The Arctic Energy Alliance has released more funding to reopen a program that ran out of cash earlier this year, its executive director says.
The alliance runs programs that give residents and businesses access to federal and territorial cash for upgrades that reduce energy consumption and, in turn, save money.
Its energy efficiency incentive program – which provides rebates for the likes of LED lights, programmable thermostats, and more energy-efficient appliances – ran out of cash in the fall, the CBC reported, following unprecedented demand.
Mark Heyck, executive director of the Arctic Energy Alliance, said the number of applications for that program increased by 88 percent year on year.
“Once everybody got over the initial shock of Covid, there were a lot of folks throughout the territory who were spending more time at home, not travelling, not spending on vacations, and deciding to consider home renovations or swapping out appliances for more energy-efficient models,” Heyck told Cabin Radio last week.
“Applications took off in a really remarkable way right around mid-2020. That momentum has maintained itself right up to this period that we find ourselves in now, a year and a half later. That’s been really positive.”
Running out of money for the program was less positive but, Heyck said, his organization has shuffled some money to get things moving again.
“We hit waitlist territory,” he acknowledged. “About three months ago, we hit a period of time where we started advising clients who were submitting applications that the funding had been expended for this year.
“In the last couple of weeks, we have identified a few areas of our overall organizational budget that were underspent, that we could reallocate funds to that program. So we’ve started processing rebates again.”
Another program, the alternative energy technologies program, remains on hold until the new financial year in April. That program helps to fund larger-scale solar and biomass projects.
“For that particular program, anybody who’s on the waitlist, we’re going to carry them over to the next fiscal year when our budgets are replenished,” said Heyck.
“But at this point, we’ve stopped taking new applications until April 1 for that particular program.”
Heyck believes “the peak amount of demand” for Arctic Energy Alliance programs mid-pandemic has come and gone, though he acknowledged the alliance struggled to anticipate the initial rush in 2020.
The focus now turns to how funding for energy-efficiency programs evolves in the coming years.
The bulk of cash distributed by the Arctic Energy Alliance is provided via the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, 75 percent of which comes from the federal government and the remainder from the territorial government.
Heyck said the agreement that provides that financial backing has now been extended to March 31, 2024, with additional funding.
“We should be able to meet demand fairly well for the next two years,” he said.
Asked last month about the development of waiting lists at the Arctic Energy Alliance, infrastructure minister Diane Archie said the GNWT’s $5.3-million contribution to the alliance in 2020-21 was growing to more than $6.6 million in 2021-22.
The minister implied more money could be coming if programs continue to see high demand.
“Clients have been placed on a waiting list for some of the oversubscribed programs that we do have,” Archie said in November.
“The GNWT will address this issue as it develops. We get a lot of concerns about a lot of people waiting on the list to get some of these programs going. It is something that we will address.”