September 21, 2023


Gets In Done On Time

Calgary pauses applications for energy improvement loans due to demand

More than 230 applicants applied for almost half of the $15 million in available financing on the program’s first day

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Uptake for Calgary’s Clean Energy Improvement Program has been so strong, the city has already paused applications for loans so officials can deal with the influx of requests.

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The program, which launched Tuesday, allows homeowners to borrow up to $50,000 for certain energy improvements to their homes. The program is unique in that the loan is paid back through the city’s tax bill, and the loan stays with the home if the owner chooses to sell.

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By Wednesday evening, the city placed a notice on its website saying it was temporarily pausing the acceptance of applications.

“Due to a high volume of CEIP applications, we are temporarily pausing pre-qualification intake to deliver reasonable processing times,” read the message.

“We will reopen for pre-qualification applications once the initial applications are processed.”

‘There hasn’t been a program to this level, or size, to date’

While the City of Calgary has committed $15 million to the program, its administration is being managed by Alberta Municipalities, which oversees similar programs in eight other municipalities.

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Steven Ottoni, director of sustainability services with Alberta Municipalities, said Calgarians submitted 238 applications on the first day, requesting about $7 million for upgrades.

He said they’ve seen rapid uptake in other markets, but Calgary is above and beyond what they were expecting.

“The big difference, I would say, is there hasn’t been a program to this level, or size, to date,” said Ottoni.

He said Calgary purposely built a more robust program, anticipating demand. Edmonton set aside $2 to $3 million for its program.

“It’s exceeding beyond what we actually thought, which is great because, ultimately, what you want to see is a strong demand for these kinds of programs,” he said.

Ottoni described a wide range of home improvement requests in the pre-applications.

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“I think people have been preparing and are ready, and maybe have already spoken to contractors and got quotes on project costs, because we’re seeing a wide range of project sizes in those pre-qualifications.”

He said once applicants get accepted for pre-qualification, an energy adviser has to complete an audit on their home to look for the projects that could give the best energy savings.

Auditors seeing ‘pent up demand’ given high energy prices

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Suzie Clifton, owner of Green Wave Consultants, said she got registered on Wednesday to be a certified auditor for CEIP. She said her business of conducting home energy audits has been growing for the past few years.

“Since (the Canada Greener Homes Grant) launched in 2021, I’ve hired three people since then,” said Clifton. “We’re just a small company. So we’ve grown quite a bit just from that program, and I assume that we will grow even more from this program.”

She said Calgary’s loan program fills a lot of gaps left by the federal home improvement grants, which won’t cover natural gas products.

“We go into so many houses in Calgary where they’ve got a 30-, 40- or 50-year-old furnace, and it’s really not efficient,” said Clifton. “Their bills are very high. So there’s no incentive for them to upgrade that, but now there will be if they follow this program.”

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The energy audit measures several factors throughout a home, and checks for drafts with a blower door test. Once upgrades are done, Clifton’s company will do a second audit to measure the efficiency of the changes.

She said an older home from the 1950s can see 60 to 80 gigajoules per year in energy savings with major upgrades. That’s the equivalent of between 16,000 and 22,000 kilowatt-hours worth of energy.

David Kelly, CEO of solar installation company SkyFire Energy, said his company has seen an increase in inquiries since Tuesday’s announcement, and he’s not surprised by the interest in the program.

“It’s going to cause some people some grief, I imagine,” he said of the pause in applications. “It just shows that there is this pent-up demand.”

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He said he saw similar demand when the provincial government rolled out its Energy Savings for Business program in 2020. While money for that program is still available, he said the portion set aside specifically for solar projects was gone within a few weeks.

“Given our energy prices today, too, it’s no wonder,” said Kelly. “The February regulated rate option is over 30 cents for most retailers.”

No commitments yet to increase funds available, city says

The city said it’s too early to say if it will increase the funds available for this program. Carlee Beaver, manager of the Clean Energy Improvement Program, said for now the city is focused on working with what it has.

“This initial launch was intended to answer the question if Calgarians are interested in the program and how will they use it,” said Beaver. “Given the initial success of the program, we will be reviewing the results of the initial launch and evaluate the opportunities to increase the financing available through the program in the future.”

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Twitter: @brodie_thomas


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