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Building a Green Economy with Buildings: Edmonton Steps Up

Green jobs“What if you could get your house assessed, and if it passed certain standards, you could get a retrofit done with no cost out of your pocket?” The Edmonton Council of Canadians chapter’s forum on green economy opened with this appealing future vision from guest speaker Brian Scott.

The public forum and panel was primarily about the PACE (Property Assesed Clean Energy) program – an efficiency program for buildings where the cost of doing energy efficiency upgrades are borrowed from future energy savings. This is often done through municipal governments and functions through a long term payback through taxes from the upgraded property. The program is steadily gaining momentum in the United States, and has as single foothold in Canada so far: Halifax has a small and successful program focussing on solar thermal and photovoltaic solar panel installation. Canadian organizations such as the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation have also been doing research on the program. Edmonton is keen to become the next city in Canada to implement the PACE program.

In addition to being energy and cost efficient, a program such as this would be a job creator, spurring thousands of jobs in renewable infrastructure manufacturing and installation. Unsurprisingly, part of the success of the program comes from framing it as an economic program, more than an environmental program, though it functions as both. The full community hall listened with interest and asked many questions about logistical aspects of how the program might be applied to their own homes and businesses.

The audience was fortunate to have Jim Andrais from the City of Edmonton in the room to comment on the city’s Energy Transition Strategy and the new Energy Transition Advisory Committee. Andrais is hopeful that the creation of “City Charters” between Edmonton and Calgary would create the conditions for the PACE program to flourish – namely in gaining exceptions from the old Municipal Government Act, which has narrow rules for how the city can manage taxes. It seems that politicians are keen on PACE – even Barack Obama has been quoted as supporting the PACE program. Audience members were encouraged to write to their representatives, municipal and provincial,  to show support for implementing PACE in Edmonton.

Guest speaker Brandy Burkeniuk closed the forum with comments on Edmonton’s potential to improve building standards, and how working on building efficiency can play a big part in energy conservation. She said that “our code is really far behind – we need third party certification because our code is so weak and doesn’t encourage innovation. We have a market ready to produce better windows, insulation, building materials, but there is no demand. We are set up to take off like a rocket once the incentive is there. We have a market now that’s ready to be more transparent – to compete in green building, to do more than the bare minimum. Buyers are looking for more transparency – and we are starting to see this become a priority for builders. PACE removes the mental risk of putting money down. Removing risk is the biggest step forward. Is the carrot where the code is the stick. ”

The Edmonton chapter of Council of Canadians has been focusing on promoting and organizing around climate change solutions for the past several months. In addition to this public forum, the group has an ongoing Citizens’ Forum/Study Circle on Climate Justice which may eventually produce recommendations to the different levels of government.

“The Jobs Will be Greener on the Other Side: A Panel and Public Forum”

Hosted by the Edmonton Chapter of Council of Canadians


  • Brian Scott – PACE/Communitas

  • Godo Stoyke – Carbon Busters

  • Brandy Burkeniuk – EcoAmmo