Despite information posted on the Energy Efficiency Alberta website for more than a month, commercial customers do not qualify for newly announced incentives that promise up to $1 million annually to cover up to 50 per cent of the capital costs of a slate of retrofit investments. The $88-million Custom Energy Solutions program, jointly funded from Alberta’s carbon levy and the federal government’s Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, is actually targeted solely to the industrial sector.
“Our website is out of date,” Jessica Shumlich, program manager, industrial, with Energy Efficiency Alberta, confirmed earlier today when asked to clarify online information that listed commercial office buildings among the eligible facilities.
The reference has since been removed and the program is now defined as open to: “a broad scope of industrial operations including manufacturing facilities, industrial plants, natural gas and oil field production sites, mining operations, natural gas and oil processing plants as well as pipelines”.
However, a May 10 Alberta government release states: “Industrial and commercial facilities in a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, oil and natural gas, wholesale trades, warehousing and waste management, can apply to receive incentive funding for custom energy upgrades.” Advocates for Alberta’s commercial real estate sector are expressing disappointment with the revised rules.
“Commercial buildings in Alberta pay a significant share of the carbon levy that funds these programs so I would encourage Energy Efficiency Alberta to consider increasing commercial building incentives to better match what is already being done with residential and industrial buildings,” says Lloyd Suchet, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Calgary
Commercial customers continue to be eligible for more than 60 different product rebates for lighting, lighting controls, load sensing plug strips, variable frequency drives, boilers and water heating equipment. Meanwhile, it’s not clear if commercial customers will be eligible for the incentives for engineering studies, retro-commissioning and re-commissioning and on-site energy managers that are promoted as “coming soon” under the new custom programs, but similar programs have been popular in Ontario.
“Three years ago, we could say Alberta was really one of a few jurisdictions in North America that didn’t have any of these kinds of programs,” Suchet muses. “Our members are absolutely taking advantage of the rebates. It makes the payback a little bit shorter on capital expenditures.”
“The big one we’ve taken advantage of in our light industrial properties is for conversion to high-bay LEDs,” concurs Keith Major, executive vice president, real estate services, with Bentall Kennedy (Canada) LP. That equates to $45 per lamp for replacement of 250-watt or greater HID lamps or $15 per lamp for conversion of HID lamps in the 70 to 249-watt range.
Although earlier expectations that office buildings and/or warehouse/distribution facilities would qualify for the new retrofit incentives have now proved unfounded, both industry insiders do offer some suggestions of how future programs can be better tailored to the commercial sector’s needs.
“When it’s ‘first come, first served’ and the programs are announced without a lot of notice, that makes it a little bit tricky with budget planning and approval cycles,” Major advises. “We usually plan based on the assumption the rebates are in place. We like the Ontario approach where programs are in place for a set period.”
“I think we need to look at the opportunities to really push energy management to the B and C class buildings,” Suchet submits. “These are the buildings that could really benefit so much from some type of energy benchmarking. They do have programs for non-profits (to develop energy management plans) that could just as easily be adapted to this segment of the office market.”