Dyer: Financing energy efficiency

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

It is easy to get stuck halfway through making your home energy efficient. You’ve done a home energy audit and you have finished the easy stuff, but some of these projects are not cheap — including installing new exterior doors, basement insulation or attic insulation. But energy efficiency financing is fundamentally different than taking a vacation or buying a car. Carrying out the energy efficiency project is going to save you money. In fact, over time, it is going to save you a lot more than what you spent. The problem is that the cost is a lump-sum up front while the savings trickle in over the long life of the upgrade.

Normally money you borrow counts against you, but shouldn’t having an energy efficient house count for you? An energy efficient house should appreciate more than one with a whopping power bill. In order to make our climate goals, we need massive changes in energy efficiency. Here are three options for financing energy: efficiency:

  1. Green loans through banks and credit unions
  2. On bill electric utility financing
  3. PACE: Property Assessed Clean Energy

Let’s look at green loans through banks and credit unions. Nationally the Royal Bank of Canada offers a RBC Energy Saver Loan. This loan is discounted – it has a rate 1% below than their normal loan rates. While neither Valley First or Prospera credit unions have a green loan program, if you live near Vancouver the Vancouver City Credit Union does. The Vancity Home Energy Loan finances energy efficiency renovations at prime + 1%. You can borrow between $3500-50,000 for up to 15 years. (Commercial and nonprofits can apply for a similar Vancity Eco-efficiency loan.)

If you live near Vancouver Vancity offers a Home Energy Loan at prime+1%

READ MORE: B.C. gets top marks in national energy efficiency report card

The second method of financing energy efficiency is “on bill financing”. This method makes a lot of sense: since the savings shows up on your power bill, the payment could be part of your power bill. The cost will be affordable because the total you pay each month is less than what you are currently paying. Who has access to on bill financing in the Okanagan?

From north to south, Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong, Vernon, and Lake Country are BC Hydro customers. BC Hydro is currently offering rebates but not financing.

Kelowna, West Bank, and Peachland are Fortis BC customers. Fortis BC customers can borrow up to $6500 at 1.5% interest for a heat pump (you have to choose between the loan or a rebate).

Summerland doesn’t offer any on bill financing but Penticton has an excellent program called Home Energy Loan Program (HELP). The maximum loan amount is $10,000, the rate is prime plus 0.5%, to be repaid over 10 years on your monthly electric utility bill. Unlike the Fortis BC program you can borrow to pay for insulation – it is not just limited to heat pumps.

Down south, Keremeos, OK Falls, Oliver, and Osoyoos are Fortis BC customers and can borrow to purchase a heat pump.

Penticton has an outstanding energy efficiency program that allows residents to borrow up to $10,000 at prime + 0.5% to be repaid over 10 years

The last type of financing shows the most promise: PACE financing. PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE programs are better than green loans or on bill financing for two reasons: they borrow against the home and they follow the home when you sell.

How does PACE work? PACE allows you to borrow some or all of the costs of energy efficient upgrades and pay them back through your property tax bill over a period of 20-30 years. You may have noticed that the lowest interest rate available to you is a home mortgage. Why is this? Loans against homes are more secure than car loans or credit cards. You cannot drive off in a home and failing to pay a mortgage means you won’t have a place to live.

Banks have failed to create a path to add energy efficiency upgrades to mortgages, but there’s another route, more secure and therefore lower risk: your property taxes.

READ MORE: FortisBC to offer free energy efficiency assessments for small businesses

Not only are property taxes a secure form of loan, they have the distinct advantage of following the house, rather than following the loan-holder. Imagine you have completed an energy audit, invested in a new heat pump and installed solar panels on the roof. Then you find out you need to relocate to Toronto. If you pass these costs on directly to the new owners it will price your house out of the market. However, if these investments lower power bills every month, then passing on your funding and the upgrades can be done through property tax.

You can find more information on PACE funding in BC at https://www.pacebc.ca/

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: Electricity demand and the duck curve

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Contributed - City of West Kelowna)
City of West Kelowna to consider endorsing Smith Creek project

Smith Creek neighbourhood plan proposes 900+ housing development on 154 hectares

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
15 cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna Francophone school outbreak

Three other schools in Kelowna are also dealing with potential exposure events

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

City of Kelowna crews are cleaning city hall after it was vandalized overnight. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

West Kelowna Panthers. (Contributed)
West Kelowna minor hockey team raising money to broadcast games

No spectators are currently allowed at minor hockey games in BC

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
UPDATE: Flames doused for second time at fatal Penticton apartment fire

The Elm Ave. building first caught fire around 4 a.m., killing two people and displacing dozens

Two have been taken to hospital following a vehicle crash north of Vernon on Highway 97 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Crash north of Vernon causes Highway 97 traffic delays

Emergency crews respond to two-vehicle incident near Swan Lake; occupants taken to hospital

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Submitted)
Penticton apartment fire claims two lives

An apartment on Elm Avenue went up in flames Tuesday morning

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Summerland woman has set up an online fundraiser to provide backpacks to those being released from correctional facilities.(ca.gofundme.com)
Summerland woman raising money for backpack program

Backpacks will be distributed to those being released from correctional facilities

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Most Read