Should energy efficient renos be a part of tax bill?
This is no time to be abandoning energy conservation. Homes are a major source of Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is our cheapest, fastest way to reduce these emissions. Using less energy helps us avoid the need for new electricity and gas generation facilities. Being more efficient improves our energy security and productivity, and stimulates green jobs. Yes, actions like improving insulation are cost-effective on their own -- especially with rising energy prices -- but there are still very real barriers that we need to help residents overcome.
Here is how I would revive the ecoEnergy program and give it the staying power of a double-brick century-old Toronto house.
First, provide no- or low-interest financing, particularly for larger-ticket items with relatively quick paybacks. This recognizes that a key reason people don’t tackle jobs like insulating the attic is the upfront cost.
Second, tie that financing to the house instead of the owner. This removes the “what if I sell and never realize the savings” barrier to home retrofits -- the new owner simply takes over the payments. This could be done via the property tax or utility bills that stay with the house from owner to owner. And if planned properly, utility-cost savings can cover the cost of servicing the loan.
Third, keep the incentives flowing for longer payback, high upfront cost items. For instance, solar water heating is a very effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is a technology that is in wide use around the world. In Canada, however, the industry has had supports yanked out from under it time and time again, de-stabilizing a fledgling green sector. If we really want to develop green businesses, we need to provide some consistent, long term support to develop both markets and industry capacity.
Fourth, one of the most useful parts of the ecoEnergy program was the home assessment that helped homeowners develop a clear plan to improve the energy performance – and reduce the climate impact – of their homes. This expert assistance should be expanded into a one-window service for help with conserving gas, electricity and water as well as to provide access to all incentive programs.
Ten years ago, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund supported pilot testing of an energy efficiency incentive program, which was so successful it went national and has helped hudreds of thousands of Canadians go green. We need more, not less, support for efficiency – it’s an investment that will make Toronto greener and richer.