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article imageAlberta's carbon tax and higher solar rebates under attack

By Karen Graham     Nov 14, 2018 in Environment
Solar power in Alberta has grown by 500 percent since 2015, and the province has announced it is increasing rebates for both homeowners and non-profits, as well as putting more money towards solar energy programs. But will this last?
The Global News reported the province announced Monday it would be increasing funding to programs run by Energy Efficiency Alberta and the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre. Energy Efficiency Alberta is funded by the province's carbon tax.
The province said homeowners can now get up to 35 percent off solar panel installation, for a maximum rebate of $10,000, and businesses and non-profit organizations can get up to 35 percent off system costs, to a maximum rebate of $1 million. The rebates are based on the size of the system installed and calculated at $0.90 per watt for residential, $0.75 per watt for commercial, and $1 for non-profits and charities.
“Alberta is an energy province, and our investments in renewable energy have spurred unbelievable growth in the solar industry,” said Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips in a statement, reports the Edmonton Journal. So far, since 2015, there have been 3,100 solar installations in the province.
Edmonton residents are getting an extra perk out of all this. The city is offering an additional incentive of $0.15/watt towards the cost of installing a residential system, on top of the $0.90/watt from Energy Efficiency Alberta.
“Government rebates continue to play an important role in helping encourage the adoption of new technologies,” said Solar Energy Society of Alberta board chair Susan Petrina in a statement.
Frank Bestman, who lives in Edmonton, had solar panels installed on his home in December. For Bestman, going solar was all a matter of principal.
“I think it’s an investment in the future that you make and we’re quite concerned about our carbon footprint. This is one great way we can eliminate or minimize that,” he said.
According to the Alberta government, the solar rebate program is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half a million tons by 2019. That's the same as taking 700,000 cars off the roads. To be sure, solar still makes up a small part of the province's energy mix, but it has been growing by leaps and bounds. Solar capacity has increased from six MW in 2015 to 35 MW in 2018.
Alberta's carbon tax has helped renewable growth
In 2015, Rachel Notley's New Democratic Party took over Alberta's governmental reins. And while Notley has been a champion for the TransMountain pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline, she also introduced the carbon tax that generates revenue for renewable energy projects, new infrastructure, and other initiatives.
Alberta's Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd has held the province's energy portfolio since 2015, and this puts her at the helm of any decisions being made on fostering renewables and regulating the oil sands. Under McCuaig-Boyd’s watch, there are plans to phase out coal-fueled energy.
Speaking to National Observer in September, McCuaig-Boyd pointed to new investment and thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector. “We all agree that we don’t need to choose between environment and economy,” McCuaig-Boyd said. “We can move forward in both, and I think that’s (what) distinguishes us, you know, from our opposition, the UCP, who prefer to look backward, and huff and puff a lot and talk about the good old days.”
McCuaig-Boyd must have been referring to UCP leader Jason Kenney who has already said that if his party wins the election next year, his first order of business will be to repeal the carbon tax.
“This will be one (of), I think, the central issues in the next Alberta election campaign,” Kenney told reporters in Calgary in October. “You have three parties, the NDP, the Liberals, and the Alberta Party, who all support a carbon tax and one party, the United Conservatives, who oppose it."
Kenney and Ford join forces
Kenney, along with his new best friend, Doug Ford in Toronto have already held a rally in early October at the Calgary Convention Centre where the two railed against the imposition of carbon taxes, much to the delight of a raucous crowd of 1,500 followers.
"It's really, my friends the worst tax ever, a tax we can't afford, a job-killing tax that hikes up the price of services and goods and drives up the price of heating your homes," Ford told the anti-carbon-tax rally.
Kenney said the "multibillion-dollar job-killing carbon tax" was not in the NDP's 2015 election platform. "It is not just the biggest tax hike in Alberta history. It is the biggest lie in Alberta history," he said.
Provencial resistance to Ottawa's carbon tax has been fueled by both Ford and Kenney, the two loudest voices amidst the crowds - most of them working-class people who probably don't fully understand what it all means in the first place. Actually, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen said that Albertans should be disturbed by Ford and Kenney working together, reports the Huffington Post.
"Certainly we know how to solve our issues in Alberta and we don't need someone from Ontario coming and telling us what to do," he said. "Our climate action plan is very effective up to now in creating jobs, helping to diversify the economy and quite frankly is helping to reduce pollution as well."
More about Alberta, solar rebate increase, investment in future, Carbon tax, Renewables
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