NWT residents cashing in on alternative energy

NWT residents cashing in on alternative energy
Donald Andre and Alfred Beaverho install a chimney on a home in Fort Simpson last fall. More and more NWT residents are choosing biomass fuel to heat their homes.Photo: Arctic Energy Alliance.

More and more Northerners are profiting off a movement towards energy efficiency in the NWT thanks to larger rebates, more education and the coldest winter in 30 years, according to the Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA).

Over the last year, the AEA’s Energy Efficiency Incentive Program funded by the GNWT filed more than 1,000 rebates totalling $378,134.42 in cash back to residents. In March alone, 113 rebates were filed to the tune of more than $63,000.

According to Louie Azzolini, executive director of AEA, that number will likely grow as residents who purchased energy efficient products over the past year make use of the year-long deadline to file a rebate.

Azzolini said he is pleased with the number of people using the program, which was launched in 2007 by the GNWT to promote energy conservation as part of the territorial Greenhouse Gas Strategy under the direction of the AEA and has since given out close to $3 million in rebates.

“When you have that kind of take-up in a population of 43,000 people in the Northwest Territories, it shows a significant part of the population is aware of the program and is benefiting from it. It’s great,” he said.

NWT residents seeing benefits

Azzolini said the high number of users is due to a combination of factors, including the relatively high rebate incentive, which can put as much as $1,000 back in the pocket of a new wood or pellet stove owner, increasing interest in energy conservation and the cold.

“In our business, when people use more energy they tend to come towards the Arctic Energy Alliance more frequently. This was one of the coldest winters in 30 years, so people are feeling it in their pocketbooks,” he said.

Azzolini admits that many people still have concerns about the initial cost of implementing brand-new, energy efficient products, particularly large appliances or heating systems, which come with a hefty price tag, often thousands of dollars more than their less-efficient counterparts.

Beyond the AEA’s rebate program, the GNWT provides separate rebates to help cover the up-front cost of installing energy efficient heating systems, including the Alternative Energy Technologies program, the Energy Conservation program for communities and the Commercial Energy Conservation and Efficiency program for businesses.

“There are rebates available out there for people who look at the price tag and may think that it’s excessive or think that it’s an energy source that would be nice to have, but for whatever reason they are not quite sure. The (rebate) incentive, I think, provides at least a second thought for people to take a look at it and evaluate it,” Azzolini said.

In the long run, installing energy efficient appliances and biomass heating sources will save residents a bundle in yearly energy bills, he said.

Another hurdle for Northerners looking to make the transition is simply unfamiliarity with new biomass alternatives, such as pellet stoves and boilers.

Azzolini said much of the goal at AEA is to educate communities in the NWT on how biomass heating systems function.

AEA director praises GNWT

Azzolini applauded the GNWT for what he says have been years of proactive leadership on energy conservation.

“There aren’t a lot of jurisdictions in Canada that can stand up and boast about the actions they are taking to make a difference on greenhouse gas emissions and alternative energy. The government of the Northwest Territories and specifically the people at the Legislative Assembly that make these decisions should be applauded,” Azzolini said.

“They are really making a difference.”

AEA is a not-for-profit society funded under the umbrella of the GNWT’s climate change program.

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