NWT still needs more home energy auditors to address growing backlog
The estimated wait for a home energy evaluation, a requirement for accessing federal energy efficiency rebates, is now roughly two years in the NWT.
Home energy evaluations provide information on how a home uses energy and what the owner’s options are for improving energy efficiency.
To be eligible for rebates on energy-saving upgrades under the federal Greener Homes Initiative, homeowners must have an energy audit conducted with a certified advisor before and after the upgrade. In the NWT, the Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA) is the only provider of home energy evaluations listed on the federal government’s website.
The territory’s backlog in energy audits has been mounting for years.
The problem began when the audits were halted when Covid-19 hit in March of 2020, said Mark Heyck, the AEA’s executive director. When the federal government announced its rebate program in 2021, the waitlist “effectively doubled,” Heyck said.
Suddenly, he said, phones were ringing off the hook and inboxes were flooded.
A year ago, Heyck told the CBC that homeowners would likely have to wait at least a year to get an energy evaluation. Now, with about 240 homes on the waitlist, he estimates the wait to be two years.
To address the backlog, the AEA has been working to increase its capacity to conduct home energy audits. Heyck said the organization has taken a two-pronged approach, aiming to both increase internal capacity and bring in contractors from outside the territory. A certified contractor from the Yukon completed about two-dozen files last summer and another batch of 29 files late last year, Heyck said.
“With that, we’ve been able to bring that waitlist down at least in Yellowknife a little bit. But it is still much longer than it should be,” he said.
More advisors in training
In October, the federal government announced funding to support a program to train a dozen Indigenous energy advisors in the NWT.
The territory has also set aside more funding to address the issue. The GNWT’s latest energy action plan, released in December, earmarks $75,000 in 2022-23 and $150,000 in 2023-24 to fund additional energy auditor capacity.
The allocated sums represent an increase on previous years, Heyck said.
“It’s nice to see the recognition from the GNWT that additional resources should be brought to bear for this particular program,” he said.
According to Heyck, the funds will be put toward hiring more advisors. But finding people qualified to do the work has been a challenge.
Becoming a certified residential energy advisor is a substantial undertaking, Heyck said. As the Globe and Mail reported, high demand for home energy advisors across the country is adding to the challenge.
“A lot of places are struggling, like we are,” Heyck said.
Heyck said the AEA has faced staffing challenges in recent years, just like many other organizations. As of April 2022, four people were doing home energy evaluations through the AEA, the CBC reported. “That number has kind-of bounced up and down a little bit,” Heyck said. Now, the organization’s internal auditing team is back down to two people.
Two additional advisors are currently in training, however, and Heyck expects them to be certified in a few months. The AEA is also hoping to make a new hire in the next few weeks and is working with two contractors – one of whom, Heyck said, will be conducting work in the Sahtu and Beaufort Delta regions next month.
With the new funding, the organization will continue to look for people with the right skills or who can be trained to do the work, Heyck said. The team will also keep working with contractors and looking for more.
Although Heyck thinks the new funding will help address the backlog, he wouldn’t give specifics on what residents should expect in terms of wait times in the future.
“I’ve stopped peeking into a crystal ball these last couple of years,” he said. “We’ll keep our noses to the grindstone as best we can and try to put those resources to good use.”