BY KALISHA MENDONSA
As of Jan. 1st, the provincial carbon tax officially kicked in, and many people are interested to see how it will affect their daily lives.
There is no single dedicated answer, as the effects of the carbon tax will vary from family to family, business to business, based on usage and emission.
Noticeably, citizens will see an increase in gasoline prices and maybe in their heat bills, but there are a number of practices and initiatives to lessen the impact of the tax, officials say.
There will be implications of the tax for municipalities as well. At the City of Lacombe, there are already structures in place to help develop sustainable planning and initiatives that will ultimately reduce the hit to the City from carbon taxes.
Matthew Goudy, acting chief administrative officer and current operations and planning services director, said overall the issue is manageable.
“Lacombe is in a pretty good position to deal with the carbon taxes. At the senior leadership level of the City, we have people with actual credentials in sustainability practices and that will help guide our future planning,” Goudy explained.
“We are already focused on sustainable procurement of goods and services and sustainable practices for the community – that’s why our Municipal Sustainability Plan (MSP) has been such a high priority in our overall Strategic Plan.”
Goudy added that when looking at City objectives, many sustainable procurement practices and changes are high on the priority list and action is already being taken to counter the effects of the carbon tax on City usage and budgets.
“One of the items in our strategic plan is to ‘explore opportunities to integrate cost-effective and sustainable practices for energy contractors and suppliers’. I’m going to be making that a priority for myself and for the corporate services director over the next three months,” he said.
Essentially, when the City has to purchase equipment, develop infrastructure or provide a service, they are mandated to choose a sustainable, cost-effective solution.
This could mean green energy appliances in municipal buildings, low-emission vehicles for fleets, reduced idle zones and more.
Goudy explained that the City has already been trying to work with ‘green’ developers and access funding for sustainable projects ahead of the carbon tax, and will continue to do so going forward.
“We have already had discussions on procurement and assessment on infrastructure that involves looking at the life-cycle and energy emissions of equipment or infrastructure. We include that criteria in assessment for various options,” he said, explaining that this is one way the City can combat the costs of a carbon tax.
According to Goudy, the total impact to the City’s annual budget is approximately $30,000, or roughly 0.25% of the operating budget.
This number is an estimation and may be reduced further. The costs can be broken down into a few categories and represent an annual estimate.
The cost for use of diesel fuels has an estimated increased cost of $5,350. The estimated increased cost for gasoline sits at $5,702.
The highest increase comes with natural gas, where the City is estimating an additional $18,000. The City is locked into an existing electrical contract until 2020 so there is no additional cost associated with electricity.
“The total impact of the carbon tax on the municipal operating budget works out to approximately 0.19 per cent per resident on a monthly basis,” Goudy said.
“In 2017, the City will be exploring opportunities to integrate cost-effective sustainable procurement practices into its selection of contractors, materials and consultants. This will give the City an additional tool to minimize ongoing energy costs in a continually evolving regulatory environment.”
Rebates are being made available by the provincial government to help offset costs associated with the carbon levy. According to the Alberta.ca web site, full rebates will be provided to single Albertans who earn $47,500 or less per year, or couples and families who earn $95,000 or less.
More information on available rebates and impacts on households and commercials businesses is available at alberta.ca/climate-carbon-pricing.