Networking + Events

The Conservative government has cancelled its $400-million ecoENERGY Retrofit program ahead of schedule, a move eco-building experts and environmentalists argue sends a dismal message about the country’s commitment to energy-efficient building.
January 30, 2012.  
Josh Naper, The Star

The Conservative government has cancelled its $400-million ecoENERGY Retrofit program ahead of schedule, a move eco-building experts and environmentalists argue sends a dismal message about the country’s commitment to energy-efficient building. 

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver quietly announced Sunday that the Tories will no longer accept new registrants to the much-lauded initiative, which encourages building and home owners to retrofit old roofs, windows and insulation with eco-friendly alternatives.
 
The government was expected to close registration March 31 but, citing its accomplishment of funding 250,000 registered homeowners, decided to end it ahead of schedule. The program, which launched in 2007 and was renewed last year, offers Canadians up to $5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient.
 
The announcement comes amid rising scrutiny of several unexpected policy moves, including looming changes to old age benefits.
 
“I’m shocked and surprised,” said Jeff Murdock, vice-president of Building Insight Technologies, an eco-energy audit firm in Ontario and British Columbia. “It doesn’t make any sense — for the last couple of months, governments across Canada have been talking about securing Canada’s energy future.”
 
According to his math, Murdock, whose company belongs to the Save ecoENERGY Coalition, a national association of environmental organizations and eco-energy builders, said the government has allocated only $192 million in ecoENERGY Retrofit grants — less than half of the $400 million that was promised in the June 2011 budget.
 
He said the cancellation not only hurts retrofitting businesses, but also affects homeowners that planned to register for the program in the next two months.
 
Homeowners currently registered can receive post-retrofit evaluations and apply for grants until June 30, 2012; the retrofit renovations must be completed by March 31.
 
Andrew Brown, of Greg Brown Construction, said his Haliburton-based geothermal heating company will likely see a drop in business because of the government’s decision. He suggested an absence of grant funding for home retrofits, which can be expensive, will push people to look for cheaper, less environment-friendly solutions.
 
The Tories have called the premature end to the program a financial decision.
 
“The decision to provide time-limited funding demonstrates prudent management by our government to ensure that we can return to balanced budgets during this time of fiscal restraint,” Oliver said in the release.
 
But critics point to numbers that show grant handouts to be relatively inexpensive, with the average handout being about $1,200 per homeowner.
 
“They’re claiming fiscal prudence,” said Todd Downey, vice-president of operations at Energuy Canada, a Brantford-based energy auditing company. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
 
Tom Rand, senior clean tech adviser at Mars Discovery District, said by cancelling the retrofit program the government has silenced a much-needed national discussion on eco-efficient building.
 
“The federal government supporting eco-energy validates to the public that it’s important to do this work,” he said. “By cancelling eco-energy initiatives, the government has decided not to help that conversation move along.”
 
Note: This article has been edited from a previous version that misstated that Greg Brown Construction is a geothermal roofing company.

Article via
The Star