Vancouver’s energy plan to include home retrofits

Posted by Rumin Mann
December 8th, 2010

The City of Vancouver expects to begin a home energy retrofit program next year in which it will finance renovations and allow homeowners to pay for them through property taxes.

Everything from weather-stripping and insulation to energy-efficient appliances and thermal hot water systems will be considered as long as they make economic sense, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said Tuesday.

“We want to make it easy for everyone so you can opt in and you pay over time but the cost is offset by the savings in energy,” he said.

The entire retrofit program is designed to be self-financing with no cost to city taxpayers, deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston said. Homeowners who participate would repay the money with interest calculated to cover administration and financing.

In return, the homeowner benefits from lower utility bills. In time, those savings will exceed the cost of the improvements, he said.

“For the homeowner, our goal is that you would be saving more on your utilities than you would be paying on the loan,” Johnston said. “Even in the first year you would be saving money and energy and would have a more comfortable house and ultimately that would help reduce your impact on the environment and would create local jobs doing the retrofit.”

Robertson said the city is still working out the mechanics of how the program will work. The city will seek requests for proposals from banking institutions that will administer the financing. But for now, a private businessman will kick-start the program by providing upwards of $6 million in seed financing, according to Johnston.

The program is expected to start sometime next year with a pilot program that could see upwards of 600 homes qualify for retrofits.

Johnston said the average loan is expected to be about $10,000, making it manageable to repay based on energy savings.

To qualify, a homeowner would have an energy audit done by a qualified professional who would recommend the most cost-effective improvements to lower the homeowner’s energy bill. The city would approve the plan and offer a list of recommended contractors. It would pay all the bills and then set a time frame for repayment through the property tax system.

The repayment costs, spread out over a number of years, would be added to the property tax bill.

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