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Report Advises City of Edmonton (AB) To Encourage Solar Power Co-operatives

Incentives urged for renewable energy use 



Report outlines potential to increase more sustainable system 


BY GORDON KENT, EDMONTON JOURNAL MAY 18, 2012
Solar power co-operatives and an $87-million incentive program could help Edmonton massively boost its consumption of renewable energy, a task force report says.

There’s potential to generate as much as 20 per cent of the electricity used in the city from renewable sources, up from the current one per cent, according to the report released Thursday.

Renewables, primarily solar in Edmonton, could also replace up to 10 per cent of the natural gas burned in the city, the report says.
But it will take work. One proposal is to increase the franchise fees paid by Epcor and Atco customers, then use that money to subsidize the installation of thousands of solar electricity panels and water heaters.

That would bring in a total of $87 million over five years, costing the typical homeowner about $77.

However, those figures are already out of date because the price of solar equipment has dropped substantially in the last year, said Mark Brostrom, director of the city’s environment office.

“This report was provided by the task force and now the city will evaluate the recommendations,” he said.

“Of course, we will have funding challenges around some of these. We will have a good look.”

As well as reducing emissions, boosting local renewable energy would mean less need for long-distance transmission lines, he said.

People should also be encouraged to cut energy consumption at the same time, he said.

“I think it’s really around making a smooth transition to a more sustainable energy system,” Brostrom said, adding an estimated one in seven Ontario farmers is now creating electricity from renewable sources.

“If, for example, we were to go along and all of a sudden solar panels became very cost-efficient – we could be overwhelmed with the amount of people and businesses that want to move into them.”

Other suggestions for city action include:
– Helping create community solar power co-operatives that could install equipment on schools, churches or commercial buildings, and sell electricity back to the grid, perhaps at a premium price.
– Reducing or eliminating property taxes on renewable energy systems.
– Introducing a solar access law ensuring buildings can receive a certain number of hours of daily sunlight.
– Requiring that a portion of a home’s energy comes from onsite renewable sources.

“What we’re seeing in pilot programs around the province is there’s a tremendous hunger for people to get a solar system on their house,” said task force chair Gordon Howell, who has worked in the industry for 30 years. “With a very small incentive program, the city could go a long way to facilitate people getting that system.”

The retail cost of solar electricity in Alberta is already dropping close to the price of power from other sources, he said.

“What it means is – any incentives the government does provide will go a much, much longer way than they would have done a few years ago.”

The report will be discussed Wednesday by council’s executive committee, along with a green building plan that includes proposals for energy labelling on new and existing homes similar to information already provided for cars.

City staff will probably produce a plan by early 2013 for implementing some of the proposals.

Coun. Ben Henderson hasn’t read the reports, but he’s interested in finding ways for Edmonton to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand its economy.

He sees opportunities for jobs in the renewable sector .
“The experience elsewhere is you need some incentives to begin to shift this over ,” he said.

gkent@edmontonjournal.com

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