An untapped Alberta resource: energy efficiencyBeginning to take advantage of this underutilized resource

Blog - Feb. 5, 2018 - By Julia-Maria Becker

Image by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

Alberta is rich in so many energy resources, but until recently we weren’t seizing one of the most abundant ones: energy efficiency.

This started to change in 2017 when the new agency, Energy Efficiency Alberta (EEA), implemented its first programs. Since then, the industry association, Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance (AEEA), has significantly increased its members and companies across the province are hiring.

So we can kick back and say,“they got this!” Not quite.

This is only the beginning of us finally taking advantage of this under-utilized resource.

Energy efficiency is not only an effective way to make your home more comfortable and save some money on your electricity bill. It is also a cost-effective alternative to new power generation, distribution and transmission infrastructure.

Unlike other places in North America, our transmission and distribution system is not required to consider energy efficiency, demand-response or other demand-side resources.

The result: due to infrastructure build-out, transmission and distribution costs have risen significantly and will continue to rise.

Monthly transmission costs for the average residential customer have quadrupled over the past 10 years. The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) projects a further 25 per cent increase in transmission charges on consumer bills by 2025.

Energy efficiency programs like the rebates available for improved home insulation, upgraded windows or tankless water heaters and considering a financing tool known as Property-Assessed Clean Energy, to help building owners and developers upgrade their sites, all make use of the efficiency resource. But this is merely a glimpse of what is actually possible.

Experience in other deregulated markets like Alberta’s suggests that the right policies are needed to make all cost-effective efficiency happen. Alberta must institutionalize a requirement for pursuing all cost-effective efficiency resources, either province-wide or utility system-wide. This can be accomplished by mandating utilities to do so, or just as effectively by requiring utility companies to provide sufficient funding to EEA to run such programs. The province must also require utility companies to assess and pursue more aggressive local energy efficiency programs, beyond those implemented on a system-wide basis, either alone or in combination with other demand resources, whenever they are determined to be less expensive than creating new transmission and distribution lines or power generation. Additionally, energy efficiency needs to be allowed to participate in the capacity market. 

We should care about this. Investing in energy efficiency whenever it is cost-effective is not only a choice that makes sense for Albertans to economically reduce emissions. It can also prevent increasing electricity costs from building new power plants and the infrastructure required to distribute it. And who doesn’t want to keep money in their pockets?

Julia-Maria Becker
Julia-Maria Becker

Until 2020, Julia-Maria Becker was the director of the Pembina Institute's clean economy program in Alberta, and the director of the Business Renewables Centre Canada.


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