive the program. 

Energy Star-certified LED light bulbs are shown at a Canadian Tire store in Ottawa on March 4, 2019. LED light bulbs are one of several products that qualify for rebates through the AEA's Energy Efficiency Incentive Program. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Heyck told CBC News his organization was able to free up $140,000 that would "take care of anybody that's been on our wait-list" for the Energy Efficiency Incentive Program. The money comes from the Community Energy Implementation Program which didn't use all of its funding for the year and from vacant staff positions, he said. 

The AEA also received $100,000 from the territorial government for electric vehicle and charging station rebates, said Heyck. 

"When we launched that program in 2020, we weren't really sure what the update would be," said Heyck, adding that it hit its initial budget wall in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The rebate for an electric vehicle is $5,000, and the rebate for a charging station is $500. 

Heyck said the organization would be able to address all the people who were still waiting for their electric vehicle rebate in the current fiscal year, and now has the capacity to process a few more applicants before it ends on March 31, 2022, as well. 

The AEA received $6.8 million in funding and doled out $1.8 million in incentives to N.W.T. residents in 2020-21 according to its last annual report. That includes 2,382 rebates through the Energy Efficiency Incentive Program, which the report says helped the territory avoid emitting 810 tonnes of greenhouse gases and 1.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity consumption per year. 

The entire territory produced 1.4 megatonnes (or 1.4 million tonnes) of greenhouse gases in 2019. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She moved to Yellowknife in March 2021, after working as a reporter and newscaster in Ontario for five years. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca

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