Nancy Russell · CBC News · Posted: Jan 16, 2023 6:00 AM AST
A program that offers zero-interest loans for home energy efficiency upgrades has earmarked another $1 million in funding for residents of Stratford, P.E.I., and the company behind the Switch program says more money may soon be heading to other Island municipalities too.
Stratford and Charlottetown both got funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2021 for the Switch Efficiency Program.
The Charlottetown program received $9.5 million in funding, and has handed out about $6 million so far.
The Stratford program took off with homeowners there, and the $2.5 million in funding was gone by June 2022. It was used to fund 150 interest-free projects installing things like solar panels, heat pumps, new windows and insulation.
Now, the federation has given Stratford an additional $1 million, and the town is using that to tackle the waiting list left when the program ran out.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the Switch program,” said Katie Sonier, Stratford’s environment sustainability co-ordinator.
“We went through the first batch of money that we had much faster than anticipated, and we are getting phone calls now that we have some more money.”
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Sonier said there were more than 100 Stratford families in the queue when the first pot of money ran out. They were at different points of the process, from expressing interest all the way to almost being ready to sign an agreement.
“Unfortunately, we just had to pause it,” she said.
“But we were still offering free home energy assessments and support if they wanted to continue with their project, and find contractors, and figure out how to apply for rebates.”
Sonier said residents in the queue got first dibs on the new money, but officials have opened it up to other members of the public as well.
She said the $1 million should be enough to fund upgrades to another 50 to 70 homes.
Sonier said she’s not surprised at the popularity of the program, which guides residents through the process, including how to tap into provincial and federal rebates.
Zero-per-cent financing is very enticing for people.— Katie Sonier, Town of Stratford
“First of all, zero-per-cent financing is very enticing for people,” Sonier said.
“A lot of people, with the rising price of oil and gas, they really are wanting to make these energy efficiency upgrades.”
The president of PACE Atlantic (PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy) described the uptake from homeowners on P.E.I. as unprecedented.
“The Switch programs are retrofitting somewhere between three and five percent of the housing stock annually,” said Julian Boyle.
“I’ve been involved in efficiency programming for about 20 to 25 years, and have never seen this level of uptake in a community.”
“The level of engagement, participation in the communities is really exciting, quite frankly, and I think the rest of Canada has a lot to learn from what’s going on in P.E.I.”
Boyle said the high levels of uptake on the Island are motivated by wanting to save money, but also out of concern for the environment, “giving residents the tools to be involved in the climate change fight.
“This really gives a means for homeowners to actually reduce their energy and their carbon intensity.”
This really gives a means for homeowners to actually reduce their energy and their carbon intensity.— Julian Boyle, PACE Atlantic
Boyle said there has been lots of interest from other parts of the Island, and he’s hoping to expand Switch soon.
“It’s not just the larger communities in P.E.I. that need help with efficiency programming,” he said.
“We’re certainly open to working with municipalities anywhere on the Island to really help empower residents, and help residents save money…
“That would be certainly the goal of both of the municipalities and the provincial government, to enable as many retrofits and carbon reductions as possible, as quickly as possible, on the Island.”