Canadian Manufacturing

Financial incentives could combat increased energy use in Alberta

Report recommends province adopt multiple programs to fight consumption that has spiked 62 per cent



CALGARY—The Alberta government needs to reel in skyrocketing power consumption in the province that has seen a major spike in usage since the mid-1990s, according to a new policy paper.

Published by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, the paper, Energy Efficiency: Finding Leadership Opportunities, recommends the government implement a host of programs and incentives to improve efficiency in the face of province-wide consumption that increased 62 per cent between 1995 and 2011.

The Alberta population grew 40 per cent over the same period.

“The incentives to become more energy efficient are not particularly strong in Alberta,” authors William D. Rosehart and Hamid Zareipour write. “There is little pressure on Albertans to radically alter their energy consumption behaviour.”

That lack of incentive is only reinforced by Albertans’ collective appetites for large vehicles and an abundance of energy production in the province that leaves little cause for concern over energy security, Rosehart and Zareipour write.

But the time to act is now in the face of growing energy use, the authors warn, and using financial incentives could be a good place to start in order to drive down energy consumption.

Offering financial assistance or rebate programs that reward the end user for undertaking energy efficiency initiatives is a common practice across Canada and the United States, and Rosehart and Zareipour recommend the province explore the option to reduce consumption for residential, commercial and industrial consumers alike.

“Financial incentives by the government may appear in the form of provision of direct loans, grants and tax credits,” they write. “These financial incentives generally lower the initial cost of energy efficient products and thus, accelerate market transformation.”

Energy use in the industrial sector particularly rose drastically over the period studied, increasing 110 per cent on the back of the province’s oil and gas boom.

Its share of total energy use in the province rose from 37 per cent to 48 per cent between 1995 and 2011.

“Improved energy efficiency could position businesses in Alberta to become even more globally competitive,” according to the authors.

Rosehart and Zareipour also recommend the province step up its public awareness and education programming to reel in consumption.

“Public awareness and information about energy efficiency play a critical role in the success of not just particular programs, but also individual choices that are independent of the programs,” they write.

Other recommendations include the adoption of a mandatory energy efficient building code like LEED certification for new construction in the province, and the development of a natural gas-fuelled transportation network.

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