All across Canada, communities are seeking to ramp up actions to lower their energy use and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions, while improving their resilience to extreme weather, increasing the quality of life of their residents, and reducing inequities. Home energy retrofits, meaning renovations such as improving insulation, air-sealing, installing more efficient space and water heating systems, or replacing windows and doors present effective opportunities to address these issues.
Recognizing this opportunity, the Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) has undertaken this Community Efficiency Financing Feasibility study, prepared by Ecotrust Canada, to assess retrofit opportunities, barriers, and financing options for its residents. The financing options considered in this study include on-bill financing, property-assessed clean energy (PACE)/local improvement charge (LIC) financing, and third-party financing. Key activities to meet the objectives of this feasibility study included a comprehensive literature review, stakeholder engagement, and data analysis and modeling.
The BC provincial and Canadian federal governments are both offering financial incentives that can significantly reduce the cost of retrofits for individual households (Section 3 – Policy & Program Landscape). Our analysis of energy assessments done on common home types in the RDMW shows significant cost and energy savings opportunities for nearly all homes (Section 4 – Housing Archetypes & Modelling). Generally, heat pump retrofits provide the most desirable balance of payback time and overall energy savings. Those not already on electric heating systems also stand to significantly reduce their GHG emissions by fuel-switching off of fossil fuels or wood as their primary source of heat (Section 5 – Benefits & Impacts).
As a rural area of BC with four small municipalities, a number of unincorporated as well as remote island communities, and a relatively large number of Indigenous Nations, the RDMW faces a unique constellation of challenges (Section 2 – Housing & Energy Profile). The cost of energy is high and energy poverty is a significant issue; the housing stock is relatively old, with individually larger than average homes; there is a significant amount of propane, oil, and wood heating; access to energy advisors and contractors can be challenging and costly; awareness of retrofit benefits and opportunities tends to be low; and each community is relatively small in population as well as unique in its geography, socioeconomic context, and administration.
The key retrofit barriers identified in the RDMW are information and awareness gaps, high up-front costs, availability, and capacity of contractors and energy advisors, as well as the complexity of the retrofit and rebate process (Section 6 – Barriers & Opportunities). Our review of past and current local retrofit programs in BC (Section 3 – Policy & Program Landscape) confirms that building a locally-tailored program and supportive ecosystem can address such barriers and increase retrofit activity in a municipality or region.
We find that a Community Efficiency Financing program in the RDMW is feasible and recommend the creation of a local program. The most promising potential program components for the local context, other than financing, include putting in place a local coordinator who can manage a regional awareness campaign, provide tailored guidance to households interested in or going through the retrofit process, and support contractor and energy advisor capacity (Section 8 – Recommendations).
The most feasible financing option for the RDMW is third-party financing via a local financial institution such as Vancity (Section 7 – Evaluation of Financing Options). We strongly recommend combining an offer of retrofit financing with a local program to address the non-financial barriers households face in the pursuit of retrofits in order to scale up activity and improve outcomes in the RDMW.
In order to proceed with the recommendations of this study, the next steps for the RDMW are to review and select potential program elements and pursue a design phase. The program design could be completed in 2022 to establish detailed strategies, plans, and budgets for program start-up and implementation in 2023 (Section 9- Next Steps).