Powell River city council to consider home retrofit program

Funding required to help with household energy efficiency

City of Powell River Council will consider participating in a Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) initiative regarding the possibility of implementing a home energy retrofit program in the community.

At the September 15 committee of the whole meeting, sustainability planner Ana Lukyanova outlined a federal $300 million community efficiency financing initiative. According to a report by Lukyanova to the committee, the fund will support local governments in developing and delivering programs to help Canadians retrofit their homes to higher energy standards, delivering cost savings, carbon emissions reductions and stimulating local economies.

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Lukyanova told the committee the goal of the program is to help local governments create and launch their own home energy retrofit programs.

She said many houses were built before modern building codes were put in place, so there’s ample opportunity for homes to be retrofit. She added that it’s known those upgrades are not happening at a larger scale because there are multiple barriers to homeowners.

“One of the big ones is upfront costs,” said Lukyanova. “Not all homeowners have the ability to invest upfront. They may be uncertain about what the actual energy savings can be.

“Local programs make it as easy as possible for homeowners to decide what is best for their homes, to access the financing that they need, and have that expertise provided.”

She said looking at Powell River’s carbon footprint, homes are the second largest emission source, at about 20 per cent.

“We also know that homeowners in Powell River are spending more than $8 million on electricity and natural gas for their homes,” she added. “It’s a significant cost for homeowners and an opportunity for us.”

Lukyanova said there are three stages to the FCM offer. The first step is a feasibility study; FCM has offered to cover 80 per cent of the cost.

Once the feasibility study is in place, FCM funds program design, again up to 80 per cent.

The last phase is implementation funding, and funding for that portion of the program has not yet been announced.

Lukyanova said in order to proceed with the program, council has to approve proceeding with the feasibility study, and to allocate up to $15,000 from the climate action reserve fund to cover the city’s portion of the study costs. The budget would be $75,000.

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said the first step would be completing the feasibility study. She said that makes perfect sense because there are a lot of options.

“It would be really great to get that done,” she added.

Councillor George Doubt said it was an exciting concept to do something about greenhouse gases throughout the city, in addition to what is being done by local government in buildings the city owns.

“It’s probably going to have a design of third-party lending to do home energy retrofits that will save greenhouse gases, and probably save people in these homes money over a period of time,” said Doubt. “This $15,000 gets us $60,000 of FCM money, so we’re using other people’s money to do this study, which, in my view, is a good thing."

Doubt asked Lukyanova what she thought the timeline was from approving the study, to where people actually have an opportunity to go to a partner of the city and borrow money to retrofit their home for some energy savings.

Lukyanova said the application deadline for the study is October 30, so the city should know within a couple of months of that date if it is successful.

“Then we can initiate the study, and another few months for the design,” said Lukyanova. “Realistically, probably at least a year.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said a previous federal program dealt with energy savings and was very popular in Powell River.

“The take-up was magnificent in this community; these programs have been very successful here,” said Formosa. “If we provide this money for this study, is the study given to you with criteria, or are you able to do some of your own work?”

He said, for example, he knows people with solar panels on their homes who monitor their input and output. The city could get that information from homeowners who have invested money, put solar panels on their houses, and know what the paybacks are.

Formosa asked if this kind of information could be incorporated into the study.

Lukyanova said it’s fairly flexible and exactly the kind of question they would be looking at for answers.

The committee referred the matter to city council to determine whether to apply for the FCM grant and allocate up to $15,000 from the climate action reserve fund to cover the city’s portion of the study costs.

 
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