On January 16, Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of Reep Green Solutions, made this presentation to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa as part of his pre-budget consultations.
As an organization that works in energy efficiency and co-leads our community’s Climate Action Plan, we are pleased to give our recommendations for Ontario’s budget, with a particular focus on climate change, conservation and a low carbon economy. Our recommendations also benefit the economic development of Ontario, especially small businesses.
- To facilitate the movement away from fossil fuel heating, we strongly recommend that the current, temporary infusion of provincial funds to the natural gas utilities’ incentive programs become a long term, stable residential energy efficiency retrofit incentive program, verified by independent third party professional energy audits.
- We serve Waterloo Region, which includes Kitchener, one of the two cities in the province with a locally owned natural gas utility. These citizens will be left out when the province’s current contribution to Enbridge and Union Gas conservation programs ends. The utilities may provide incentives for their customers, but homes not served by them will not have access. Incentives should be easily accessible to all Ontarians–regardless of where they live or their choice of heating fuel.
- The incentive program should be stable and long term, to give time for people to learn about a program, and integrate it into their home renovation plans. These are big decisions for homeowners that take time to make and implement. As an organization on the front lines, we see how difficult it is to engage the public in something fleeting, with a limited commitment from the government.
- Small and medium-sized renovation, insulation, and heating and cooling businesses thrive when homes are upgraded to become more energy efficient. Our participants contribute an average of $9,000 per home to the local economy when they take part in the incentive program and make their homes more energy efficient. That is $1 million in the last two years from a little over 100 households in Waterloo Region. It is good for the economy when we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
- We need to provide much more financial assistance for lower-income households to make the kinds of home energy efficiency upgrades that are provided through the incentive program. People who cannot afford to make changes to their home will otherwise be left out of the low carbon economy, and suffer the most under the carbon tax regime.
- In support of small businesses and of economic growth, energy literacy education should include and support the concept of local energy security, to encourage communities to work together to keep energy dollars local, through energy conservation and local generation.
We look forward to working with the province of Ontario in building together an economy and environment that are sustainable.
The written submission given to the 2016 Ontario Budget Consultation as part of a presentation by Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director of REEP Green Solutions held at Kitchener City Hall on February 3, 2016.
REEP Green Solutions is an environmental charity that helps people live sustainably. Our current focus is on home energy efficiency and managing storm water.
We are recommending two items for Ontario’s budget that will create jobs and stimulate the economy.
- A home energy efficiency incentive to financially reward homeowners who make their homes more energy efficient.
- Universal Home Energy Labelling – requiring an energy rating on a home at the time of sale.
I have been with REEP Green Solutions since shortly after it was founded in 1999 to conduct home energy evaluations as a local response to Canada’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Seventeen years and 14,000 home evaluations later we have made an impact, but much more work needs to be done.
We know that right now most homes are contributing to climate change. All of them need to be a part of the solution if we are to keep an increase to the earth’s temperature to less than 2 degrees as Canada agreed to in Paris.
According to an inventory undertaken for ClimateActionWR (our local climate action plan), 22% of Waterloo Region’s greenhouse gas emissions are from energy consumption in our homes. Reducing those emissions is essential if Waterloo Region, one of the provinces largest urban areas, is to help the province fulfill its climate change commitments.
Together with our ClimateActionWR partners, we have a plan to reduce our region’s greenhouse gas emissions, including those from our homes. We have set a goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 2010 levels by 2020. The plan recently received national recognition when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities announced it has won a Sustainable Communities Award.
Turning the plan into action is the tough part, but some key investments from the province can spur action.
When we started performing home energy evaluations, people loved the individualized recommendations for their home. But when we went back a year later, nobody had acted on them. Everyone had great intentions. No one had done anything.
Four years later, we saw what a difference it made when the government created financial incentives to encourage people to implement the recommendations in their home audit. Participation soared. We estimate that participants who implemented some or all of our recommendations are now saving 26,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually through their home energy upgrades.
Now, however, home energy evaluations have stalled without incentives or other supports from the provincial or federal government. At the height of the performance-based EcoEnergy incentives, we evaluated up to 1500 homes a year. That means we used to do 100 or more home energy evaluations every month. Now we do not even do that many in a year.
We request that Ontario implement a home energy retrofit incentive program, verified by independent third party professional energy audits.
We ask that it be for all Ontarians, including those served by a locally owned natural gas utility, as we have in Kitchener, and those who use heating fuels other than natural gas.
We recommend incentives rather than tax credits or financing. Homeowners see quickly receiving a cheque as a real reward for their efforts. A tax credit that only reduces a homeowner’s payable income tax is not perceived as an incentive and will not prompt action.
An audit is necessary because it helps homeowners to prioritize cost-effective, high-impact investments, it verifies the results and it avoids fraud.
Every home renovation that improves energy efficiency stimulates our local economy. Over the last several years, homeowners we have worked with have spent on average $9,000 per retrofit. We estimate that since the beginning of the first incentive program, our participants’ home renovations have contributed over $40 million to the local economy through the purchase of materials and labour. Across Ontario, that spending was estimated at $1 billion/year. Most importantly, that’s spending that creates jobs in Waterloo Region and across Ontario.
An incentive program will have an even greater impact as the province considers requiring that potential buyers are informed of a home’s energy rating when it is being sold. We expect Universal Home Energy Labelling to encourage people who are selling a house to improve its rating and increase its value before putting it on the market. We also anticipate that people buying houses with lower ratings will be interested in renovating before they move in, to lower its energy costs and make it more comfortable.
When combined with an incentive program, a requirement to share a home’s energy rating at the time of sale makes home improvements prior to a sale or shortly afterwards more likely. The combination is powerful as it multiplies both the reduction of greenhouse gases and the economic impact that are expected from incentives alone.
If the province is interested in a pilot program to confirm the return it can get on its investment in renovations to improve energy efficiency, REEP Green Solutions and Waterloo Region are ready. We have both the experience and the plan (ClimateActionWR).
We look forward to working with the province of Ontario to meet its climate change commitments and to create local jobs and stimulate the economy.