Okotoks, Alta., Another Step Towards Clean Energy Improvement Program
Instead of paying the bill up front, residents of Okotoks, Alberta will soon be able to access a low-interest loan for their home energy improvement projects.
The town of Okotoks passed a bylaw this week for its Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP). This is a first step towards implementing a four-year pilot project to help homeowners make energy efficient upgrades such as adding solar panels, investing in better insulation, or purchasing home appliances – without the shock of the sticker.
Sheri Young, the city’s climate change and energy specialist, says she is answering more and more calls from residents wanting to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
“I think people are at home and looking at their four walls and wondering how can I improve my house?” Young said. “So I think it’s a really good time for that.”
According to market research, Young said demand was set at around 20 projects per year. Okotoks plans to fund the program through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has created a Community Effectiveness Funding initiative.
Low interest, no down payment
“I mean, no down payment, right?” Young said. “Low monthly payments… because we can get a loan at a lower interest rate than a regular homeowner. As a municipality, we get some of our credit.
For some, Young said, the initial cost of a solar project, or even upgrading a heater or windows, can be a barrier. This program would allow people to invest in improvements that could increase the value of their homes and reduce costs.
The province introduced CEIP legislation in 2018. This is Alberta’s version of a Property-Rated Clean Energy (PACE) program, which first gained popularity years ago. in the USA.
How it works:
- Municipalities must create and pass a by-law, which includes a capital plan.
- The Alberta Municipal Services Corporation then helps create the program and supports municipalities in administering it.
- The owners apply for the program. If approved, they can hire a qualified contractor to complete the chosen project.
- Instead of paying the contractor, the homeowner pays the improvement to their regular property tax bill over a period of up to 25 years.
- If the owner decides to move, the bill stays with the house and will be charged against the new resident’s taxes.
Program of other municipalities under scrutiny
Steven Ottoni is the director of the Clean Energy Improvement Program for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
Ottoni says no municipality has a program in place and running, several are on track.
So far, five municipalities have passed bylaws, and a few more are underway. Ottoni expects some of these municipalities to have ongoing programs by the end of the year.
“Alberta will be playing a leadership role in a way, which is exciting,” said Ottoni.
Young is hoping Okotoks will move forward with their program this fall.
“I hope it’s one more feather in our hat to be the sustainable destination for the people who live in southern Alberta,” Young said.