With the Government of Alberta collecting money from residents, municipalities and business across the province via the carbon levy, Albertans are seeking relief methods after only the 2017 first quarter.
A carbon levy information session for producers was held in Millet on April 18. Mike Hittinger, stewardship extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, spoke with those in attendance about impacts he is seeing from the levy and ways Albertans can reduce fuel consumption.
Under the levy, unmarked diesel, unmarked gasoline, natural gas, propane and coal all see a levy charge. Marked farm fuels are exempt.
On top of the carbon levy rates Albertans are also paying GST. “You can’t tax a tax but you can tax a levy,” said Hittinger.
When it comes to energy efficiency there are several different options and avenues. “The first thing we’ll talk about is the low-hanging fruit,” said Hittinger, referring to lighting, heating and fuel.
With lighting Hittinger suggests replacing lights with LED options wherever possible. “The cost is gradually coming down and they’re easily used in existing fixtures.”
“The only thing I would advise is be aware of where you’re getting them from,” he added.
Conserve heat by sealing heated buildings; caulk windows, apply overhead door seals and install vent fans. Programmable thermostats also help conserve and control heat.
Hittinger says when it comes to fuel conservation in vehicles tire pressure is a big factor. “You know your gas mileage suffers when your tires are a little soft.”
Keeping air filters clean, avoiding excess idling, and “gear up and throttle back” are other measures Hittinger mentioned.
More extensive measures to cut back on fuel consumption include making modification to grain dyers, hot water systems, and barn and residence heating and cooling systems.
Hittinger says when the carbon levy launched there was a concern grain drying would become unaffordable because of the propane and natural gas used. However, he says even with increased costs it will not become “crippling.”
Hittinger explained running the grain dryer on full heat mode and using aeration fans in the drying bins to cool the grain can improve efficiency by one-third. Using natural gas over propane when possible can generate 50 per cent in savings.
Other suggestions include using automatic controls, heat recovery systems, upgrading burners, running plenum as hot as safely possible for each crop, and considering variable speed drives for fans and augers.
When it comes to hot water systems, Hittinger says the more energy efficient option are the on-demand hot water heaters. The system heats water as needed and eliminates the need for fuel to constantly heat the components of a hot water tank.
Pros include low water heating costs, increased hot water capacity, and the system is wall mounted. However, it takes longer to get hot water at the tap and instillation is expensive.
For barns, Hittinger suggests interlock heating and ventilation systems.
And for dairy barns a plate cooler could help: outgoing warm milk passes incoming cold water and the system allows the temperatures of the liquids to change without the use of fuels to do so. “It’s just a heat exchange,” said Hittinger.
Heating options include replacing furnaces and boilers. However, Hittinger cautions people when it comes to replacing boilers. “Now that gets expensive. The other thing with these is you need to replace all the supporting equipment as well.”
“I can’t emphasize enough, especially with the carbon levy … it is really important to make sure what you’re doing will pay for itself,” he added.
Another way to save money while being impacted by the carbon levy is by taking advantage of available programs offering energy saving incentives.
One such program is Energy Efficiency Alberta, which launched on April 18. The program offers incentives when, for the household, energy efficient appliances are purchased, and other energy saving products are used through participating retailers and contractors.
“If you want to use that program I would get on it very soon” said Hittinger.
Another program for producers is Growing Forward. However, in its fifth year the program is winding down and many of the program initiatives are not accepting applications.
Hittinger says open programs that could be of interest to producers in the region include On Farm Water Management, Food Systems Producer Program and On Farm Solar Photovoltaics.
“There will be a new program starting up in 2018. The first two years of these programs are always the best,” said Hittinger.