Bylaw opens the door for Calgary green energy home improvements

via LIVEWIRE Calgary by Darren Krause

Calgarians may be able to access funding, repayable through property taxes, to fund green energy improvements to their homes. COURTESY ENMAX MEDIA CENTRE

Calgarians could have access to clean energy improvements for their home in 2022, repayable through their annual property taxes.

The Clean Energy Improvements Program (CEIP) bylaw was approved by city councillors Monday, opening the door for home retrofits.

The bylaw would allow the city to borrow $10 million and apply for a $5 million grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to deliver the program.  The $5 million would be a revolving mechanism to fund projects.

This could allow up to 720 Calgary homeowners to have access to financing for clean energy improvements. The city assumed an average cost of $21,000 per project. The project cost will be repaid by a homeowner over a roughly 15-year term via the annual property tax payments.

Administration said the high upfront cost was a barrier to making climate-friendly improvements. They also indicated that the CEIP requires local contractors to complete the installation of clean energy improvements through this program, so there would be a direct economic impact, too.

Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong, who put the motion on the table, we’re not the first city to go forward with this.  Further, he said it’s similar to other local improvement taxes, like if a homeowner wanted a back alley paved.

“I believe this is a great program going forward. It has zero – well, as close to zero – cost and risk to the city as possible,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re on the bleeding edge. We’re just kind of on the leading edge, which is a great place for Calgary to be.”

Once the program is open, Calgary homeowners who wish to participate will apply after receiving mortgagor approval.

Climate groups say it’s a great first step

Jessica Lajoie, representing Alberta Eco-Trust, reiterated the cost-barrier as a big reason why this program should go ahead.

“This program will help some Calgarians be more resilient to shocks from energy crisis and climate events in the coming decades,” she said.

Lajoie said the initial loan only addressed 0.2 per cent of eligible Calgary homes.

“This is a great place to start but we need a plan to grow the program at a scale that can be supported by the private sector and address our climate emergency.”

City administration’s report suggested the first four years with the FCM cash would be considered a pilot phase. If there’s success, they will look at expanding funding available for project financing.

Calgary Climate Hub co-chair Joan Lawrence applauded Calgary’s declaration of a climate emergency.

“Now we need to begin to do the work to achieve that target,” Lawrence said.

“Approving the proposed byaw to enable these programs is a good first step. It puts these improvements within the reach of more Calgarians.”

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner raised the question of tracking economic impact, and impact to greenhouse gas emissions. That will be part of the program, said admin.

It’s expected more details will be finalized in advance of the programs anticipated fall 2022 launch.

According to the city, the loan and grant would cover 80 per cent of the program costs. The remaining 20 per cent must be matched by the city, sourced through a revolving fund for financing clean energy improvements.

Earlier this year, Enmax and the City of Calgary announced a $5 million program to help Calgary community centres undertake solar energy retrofits.

Article by Lena Hogarth
December 6, 2021

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