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Clean energy program goes ahead after survey

Municipality to examine loan program for residential and business efficiency upgrades

LAC LA BICHE - Lac La Biche County administration will spend energy to create a plan that is designed to reduce energy.

Municipal councillors have given the green-light to create a Clean Energy Improvement Plan for the municipality.

The idea behind the plan is to provide residential and commercial property owners competitive interest loans to fund clean energy upgrades. Those upgrades could include work on heating, ventilation, renewable energy, solar and thermal systems and door and window insulation.

Plamondon councillor Colette Borgun said the need for a localized program is something she has been hearing about for years.

"I really like the idea because there are several folks out there wanting to do this, and some, I think who have already started," she said.

Council approved the development of a first-draft of a plan, which will be created by municipal administrators. Although the plan's specific details won't be known until it comes back for approval in several weeks, council was told that loans for residential upgrades could be available for up to $50,000. Loans for commercial projects could have a million dollars available for each successful applicant.

Where does that loan money come from, asked councillor Darlene Beniuk.

"Where are we going to get the money from?  Are we going to borrow to lend? That's what I see happening, unless some numbers come before me — what am I missing?" Beniuk asked.

Municipal staff explained that the County would work with Alberta Municipalities, the provincial organization that represents municipalities, to develop and implement the program. There is also a 'community efficiency' grant available by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that can off-set some initial costs for the municipality. Loans handed out by the County would be paid back by eligible residents and business owners through property tax collection.

Specific financial formulas that Beniuk was looking for, however, won't be known until a plan is developed, says councillor Lorin Tkachuk.

"What we are doing here is approving staff time to develop the program. All those questions you just had will be answered in the development of the program. Today, there are no answers to those questions... we need to develop the program to get your answers..... we either need to say yes spend time to develop or no, this isn't' something that interests council."

Council approved the go-ahead to develop the plan with councillors Sterling Johnson and Beniuk opposed.

The idea to go ahead comes after council heard the results of a local survey created by municipal officials and sent to residents late last year.

According to municipal officials, a total of 34 respondents answered the survey. About half of the respondents said they had heard of the clean energy program for loans before, and said they would apply if it was available. Of the 34 respondents, two-thirds said doors and windows would be a likely improvement, followed by solar and thermal energy. The survey shows that 92 per cent of the respondents were residential.

The first-draft program guidelines will be brought back to council for further discussion in the coming weeks.



Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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