Efficiency Manitoba received a sizable budget boost Friday as the provincial and federal governments announced they were each committing $32.3 million towards heating efficiency programs deployed through the Crown corporation.
The funding, totalling $64.6 million, is being invested in programs that will work to lower demand for natural gas, used for heating and industrial purposes. It is part of both the federal and provincial climate plans to lower greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
The funding — which will bolster pre-existing incentive programs for things like home insulation upgrades, the installation of smart thermostats and upgrades to furnaces and boilers — will be split between residential, commercial and industrial efficiency programs.
"You can literally go to Efficiency Manitoba’s website and see what we have to offer today. In terms of how much the incentive is, it largely depends on the technology. It varies by technology and by market segment," said Colleen Kuruluk, CEO of Efficiency Manitoba.
Kuruluk said for Manitobans who earn less money, there’s a qualifying assessment, and for those who qualify there is no charge for the efficiency upgrades.
Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard said government estimates show that these efficiency programs will avoid emissions to the tune of 488,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.
Annually, if each year generated equal savings, it would result in a 0.1 per cent decrease in total emissions per year, using 2018 as a base year.
The burning of natural gas accounts for approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in Winnipeg. Despite efficiency programs previously being available in the province, the City of Winnipeg’s climate change plan forecasts the continued growth in the use of natural gas in the city up to 124 per cent of 2011 levels by 2030.
Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr (also the federal government’s Special Representative for the Prairies) said building retrofits will be essential to meeting Canada’s emission-reduction targets.
"Climate change is the existential threat of our time, but it’s also our greatest opportunity," Carr said Friday.
Natural gas infrastructure continues to be used in new developments in Winnipeg. When asked if alternative energy for heating was being considered for homes in the province in the future, Guillemard said it is in the works.
"I think movement towards the alternative heating of homes is well underway," Guillemard said.
The federal funding for the energy efficiency initiative came from the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund. Last week the Free Press reported Manitoba was the slowest province to tap into these funds made available to the provinces.
Before the funding announcement, the province had tapped into 8.8 per cent of Manitoba’s allotted funds. With the addition of $32.3 million, Manitoba has now accessed 57 per cent of allotted funds, moving it past Alberta which has only accessed 31 per cent of its alloted funds.
Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.