Electric vehicle owners feeling punished amid little investments in renewable energy

A local electric vehicle owner feels a tax on electric vehicle owners is too early for the industry to deal with in Saskatchewan.

The 2021-22 provincial budget introduced a $150 annual fee for owners of electric vehicles that goes into effect Oct. 1. The government said it is an effort to recoup fuel tax money from residents who drive fully electric vehicles.

“This is the start to recognize that we need to have fairness across the system as everybody contributing to road maintenance and repair,” Minister of Environment Warren Kaeding said.

Matthew Pointer, founder of the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association, said electric owners give back in other ways, like paying for extra power to charge their vehicles at home.

“Our initial reaction was shock. We couldn’t believe that there was going to be a tax on electric vehicles in Saskatchewan, given that the rest of Canada is moving towards electrification,” Pointer said. “We don’t have any other sort of incentives here in Saskatchewan, essentially not paying the road tax at a gas pump was the only incentive that we had.”

Kaeding said the province is not doing any work to incentivize people to purchase electric vehicles.

Pointer said electric vehicle owners are willing to pay their fair share but with the small amount of electric vehicles on Saskatchewan roads, he thinks it’s too early to be introducing a tax.

LACK OF RENEWABLE INVESTMENT

The budget includes money to build a natural gas-fired electrical plant in Moose Jaw, an extension to a hydroelectric station, and the rebuilding of transmission power lines. Also included is investments in methane capturing and funding to support oil and gas workers.

Josh Campbell, president of the Wascana Solar Co-op, feels the budget did not do enough for renewable energy. Campbell said Alberta introduced 156 megawatts of solar panel in January and February 2021, while SaskPower only plans to add a total of 60 megawatts of solar generating capacity this year.

“This feels like one of the anti-green energy, anti-renewable energy budgets that I’ve seen in the country,” Campbell said. “How much of that budget is being allocated to help those workers retrain for the jobs in the new economy that is coming?”

According to Kaeding, there is discussions happening between then renewable energy sector and the education sector to help train workers for future projects.

“This doesn’t have to be an anti-fossil fuel thing, it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. We can continue to work in the fossil fuel industry and support those workers, and add these jobs to the renewable energy sector,” Campbell said.

Kaeding said solar panels can be applied to the homeowner tax credit and the net metering program is still working, but Campbell said changes to net metering in 2019 devastated the solar industry.