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Town of Innisfail plans ahead to recoup big carbon tax hit

Innisfail's carbon tax cost slated to increase to $250,000 annually by 2030 but comprehensive strategy is in place to create alternative energy revenues
Solar panels being installed on top of the Innisfail administration building in 2018. The town is now moving aggressively with alternative energy sources to save costs and to bring in new revenue to mitigate the enormous and increasing carbon tax bills. Photo courtesy of Dandelion Renewables

INNISFAIL – The Town of Innisfail is facing a carbon tax bill of at least $90,000 from 2022 but it’s a cost the town plans to meet through a carefully developed plan aimed at reducing financial impacts as it moves aggressively towards new sources of alternative energy.

The new $90,000 carbon tax bill for the town, which equates to a more than one per cent tax increase for Innisfail property owners, has doubled since 2017.

This current cost is expected to rise as much as $250,000 in 2030, according to figures released by the Town of Innisfail.

“We've been aware of the rising impacts of carbon taxes and so we have definitely had a focus on energy efficiencies because it is going to be more costly going forward,” said mayor Jean Barclay. “I know people do not like it (carbon tax) but the idea behind it makes businesses, municipalities and all of us try to find ways of creating energy efficiency and reducing the impact on all of us.”

In May 2022, the town brought in its new Energy Policy. Its goal was to reduce the energy consumption and ecological footprint of the town and community.

That same month the town invested more than $360,000 into solar PV generation systems on three major municipally-owned facilities. This included the fire hall, curling rink, and the administration building.

Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, noted the town’s new economic development plan, known as the Power of Place initiative, identified energy “as a threat” but also an “opportunity” for the future.

“If we do nothing it’s going to be a threat. If we are not efficient we have to cut services to maintain budgets,” said Becker. “If we don’t make an opportunity we are going to be hurt.”

Becker said the most important “opportunity” to date is the Innisfail Solar Farm that became operational in 2020 on 115 acres of land just north of the Innisfail Golf Club.

The 25.43-megawatt facility is benefiting the town through a long-term lease, property taxes, and a community development fund.

The total of these contributions is about $190,000 annually, $20,000 of which is an annual contribution to a community development fund used to support community groups.

“What it did is help create awareness within our organization about how little we knew about energy, and also identify that, ‘hey, we're making pretty good money on this,” said Becker, noting the town is currently going through the process of creating a municipally-owned seven-acre solar farm in the new Southwest Industrial Park.

The Town of Innisfail has estimated the proposed $3.5 million municipally-owned facility could bring in up to $500,000 of new annual revenue.

And then there is the proposed waste-to-energy project from Varme Energy; a $175 million state-of-the-art plant on 13 acres of land in Southwest Industrial Park that could bring in additional huge tax revenues for the town.

The project, which could take up to more than two and half years to build and employ up to 125 construction workers, would create about 30 full-time jobs.

“Waste energy is really their (VARME) concept. It all ties in to what Innisfail is doing,” said Becker. “It lines up perfectly.”

The Town of Innisfail is also currently heavily engaged with the newly formed Innisfail Energy Hub, a series of year-long public workshops and engagements designed to find solutions to smoothly navigate the changing energy environments.

In early 2022, the Town of Innisfail was selected as the sole host of the 2022-23 Energy Futures Lab (EFL) Roadshow program.

Becker, who was recently appointed as a fellow to the EFL, said there have been four meetings to date, with three more to come, including on Jan. 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.

“I want to contribute to the bigger picture, and how Innisfail can benefit from this knowledge,” said Becker. “We're talking about a solar farm and that's gaining some attention from potential investors; that mindset of, ‘you're going to invest into a solar farm that may benefit the rest of us in that park. Hey, I want more information.

“That's becoming very interesting,” added Becker. “That is one of our biggest marketing tools, and that is energy.”

Johnnie Bachusky

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