Future of Edmonton's solar rebate program uncertain as funds run out

·3 min read
Will Ferguson installs a solar panel on a home for Orizon Energy. (Submitted by Oren Zamir - image credit)
Will Ferguson installs a solar panel on a home for Orizon Energy. (Submitted by Oren Zamir - image credit)

A City of Edmonton program offering homeowners financial incentives to install solar panels is no longer accepting applications because it has run out of money.

City spokesperson Jim Stang said the program, which has allocated $2.1 million in rebates this year, ran out of funds on Sept. 2. There were more applications this year than in the previous three combined.

"The program is now fully subscribed and the program is concluding based on its original four-year program timeline," Stang told CBC News.

The news is disappointing to homeowners hoping to receive the rebate, solar installation companies and green energy advocates.

Stang said the program has verified 667 initial applications this year. Since 2019, 1,212 people have participated.

Heather MacKenzie, executive director of the non-profit society Solar Alberta, said she's happy so many Edmontonians have taken advantage of the program but disappointed people can no longer apply.

She said there has been "incredible growth" in solar on homes and businesses across the province, with many people calling the non-profit and bringing up high utility bills and the federal government's new interest-free financing for green energy home retrofits.

"We used to increase by 100 micro-generators a month in the province, until recently, and then we saw the bump to about 900 last month," she said.

In the solar context, a micro-generator refers to a customer who can generate their own power using energy from the sun.

Rebate offered up to $4K

Launched in July of 2019, the latest version of the city's solar rebate program has offered homeowners financial incentives worth up to $4,000 per dwelling. The rebates could also be stacked with federal government grants.

Homeowners had to apply for the program and submit a second application to claim the rebate.

Stang said participation has been widespread in the city's new and mature neighbourhoods.

Leah MacLeod received the rebate and had more than a dozen solar panels installed on her North Glenora home late last year.

Scott Neufeld/CBC
Scott Neufeld/CBC

The federal and municipal rebates covered about half of her $15,120 bill.

"It is such a good incentive that I would not have otherwise done it," she said.

Companies losing business

MacKenzie said the rebate's disappearance will negatively affect solar companies, especially newer ones.

Oren Zamir, who started Orizon Energy earlier this year, said five clients cancelled their solar installation projects after hearing that the city rebate would no longer be available.

Submitted by Oren Zamir
Submitted by Oren Zamir

"It was definitely kind of a sad day for us solar companies and sales reps out in the field," he said.

Zamir said the company focused on Edmonton because of the rebate, but has recently been sending sales reps to Calgary and other areas.

Will the program continue?

MacKenzie of Solar Alberta said the organization recommends the city continue the program and, if funds are limited, screen applicants by income.

"That is the best way to ensure that the program lasts the longest and reaches the people who need it the most," she said.

Stang said the city's administration will review program outcomes, market conditions and available financing tools to determine the best path for the future.

Jordan Kruhlak, who runs the solar installation quote service Glean, said that homeowners shouldn't give up on installing solar panels just because the municipal rebate is gone.

He said homeowners can still take advantage of federal government incentives, and by not taking the city rebate, they retain their carbon credits, which could increase in value over time.