Energy efficiency funding available in Alberta

The Alberta and federal governments announced $81 million in new funding as way to save costs and reduce emissions

Alberta farmers, ranchers and food processors will have access to $81 million over the next four years to make their operations more energy efficient, thanks to new funding from the provincial and federal governments.

Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier announced Jan. 29 that the funds are available to producers who want to install solar panels, convert their irrigation to low-pressure systems or add things like natural gas monitors and LED lights to improve energy efficiency.

Agri-food processors can also apply for funds.

“We’re looking at the operations that use the most energy so they can take advantage of this program to find efficiencies,” Carlier said.

“Farmers, ranchers, and processors across the province want to be able to do their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, these programs will help them save some money to make their operations more successful.”

He said the energy-efficiency program has been in high demand, so much so that the $10 million the government provided last year ran out with more than 300 applications waiting for approval.

This new $81 million should be enough to cover projects that are still waiting and likely more, Carlier said. The province is providing $67 million while the federal government is giving $14 million. The province’s portion is being primarily funded through its carbon tax.

However, the funds will be divided unevenly throughout the industry.

A larger chunk, about $42 million, will be specifically for the Farm Energy and Agri-processing program, which is designed to encourage energy management for farms and small processors. Applicants can receive a maximum of $250,000 per year, but they’ll have to cover half of the total cost.

As for the solar program, $8.5 million will be made available over the course of four years. The government will provide a maximum of $100,000 paid at a rate of 75 cents per watt.

Producers looking to update their irrigation systems can receive a maximum of $15,000 but will have to cover 60 percent of the cost.

The final chunk, about $21 million, is for large food processors. The program is for projects of more than $250,000, and the cost-share terms are still being worked out.

Carlier couldn’t say how much money the programs would save producers in the long run or how much emissions could be reduced by more producers adopting these programs.

“We’ll track what we can,” he said.

“It’s hard to put a number on that. We know from past experiences and past programs that there is a real need for this and a real want from the ag sector. I’m hoping people will have an opportunity to use them.”

Crust Craft, a commercial food processor, has used the province’s energy efficient program in the past. Company president Paul Flesher said it’s allowed them to save costs.

“It’s allowed us to upgrade our lighting, and install more efficient electrical motors and refrigeration,” he said.

“We’ve been able to reduce our refrigeration cost significantly through upgrades. The grants help a little bit, but every little bit helps because our industry is very competitive.”

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