Two more people have been trained to carry out home energy evaluations in the N.W.T. in an effort to address a country-wide shortage that's increased the wait for an assessment to more than a year.
There are now four people doing assessments through the Arctic Energy Alliance, said the territory's director of energy, Robert Sexton — a doubling of capacity aimed at whittling down the wait list.
He didn't say exactly when the new auditors started working, but Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie said they'd been brought on "recently" during a meeting of the economic development and environment committee on Wednesday.
Sexton said demand for home energy evaluations grew after the federal government announced a rebate program last year that requires them to access grants of up to $5,000 for energy-saving home upgrades. He said COVID-19 restrictions also created a jam, since auditors were not able to enter people's homes for periods of time.
Sexton said the territory is looking at bringing auditors in from out of territory too but there is a shortage of energy assessment professionals across Canada.
Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby said it's important to "keep the momentum going," because people might lose interest in energy efficiency programs when faced with a "huge" wait.
"We need to do better at assessments," Archie agreed.
Nokleby asked if the infrastructure department was exploring apprenticeship programs and Indigenous partnerships to train community members to do the assessments instead. Nokleby said the training would serve individuals well in the future by boosting local employment and addressing the backlog of audits.
"It's a fair amount of training," said Sexton, noting the job requires building science knowledge and going through a federal certification process.
But, he said, "maybe it's something we should look into."
In January, Mark Heyck, executive director of the Arctic Energy Alliance, homeowners looking for a home energy audit would "likely" have to wait more than a year.
The territorial government funds the Arctic Energy Alliance to carry out the audits — the subsidized cost of an assessment for an existing home ranges from $150 to $350 dollars, depending on how big it is.
Arctic Energy Alliance's Home Energy Rating Service Support Program, which provides home evaluations and advice, received $150,000 from the territorial government in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.