Nelson Unveils Innovative Energy Retrofit Program for Homeowners
In April, Nelson homeowners will be able to borrow up to $10,000 from the city at very low interest rates to increase the energy efficiency of their residences under the city’s new EcoSave Energy Retrofits Program. The scheme includes “on-bill financing,” in which borrowers’ monthly loan payments may comprise a part of their hydro bill.
Unique in B.C.
Councillor Donna Macdonald says the program is unique in B.C. because “if we did not own Nelson Hydro we couldn’t do this. It is on your hydro bill so we have a mechanism to ensure we can recover the loan.”
Macdonald explained that the low interest rates the city receives from the Municipal Borrowing Authority will be passed on to borrowers under EcoSave program. Loans may be paid off over five or ten years.
“On-bill financing is a trend that is popping up all over North America right now,” says Carmen Proctor, the City’s Energy Retrofit Coordinator. She says Nelson is leading the way in Canada.
Proctor says homeowners who use the program are likely to find that their energy bills are lower than before, even with the loan payment added to it, because of the energy savings created by the retrofit.
First, a home energy audit
“When I receive your registration as a homeowner, I will schedule you an energy audit,” says Proctor. “An energy advisor will walk through your home with you and point out areas that could use energy efficiency improvement.”
The advisor will then make written recommendations on how to increase energy efficiency. This could include items already included in the provincial government’s LiveSmart Rebate program, which will work in conjunction with EcoSave.
Registration forms will be available sometime in April.
A big hole in your wall
“The energy audit will add up your leakage,” says Proctor, “and give you a measurement of what size of hole you would have in your wall if you were to take all that leakage and add it up. It’s a very motivating thing for the homeowner to see.”
The program will also introduce an additional rebate under the provincial Live Smart Rebate program if, in a before-and- after test, the air leakage into your house has decreased beyond a specific threshold. This is determined by a blower door test, which Proctor hastens to add is a non-invasive procedure that won’t actually create a windstorm in the house.
Get quotes from contractors
Once homeowners have decided which recommended items they wish to pursue, they must get quotes from contractors and then apply to the city for the loan. For homeowners wishing to do the work themselves, the loan will cover materials only.
When the work is complete, the energy advisor will return to do another audit.
“It’s a feel-good project and a win-win for everyone,” Proctor says. “People are not only saving money in a more comfortable home, they are also contributing to a sustainable environment. And they add to the economics of the community by using local suppliers and contractors, so everyone wins.”
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
Councillor Macdonald likes the program because it helps to meet the carbon emission reduction goals in the City’s Path to 2040 Community Energy and Emissions Action Plan.
“That of course is a provincially legislated requirement, that we identify greenhouse gas reduction targets in the community, not just in city operations, and they have to be incorporated into our Official Community Plan.”
Buildings comprise sixty percent of all energy consumed in Nelson and are the second largest source of greenhouse gases in the city.
“A big piece of that is around home heating and cooling,” says Macdonald. “So it’s meeting an important goal in a way that is rather brilliant and innovative.”
Businesses not eligible
Businesses are not eligible for the loan program because the Community Charter, the provincial legislation governing the powers of municipalities, forbids municipalities from giving financial assitance to businesses. However, they can apply to the program anyway, and Proctor will act as an advisor, helping them to take full advantage of various programs from LIveSmart BC and Fortis BC.