The demand for heat pumps, and the technicians that work on them, is expected to increase dramatically with the announcement from Victoria that the government intends to exempt heat pumps from the provincial sales tax as of April 1.
Bruce Ralston, B.C.’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, visited Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan Trades Centre on March 22 to tour the facility’s refrigeration air-conditioning mechanic shop to learn more about how VIU is preparing students to work on heat pumps.
He said the province has some very ambitious goals to reduce the environmental footprint in all of B.C.’s sectors and, as well as exempting heat pumps from the PST, the government’s budget for 2022 calls for the PST on fossil-fuel heating systems to go from 7 per cent to 12 per cent on April 1.
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“Heat pumps are a good way to help reduce green-house emissions and the PST exemption, which builds on the existing rebate program, is expected to lead to an increased demand for heat pumps and mechanics trained to work on them,” Ralston said as he toured the mechanic shop, talking to students and instructors.
“A lot of people don’t know what heat pumps are, so we’ve begun an education campaign to inform them. The two big purchases most people make in their lives are their homes and vehicles. Climate-friendly choices can be made on both of those and we’re trying to nudge people towards them.”
Heat pumps, which provide heat in the colder months and cool air in the hot season, use only about a third as much electricity as baseboard electric heaters and considerably less energy than gas or oil furnaces.
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Ralston said that, while not everyone agrees, BC Hydro has stated that heat pumps are cheaper to operate in the long run because they are fuelled by electricity.
When B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson introduced the 2022 budget in February, she said that after the climate-change related severe storms, floods and heat waves in recent years, making sure communities have the resources they need to deal with the effects of climate change will be a focal point of the budget.
Jessie Magee-Chalmers, VIU’s acting campus administer in the Cowichan region, said the university’s refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanics class has grown increasingly popular as demand for heat pumps and other related products grow.
He said the 34-week class has a maximum of 18 students, and there’s a waiting list of students who want to participate in the program, which has two intakes a year.
“There’s more demand for the course because it’s a higher-paying trade with lots of work these days, and the technical aspects of the course draws a lot of students,” he said.