Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Apologies for not posting here lately. As you’ve probably noticed, activity on this site has slowed down. There are a number of reasons. One is the cancellation of my Toronto Star clean technology and energy column in March. This column was the source for much of my original blog content. I’m not a big fan of reposting stuff that hundreds of other sites also repost (simply retweeting on Twitter does that job just fine), so I like to keep things original, local, or both. Doing so takes up considerable time, which brings me to my other reason: It’s been crazy busy. My job at Corporate Knights takes up a considerable amount of my time, as we have many cool projects on the go that I am leading. The fact that we were named Magazine of the Year in June is an indication that we’re heading in the right direction. It’s good, fun work, which is why I haven’t felt the need to use this blog as a tool of procrastination. In spare time, I’m focusing on my family during these summer months. Which brings me to my final reason: It’s summer. Life’s too short to be sitting behind a computing writing blog posts when the sun is shining, the air is warm, and there is so much to do with family and friends: go to beach, camp, go strawberry/apple/peach picking, play softball, enjoy a few beers on a patio with some friends, cosy up with the wife to watch a movie, etc…
All that said, I will be back. This fall I’m hoping to revive my Clean Break column somewhere else, at which point the content will start flowing again. I’m also looking to redesign the look and feel of this site, which is tired.
So with that, I hope everyone out there reading this enjoys their own summer and will come back to visit this site in September/October.
The headline speaks for itself. For context, see earlier post.
Municipalities across Ontario will — should — be watching this pilot closely. It could become a template for deployment across Canadian municipalities once other provinces enable the approach through legislative amendments to municipal acts. Corporate Knights will be part of the push.
Last November I reported that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who at the time was minister of municipal affairs and housing, approved changes to the province’s Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act, basically empowering all municipalities in Ontario to use a financing tool called a local improvement charge (LIC) to help property owners finance energy- and water-efficiency projects for their homes. This has enabled the creation of what some call Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, or alternatively Property Assessed Payments for Energy Retrofits (PAPER). I recently wrote a large feature on such programs called “The PACE Makers” in the latest issue of Corporate Knights magazine.
Shortly after the legislative amendments took effect, a group of 22 municipalities formed the Collaboration on Home Energy Efficiency Retrofits in Ontario, or CHEERIO for short. These municipalities have pooled resources as part of a unified examination of PACE/PAPER program design, legal issues and communications challenges. The group is also doing market research to find out what homeowners across the province think about the new funding mechanism, and what lessons can be learned from early efforts in the United States. Bottom line: they don’t want to re-invent the wheel, but they want it to offer a much smoother ride.
All of that is context for what I really want to highlight in this post. Earlier this week a report from Toronto’s City Manager (as well as Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer) recommended that city council create a by-law that authorizes the use of LICs to fund energy-efficiency and water conservation measure on private properties as part of a new Residential Energy Retrofit Pilot Program, which aims to be up and running this fall on a voluntary basis. It would be the first of its kind in Ontario.
Single-family homes and multi-unit residential buildings can participate — specifically, up to 1,000 houses and up to 10 multi-unit buildings. The city is making $20 million available to fund energy assessments and installation costs, which will be repaid through LICs. Owners of single-family houses will have between five and 15 years to pay back the loans through a charge on their property tax bills, while multi-unit residential building owners will get five to 20 years. “The repayment term would be geared to generally reflect the anticipated operating cost reductions (i.e. energy or water savings) and useful life of the retrofit measure(s),” according to the report. This time around, the city won’t be issuing bonds to raise money for the program. They will tap into a Working Capital Reserve, monies from which will be transferred to a Local Improvement Charge Energy Works Reserve Fund that will give out the loans and be replenished through LIC payments.
“The program is projected to stimulate job creation, increase housing affordability through operating cost savings and annually avoid 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the report. “The primary focus of the pilot program is to test the market receptivity to this new financing mechanism, its ability to accelerate the uptake for investment in energy efficiency and evaluate how it aligns with the city’s economic development, housing quality and affordability and environmental sustainability objectives.” The idea is to also demonstrate that such a program can be revenue-neutral for the city.
This is terrific to see, and kudos to councillor Mike Layton for leading the push within council. The program will be considered by Executive Committee on July 3, and, depending on what it decides, the full city council will consider it on July 16. Let’s hope all councillors see the huge potential and importance of such a proposal. If Toronto can get this pilot right, it can set the stage for much broader deployment across the city, with the potential to snowball across the province. It would also lend momentum to efforts at getting other Canadian provinces to create enabling legislation, as well as efforts to expand the program to commercial buildings.