Dear Minister Phillips,
Thank you for the invitation to share our ideas for the next phase of Ontario’s Action Plan.
Reep Green Solutions is an environmental charity and social enterprise in Waterloo Region. We help people make their homes more energy efficient and flood resilient. In our 21 years of serving this community, we’ve evaluated the energy efficiency of 17,000 homes, provided lighting upgrades for 5,000 lower income households, done water conservation audits at 1,200 homes, and worked with several neighbourhoods to build flood resilience through natural green infrastructure.
Our work gives us an on-the-ground perspective that I hope will be helpful as the province creates its COVID recovery plan.
Building Retrofit Program
You asked how to support workers and families that are struggling. Our response is to recommend that the government help workers and families make the place they come home to, or are working in all day long, more comfortable, affordable, and functional. This has multiple facets.
- So many of us are spending far more time at home than we ever have before, and many people are taking this time to do home renovations. It is an opportune moment to help prioritize energy efficiency upgrades through a building retrofit program. This program could include incentives for measures that reduce energy bills, and reduce reliance on fossil fuel combustion.
- Work with the federal government to help make home energy upgrades more affordable by providing incentives for all Ontarians, regardless of fuel type. Focus on the hard-to-do improvements such as insulating walls, basement and attic, and provide incentives for switching to electric heating and space heating.
- Looking to the long term, the Ontario Government could provide incentives to install ground source heat pumps, and thereby help to reduce costs and the burden on our electricity system, as more and more homes switch from natural gas to electric heat pumps. See this study for more information: http://mediaedgedigital.com/supplierinsights/hrai/study-shows-electrification-of-space-heating-in-canada-is-cost-effective-using-ground-source-heat-pumps
- Lower income households in particular, need support. In Kitchener alone, 20% of households are considered to experience energy poverty, meaning that they pay more than 6% of their income on utility bills. See this very helpful mapping tool at energypoverty.ca.
- The province has an important role to play in making sure that all geographic regions in Ontario have access to weatherization programs for those households that cannot afford it. Access is currently restricted to Enbridge clients, and is quite restrictive in terms of who is eligible.
- Renters deserve the opportunity to live in energy efficient buildings also. Incentives to encourage landlords to upgrade their buildings, and share the utility bill savings with their tenants, would help to improve our aging housing stock and ensure that all Ontarians have a chance to benefit from energy efficiency improvements.
- Although Reep’s expertise is in homes, we recognize that all of Ontario’s building stock will need to be upgraded in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we urge the government to provide a building retrofit program on a large scale, across all sectors.
- You asked how to help people find a good job. Investing in home energy retrofits will create thousands of jobs in the skilled trades, right in our own community. Imagine not only making Ontario homes healthier and less expensive to heat and cool, but employing Ontarians who live in those homes to do the work.
- According to our own estimates and reported costs from clients over the past 20 years, homeowners in Waterloo Region alone have invested $53 Million into the local economy through the purchase of labour and materials to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes, and saved $7 Million in energy costs as a result.
Prioritize less expensive Conservation and Renewables instead of fossil fuel generation
Closing the coal generating stations in Ontario remains the single biggest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions undertaken by any state or province in North America. It will undo a big part of that important work if more natural gas plants are now ramped up. And we’ll be spending a lot more money than we need to.
Reep Green Solutions co-leads the climate action plan for Waterloo Region along with Sustainable Waterloo Region. Our plans and those of all other municipalities in Ontario will be negatively affected by injecting more fossil fuel generation into Ontario’s electricity supply when the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is taken offline for repairs.
6. Conserving electricity is far cheaper than generating electricity. Restore and increase electricity conservation programs for homes and businesses to reduce our demand for electricity
7. Renewable wind and solar power also cost less than natural gas generation – no further purchase of fuels required! Let’s take advantage of our free natural resources. Encourage solar and wind businesses to flourish in Ontario.
8. Let’s save taxpayer money by buying less expensive waterpower from Quebec
Make our province a more attractive place to invest, work and grow a business, by planting trees.
We have a very on-the-ground suggestion for making our communities more attractive to investors, professionals and businesses: plant trees in urban areas. Trees in our cities and towns make a huge difference in quality of life, attractiveness of the community, and cooling and shading. Trees make communities more resilient by providing relief and reducing energy consumption from air conditioners during heat waves, anchoring the soil, and preventing floods. Trees make our communities more beautiful.
9. The greatest opportunities to enhance the urban tree canopy are on private lands. Provincial support for tree planting programs through municipalities will enable smart growth of our urban forests and future proof our cities from extreme weather.
We appreciate very much the opportunity to share our ideas for helping Ontario weather the COVID pandemic and come out the other side a stronger, more resilient place for families and businesses to grow and prosper. Please let us know how we can help.
Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director