6 Low Cost Ideas for Energy in Alberta

The Alberta Government budgeted $645 million and created Energy Efficiency Alberta this year. It's a new agency staffed and focused on creating energy efficiency programs for the province.

In the meantime, Government leadership and the media are preoccupied with the legality and cost impact of Power Purchase Agreements (PPA). Let's not lose sight of other things happening under the banner of Alberta's Climate Change Leadership Plan.

We're all been invited to join the debate: What will we get for $645 million? Will targeted investments in community-level renewable energy projects create green jobs? If so, how many? What type of new regional economic development investment opportunities are envisioned? How will the energy programs of this new agency solve the "fuel poverty issue" for those on low incomes?

The Alberta Climate Change strategy encompasses a number of important and dynamic components. At the most basic level, energy-efficiency is one of them, as it should be. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new program spending also are anticipated. These programs may include a Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) rebate for PV Solar micro-generators or subsidies paid to help build new community solar farms.

Let's also not lose sight of the importance of simply promoting existing programs created by companies already going down the same path. Ask yourself: Are subsidies really valid energy efficiency initiatives?

We don't believe it's necessary to spend tax dollars by trying to re-invent the wheel. Why not instead consider the wisdom of simply helping consumers to better understand what already exists.

Please spend our money wisely and remember it is our money you are spending.

Recommended energy policy: KISS

Several simple and cost-effective opportunities are available for this government to consider. For example, a recent program launched in India that subsidizes LED lights for the masses. It is a low cost solution that will produce immediate results.

Another idea: Consider encouraging consumers to look for energy saving symbols when shopping for appliances. Brand symbols such as Energy Star or EnerGuide make it easier for consumers to identify and buy products that will help them:

  • save energy;
  • lower utility bills;
  • reduce impacts on the environment.

Other logos that consumers should search are from companies that offer ECOLOGO certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs audited by ULas, a symbol of trust).

How about this? Energy Marketers who sell green energy services. Do you know who they are? Buying electricity designated with green power certificates (REC) is one way to help green the grid.

Encor by Epcor offers a product called Chirp. While Bullfrog Power doesn"t sell electricity, they do offer consumers the option of buying green offsets.

Just Energy and ATCO Energy also offer a green option. Green Alberta Energy is marketed by 20 independent Energy Markter in Alberta who all offer an option to buy green electricity.

Today, consumers can choose to supplement their energy plan with green renewable energy such as solar or wind. Is it possible for the new government agency to start promoting what already exists?

Benefits of promoting existing energy ideas

Alberta will achieve immediate results with these low-cost solutions. Green Alberta Energy was launched at the same time the government introduced their Climate Plan and, already, consumers have converted over 1 million kWh to green; the trend is growing at a rate of 250,000 kWh per month.

It's a success story that didn't cost the government 1 cent.

Green power certificates are audited by an official agency to ensure that renewable energy is being exported onto the grid to help offset the conventional power used. This is done by investing in the purchase of, and retiring enough, RECs to offset electricity consumption.

1 REC = 1 MWh of green renewable energy when paired with the equivalent amount of electricity

Prices for energy, as well as the price for RECs, differ by Energy Marketer. Regardless of which energy plan for which a consumer signs up, the common thread between all Alberta retailers is linked to the fundamental objective: Greening the Grid.

Would it be possible for the new government agency to start promoting and supporting retailers who are buying green offsets? It's a reasonable request since we collectively will be investing over $600 million for the Climate Change Plan.

Last April, we challenged our MLAs: "What are you doing in your own family home?" We asked every MLA to lead by example and help green the grid today. How many did? Only 1 MLA signed up with Green Alberta Energy. Maybe they all signed up with ENCOR, ATCO or JUST ENERGY, even though they would have had to pay more for their energy. And, if they are stuck on the RRO (Regulated Rate Option), we know the regulated utilities do not offer a green energy plan.

Earlier this month, our government spent $100 thousand dollars advertising the protection of Albertans against unfair power bills. Ads ran in all major and regional newspapers. Just think: If they had spent the same dollars and promoted "Greening the Grid", we all would be better off today.

We contend that our government should not be fighting court battles but rather encouraging consumers to shop - save - and go green. The best kept secret in Alberta is there are many energy producers who are offering electricity prices below the rates being offered by Regulated Rate Providers.

Unfair Power Bills? Please!

Consumers today are paying less than 3 cents per kWh down from over 10 cents in 2013. The only thing that is unfair about the utility power bill is that the regulated delivery costs have ballooned and the government has turned a blind eye to those utilities that have shipped customer care, utility billing and technology jobs out of the province. (But that is another story for another day. Let's focus on green.)

Consumers can buy green for the low price of 1.66 cents per kWh from the private sector. This amounts to about half what the government is possibly considering paying new green generators in an attempt to encourage them to invest into greening our generation fleet.

Want to help? Below you will find a shopping list of Energy Marketers in Alberta. Buy energy from those who are promoting green. Once you do, the reality of competitive pressure will encourage other retailers to get-on-side to promote the idea to "Go Green” and "Greening the Grid".

Here's our message to our MLA, Minister of Finance Joe Ceci:

For those residential consumers who voluntarily participate in Greening the Grid by purchasing RECs:

  • Allow consumers to use this investment as a personal income-tax deduction;
  • Encourage Albertans to voluntarily invest in green energy and give them a tax benefit if they do.

Sadly and interestingly, with the exception of EPCOR, none of the other government regulated RRO utilities are offering green energy options to consumers. Yet, the private sector is offering the lowest price for green at 1.66 cents per kWh while the highest rate is 3.00 cents. As well, if consumers shop around, they will find Floating Rate prices at 30% to 50% below the RRO rates marketed by the regulated and city utilities.

Do Albertans know they can buy electricity from some of the smaller independent retailers at guaranteed fixed rates at lower prices (even with green offsets bundled into the rates) than the big utilities are offering for brown energy only? Today, we have the lowest cost for energy in the country. Plus Alberta's green energy prices are amazingly price competitive. We have access to some of the lowest retail prices available to them in North America.

All consumers need is a shopping list. And, possibly, Energy Efficiency Alberta might want to start promoting "Go Green" as part of its mandate by using some of the $645 million dollar budget to support Alberta Energy Marketers who have stepped up to the table.

Alberta Retailers not promoting the sale of green:

  • Direct Energy
  • Enmax & EasyMax
  • Link Energy
  • Lethbridge RRO
  • Red Deer RRO
  • Sponsor Energy

Click here to see a list of Energy Marketers promoting the sale of green energy.

Albertans have a reputation for being able to help themselves. Let's not let them down now.

Nick Clark | Aug 18, 2016