This Community Efficiency Financing study was prepared by Ecotrust Canada for the City of Powell River. It presents an outline of the housing stock, demographics and potential for a municipal home energy retrofit program in Powell River, located on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast and with a population of around 13,000. This study considered the design, uptake and effectiveness of other retrofit programs, including municipal, provincial and federal programs in developing recommendations. Seven housing archetypes were selected as representative of the Powell River housing stock, and the energy and emission impact of a number of home energy upgrades was modelled for these homes. The potential overall impact and uptake of a retrofit program for the City was estimated, informed by these models.
In general, the housing stock in Powell River and surrounding communities is older, with two- thirds of the housing stock having been built prior to 1980. There is a high prevalence of less efficient building envelopes and heating systems. The region demonstrates a high potential for significant energy cost savings, GHG reductions, and improvements in home health and comfort resulting from increased uptake of home energy retrofits. The City, and in particular the surrounding qathet Regional District also experiences a relatively high incidence of energy poverty, the result of a combination of lower incomes and poor energy efficiency in homes.
Stakeholder outreach performed as part of this study included interviews with local contractors, energy advisors, ratepayer and neighbourhood associations, and City staff. A homeowner and resident survey was conducted in October 2021, with 136 unique respondents. Powell River residents indicated a strong desire to improve the energy efficiency, health and comfort of their homes. While the largest barriers to retrofits for these residents were related to the capital cost of upgrades and a lack of local capacity for energy advisor and contractor services, some participants indicated that a targeted retrofit financing offer might help them to complete a home energy upgrade.
A number of retrofit financing options were considered as part of a holistic municipal retrofit program design, including existing and emergent models including Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, on-bill financing, traditional loan products, and contractor driven financing. The most desirable option identified though this study was the creation of new home retrofit specific financing products that are administered by a third-party financial institution and serve to reduce some of the traditional barriers to financing access.
These options could include relaxed eligibility, favourable terms, and personalized support for homeowners, enabled by the FCM’s Credit Enhancement offer for municipal lending partners. An in-person workshop was conducted in October 2021 with a local financial institution, First Credit Union, and City staff. Initial alignment around program goals and values was very strong. A retrofit program could incorporate a financing offer as part of a larger supporting ecosystem, including a single point of access for participants and personalized support through the energy assessment, contractor selection and rebate application process.
Overall, there is very strong potential for further development of a municipal home energy retrofit program in the City of Powell River. Home retrofit activity in line with BC’s climate targets could result in 200 participating homes per year, representing $277,000 in energy cost savings and 640 tonnes of GHG reductions for Powell River residents annually, in addition to supporting around 46 jobs.
In summary, we believe that a further Program Design study is warranted, and should be inclusive of the neighbouring qathet Regional District and Tla’amin Nation, respecting the tight integration and interdependence of these three jurisdictions, and their geographical isolation relative to the rest of the Province.