Editorial – Fall 2013
The road past rebates - It’s been a whirlwind year for the geothermal industry.
By Laura Aiken
The federal ecoENERGY Retrofit program expired in March 2012, putting an
end to government-funded rebates for homeowners who want to invest in
renewable energy like geothermal heating and cooling systems.
The federal ecoENERGY Retrofit program expired in March 2012, putting an end to government-funded rebates for homeowners who want to invest in renewable energy like geothermal heating and cooling systems. The retrofit program wasn’t the only federal environmental initiative to bite the dust lately. The ecoENERGY Technology Initiative and The Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program have also shuttered. It seems sustainability is a lower rung on the Harper government’s priority ladder when compared to the development and export of our natural resources, an area where the feds are spilling more than a little loose change. The government increased its budget for natural resources promotion from $9 million in 2011-12 to $16.5 million in 2013-14 (as reported by the Hill Times) to run a series of advertisements designed to help Canadians understand why it’s a good thing to develop the oil and gas industry and how the government is protecting the environment in the process. One could argue that Harper’s foremost energy agenda appears to run more along of the lines of “resources for sale” than “resources to renew.”
Where does this leave the geothermal industry, a promising technology and the theme of Ground Water Canada’s fall edition? I still found a handful of government programs in place to help investment in geothermal. The ecoENERGY for Aboriginal and Northern Communities Program is scheduled to run until 2016. This program, administered by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, provides financial support for renewable energy for aboriginal and northern community projects. The website currently states that the organization has received a large number of applications and thanks everyone for their patience in awaiting forthcoming funding decisions. There is also a tax credit available to industry for investing in renewable energy. The Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for Efficient and Renewable Energy Generation Equipment (Class 43.1) is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency in partnership with Finance Canada, and “provides an accelerated rate of write-off (30 per cent per year, on a declining balance basis) for investments that produce heat for use in an industrial process or electricity by using fossil fuel efficiently or by using renewable energy sources,” as stated by the government online. Geothermal is specifically listed as an eligible alternative energy.
At the end of the day, the geothermal industry can’t depend on what government is willing to do to help it generate business. For commercial and residential installations alike, I have to agree with GeoSource CEO Stan Reitsma when he says that education is the key focus. Responsibility for educating potential customers rests with geothermal industry stakeholders and associations.
Businesses and homeowners will need to be motivated by the grand double great that geothermal gives: economic savings and sustainability. I vote for the retrofit rebates to be revived, but it’s not a premise to move forward on. Associations must continue to lobby for the industry, while its stakeholders shake the grass roots. Now is the time to find ways to reach the public more often, whether it’s through information alliances with new homebuilders or other complementary systems, like greywater recycling, that could perhaps benefit from mutual promotion. We need a sustainable future and the answer could be right in the heat under our feet.
Best to shout it from the rooftops because Canadians are about to get a dose of oil and gas advertising from the highest levels of government. What kind of fight will the geo industry need to stage to compete with that?