MISSISSAUGA, Ontario - According to the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), the recently announced Canadian federal budget included the Conservative government’s promised $400 million for a restored ecoENERGY program for a one-year period. The association acknowledged that details on when and how the program will be restarted are currently unclear.

In the months before the federal election, HRAI led a coalition of associations and stakeholders in an effort to convince the government to reintroduce the ecoENERGY home retrofit program. These efforts succeeded when funding for the program ($400 million) was included in the federal budget, which was tabled in March. When the budget failed to pass, leading to the recently concluded election, further federal action on this front was put on hold.

To urge the new government to keep its promise, HRAI and the Save ecoENERGY Coalition sent a briefing document and letter to the prime minister urging prompt action on this file shortly after taking office. The letter advocated for adoption of a three-step plan that builds toward a goal of enabling the marketplace to sustain ecoENERGY activity without the need for any ongoing federal grants within four years.

The letter also recommended that the government renew ecoENERGY funding for a four-year interim period, in order to provide the time and predictable conditions necessary to complete the three-step plan.

Some professionals in the energy retrofit industry have expressed concern that, while the $400 million commitment sounds impressive, it will not be possible to spend this amount in just one year, based on past participation rates. Since the budget has not yet been passed, and details of the program have not been implemented, there is also concern that the actual lifespan of the program could be considerably shorter if it expires at the end of the current government fiscal year on March 31, 2012. If the program is rolled out in July, it will give people only nine months to complete an initial energy audit of their home, renovate, and get a second, follow-up energy audit. Under the old program, which allowed up to 18 months, energy companies say that people were scrambling to get everything completed in that time frame, and some even needed extensions.

NRCan, which is expected to announce eligibility criteria and other program details in the coming weeks, has not commented in response to criticism from the energy industry.

The Save ecoENERGY Coalition contends that on average families spend $10 on home renovations for every dollar paid in incentives, and generate enough tax revenue to almost fund the program. The coalition will continue to lobby for a four-year renewal of the program, so the home-energy industry will have time to become sustainable. It is also calling for an energy rating labeling system to be put in place for homes at the time of sale.

The Save ecoENERGY Coalition also recently wrote a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty urging the Ontario government to follow the lead of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Québec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia by re-instating the Ontario Home Energy Savings Plan, which in the past matched ecoENERGY grants dollar for dollar. The same supporting arguments were employed as in the campaign to restore the federal program.

Publication date:07/11/2011