The 2019 Federal Budget tabled on March 12 includes several new programs and measures that that could increase the opportunities for CoEnergy, as well as the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op. They include support for building retrofits, electric vehicles, and community energy systems.
We will have to be patient to see how our co-ops might benefit from budget. With the exception of tax incentives, all the expenditures in a budget have to be submitted to Treasury Board for approval by the departments delivering the programs. So we will have to wait until after the election before we can count on much.
Building Retrofits and Low Carbon Cities (page 84)
The most relevant new initiative in the Budget for CoEnergy is the $350 million “Collaboration on Community Climate Action” program that will provide grants and financing for the retrofit of “large community buildings”. We do not know yet what types of buildings will be included, but we are hoping that they include the institutional and multi-unit housing buildings that CoEnergy is targeting. The program will be delivered through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Another exciting aspect of this program is the provision of $183 million of working capital to members of Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3). The 7 member cities (including Ottawa) will invest their capital in local carbon-reducing ventures, using the returns to support commercialization of new low carbon enterprises and community projects through grants or discretionary financing. The Ottawa LC3 Centre will be managed by the Ottawa Community Foundation with working capital of $20 million and $2 million for start-up costs. OREC and CoEnergy were active partners in developing and advocating for this program with other local stakeholders and will be able to participate in its activities by co-financing new ventures and piloting others.
Electric Vehicles (page 82)
There are a number of proposals in the Budget that will encourage individuals and businesses to purchase electric vehicles. CoEnergy is looking into the viability of investing in vehicle charging infrastructure for businesses and larger buildings. The Budget provides for a purchase rebate of up to $5000 for electric vehicles under $45,000; support for new charging stations in commercial and multi-unit buildings; and a 1 year accelerated depreciation allowance up to $55,000 per vehicle for businesses (the only Budget measure that is effective immediately). All of the these measures will reduce the cost of switching to electric and therefore increase the demand for financing and investment.
Community Energy Systems (page 80)
The 2019 Budget includes a one-time $2.2 billion top up grant to municipalities across Canada to address their infrastructure needs. The City of Ottawa will receive $56 million of this. While the scope of infrastructure ranges from roads to transit to broadband to sewers to cultural facilities it does also include “community energy systems”. This normally means conventional natural gas powered district energy systems that supply heat and/or power to sections of a community, but it now also includes systems that provide power from renewable sources such as solar. Competition for Ottawa’s funds will be high, and most will probably go towards transit, but there could be an opportunity for CoEnergy or OREC to offer co-financing for a community energy infrastructure project.
So the 2019 Federal Budget may provide OREC and CoEnergy with new opportunities and make others more viable. We will just have to be patient and hope that these budgeted programs are maintained after the October federal election.