A rebate program that helps N.W.T. residents pay for energy-efficient appliances saw a “massive increase” in applications in the first year of the pandemic — and has already run out of funding for this year.
“In some ways, we’re a victim of our own success,” Mark Heyck, the executive director of the Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA), told CBC News.
In the last fiscal year, from April 2020 to March 2021, Heyck said the energy efficiency incentive program, which aims to reduce peoples’ energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, saw an 88 per cent increase in applications over the previous year.
The organization doled out 2,382 rebates, totalling $540,000, to N.W.T. residents who bought items like Energy Star certified washers and dryers, wood and wood pellet stoves, oil furnaces, LED lighting and programmable thermostats.
“Anything that’s coming in now, we’re adding to a wait-list,” he explained.
Heyck said the AEA had received an extra stream of funding starting in 2018 — the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund — that allowed them to top up several rebate programs for a few years.
What was left of that money, however, ran out this year after the AEA gave out $187,000, and hit its budget wall, according to Heyck.
He attributes the “massive increase” in interest in the program last year to the pandemic, the fact people were spending more money on home improvements, and awareness about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
“And that’s very much carried over to this year as well,” said Heyck.
Impact of energy-efficient products
According to the AEA’s annual report for 2020-2021, there were 958 rebates given out for LED lighting, making it the most popular energy-efficient product by far.
In a distant second, there were 334 rebates given out for freezers followed by 285 for washers, and 177 for refrigerators.
All of the products the AEA gave rebates for, the report calculates, helped the N.W.T. avoid emitting 810 tonnes of greenhouse gases and 1,400,000 kilowatt hours of electricity consumption per year.
The entire territory produced 1.4 megatonnes (or 1,400,000 tonnes) of greenhouse gases in 2019.
Broken down by region, 1,031 of all the rebates were distributed throughout the North Slave, while the South Slave received 541 and the Beaufort-Delta received 519. The Dehcho and Sahtu regions received 141 and 139 rebates, respectively, while the Tlicho region received just 11.
‘Confident’ there will be more funding
As of late October, Heyck said 112 applications were on the wait-list for the energy efficiency incentive program.
“We’re telling people that, you know, we’re actively seeking additional funds and that’s why we’re still accepting applications,” he said. “If we’re able to identify additional funds, then we’ll work our way down that wait-list and provide those rebates.”
Heyck said the AEA is also working with funders at the territorial level to identify more low carbon economy funding for next two years.
“We’re pretty confident that we’ll have a good budget again, starting April 1 next year,” he said.
“Nationally and internationally, the issue of climate change is only rising on everybody’s priority list, so I think … that support is going to remain and I think those kinds of investments will continue.”
As of April 1, Heyck said anybody who has purchased a qualifying energy-efficient product in the previous three months would be able to submit another rebate application.
He also said funding was set aside for a point-of-sale rebate program for energy-efficient products AEA offers in communities that rely on diesel — and that program continues to operate.