Edmonton to finalize permanent clean energy retrofit program – Edmonton Journal

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Edmonton is expected this month to finalize a permanent energy-efficiency retrofits program after applications for a widely popular pilot closed last year.

Homeowners could again apply to the city this year for up-front cash to upgrade buildings to consume less energy, such as installing heat pumps or improved insulation, or adding renewable energy elements like solar panels. The city fronts the cost and bills it back to the owners through property taxes over as long as 20 years.

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Council is expected to finalize the program at a May 13 public hearing after the first reading passed unanimously in February. If approved, Edmonton will borrow $20 million to fund upgrades for about 300 homes and 16 non-residential properties starting this year into 2027, according to a staff report.

It’s unlikely, however, other popular past programs that approved far more applications for smaller projects will return, including the solar rebate program and home energy retrofit accelerator. The clean energy improvement program (CEIP) is meant to replace them. The solar rebate program took on up-front costs for 1,200 upgrades between August 2019 and June 2023, but this was meant to be a bridge program until CEIP was finalized, according to memo sent to council last June.

Regardless, Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador told Postmedia on Sunday this program will help homeowners do their part to respond to climate change while aiding the city in reaching its climate goals. Money saved on utilities often offsets the cost of the upgrades in the long run, she said.

“A lot of folks are living in energy poverty right now and would love to be able to have a more efficient home simply for the affordability gains that come with that. Being able to have access to low-cost financing at the outset really opens the door for people who might not otherwise have been able to do these types of retrofits on their own,” she said.

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The CEIP pilot was very successful. “I think it was oversubscribed in a matter of hours,” Salvador said. She’s excited the program is being made permanent but thinks more money should be available.

“It’s going to be oversubscribed very quickly,” she said. Initially, the city planned to earmark about $60 million for it, she added.

But city administration is wary of borrowing too much money up front. Salvador said Alberta municipalities are lobbying the province to help with the financing so more people can take advantage of it.

“We’re trying to do the best we can in scaling it up while still being limited by the province,” she said.

Unlike in the past, this program won’t require a person to have owned their home for five years. There will also be coaching for those receiving upgrades.

Pilots popular

The CEIP pilot launched in March 2022 with about $12.3 million available. City staff at an executive committee meeting Jan. 17 described homeowners’ initial response to that program as “overwhelming.” This time, city council will be notified when 80 per cent of funds are used up so they can decide whether to expand it. For now, the municipality expects to pay $5.8 million in total costs as Alberta Municipalities administers Edmonton’s $20-million program. Alberta Municipalities runs similar programs in other cities.

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In total, 120 applications were approved through both previous CEIP rounds for 116 residential and four commercial properties. Average financing for the residential projects was $35,435. The most common upgrades for homes during the pilot were adding windows, improving insulation and air sealing, and installing solar panels, according to a presentation by city staff in January.

Details of the new program still need to be finalized with Alberta Municipalities.

But in the previous iteration, homeowners had to install at least three upgrades to be accepted. Eligible upgrades included energy-efficient windows and doors; improving insulation for walls, attics, or foundations and exterior home wrapping; renewable energy projects like solar panels or solar thermal heating systems; upgrading water heaters or drain water heat recovery; and upgrading lighting fixtures.

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