RETROFIT EXISTING BUILDINGS
2050 Vision: What does success look like?
All our community’s existing buildings are exceptionally energy efficient and generate zero greenhouse gas emissions in operation.
2030 Target: What’s the critical milestone?
All replacement heating and hot water systems are zero emissions, powered by either electricity or renewable gas.
Each year between today and 2030, 10% of our community’s residential buildings will undergo deep energy-efficiency retrofits
The Actions: What needs to happen?
- Explore financing mechanisms to enable deep energy retrofits
- Reduce barriers to heat pump adoption
- Coordinate with the Province for retrofit requirements
Rationale: Why this, why now?
In 2030, three quarters of the all buildings in the province will be the ones that are already standing today. Existing buildings account for 11 per cent of British Columbia’s total GHG emissions, and in urban areas usually constitute half of a given community’s emissions. Many existing buildings use more energy than is necessary. Owners of 20-year-old gas-heated homes can lower their energy bills by as much as 30% through energy efficiency retrofits and reduce about 4.5 tonnes of carbon pollution per year. Homeowners can pursue various degrees of building energy retrofits—from replacing individual pieces of equipment to comprehensive overhauls of the whole building.
The latter approach will be needed on a broad scale if we are to cut emissions from buildings in half by 2030. Such deep energy retrofits involve changes to the entire building, including insulation, windows and doors, and air barrier, as well as ventilation and space and water heating equipment. To ensure emissions reductions as well as energy reductions, the energy retrofit must include fuel switching, from fossil fuel sources to zero-carbon sources such as electricity or 100% renewable gas. Such projects usually rely on the expertise of an energy advisor, who conducts energy modelling and airtightness testing. Many building owners choose to spread the deep energy retrofit out over time to manage up-front costs, and then benefit from cost savings due to reduced energy bills over the lifespan of the building, as well as an increase in value.
People spend 80 to 90% of their time indoors—at work, school and home. Occupants of buildings that undergo deep energy retrofits benefit from improvements in indoor air quality, durability, reduced maintenance requirements, sound management, and comfort, creating an all-around more pleasant interior environment.
Local governments have limited jurisdiction over requirements for existing building retrofits but have an opportunity to influence and enable building owners to make investments in the energy efficiency of their buildings.
The Province of British Columbia has partnered with utilities and BC Housing on CleanBC Better Homes, a searchable web portal that allows home owners to quickly access information on all of the available energy-efficiency retrofit incentives. In addition, some local governments offer top-up incentives to reduce the costs of such projects. The province also offers owners of homes and commercial buildings a science-based assessment of options and opportunities to improve the building’s energy efficiency. Finally, the Province of British Columbia is offering rebates on energy-efficient heat pumps, which can be retrofitted into homes that run inefficient oil or gas furnaces.
Through Codes Canada, the National Research Council and Natural Resources Canada re working to develop a series of model national energy codes that would serve to help the government deliver on its commitment that all provinces and territories should adopt net-zero energy-ready codes by 2030. Through Natural Resources Canada, the federal government also manages the EnerGuide Rating System for new and existing buildings.
Finally, under its Energy Efficient Buildings Research, Development and Demonstration program, the federal government committed to increase energy efficiency and address climate change by improving how our homes and buildings are designed, renovated, and constructed. It is also allocating funding to support the research, development, and implementation of building codes for existing buildings and new net-zero energy-ready buildings.
Explore financing mechanisms to enable deep energy retrofits
Several local governments are exploring the feasibility of using Local Improvement Charges (LICs) or PACE financing (Property Assessed Clean Energy) to provide financing for deep energy retrofits that is tied to the property, and not the property owner. PACE is a financing tool that allows property owners to borrow money to undertake a broad spectrum of clean energy improvements to their buildings. The loan is paid back on the owner’s property tax bill, with the energy bill savings created by the improvements. There are successful models of PACE in the USA and Canada, and a coalition is working on making PACE available in BC by advocating for Provincial PACE-enabling legislation.
Local governments with their own utility can use on-bill financing to provide loans to their customers.
FCM’s Green Municipal Fund currently offers funding and capacity building support to help local governments and their partners design, launch and scale-up innovative financing programs for home energy upgrades. For more information: fcm.ca/communityefficiencyfinancing
Coordinate with the province on retrofit requirements
The Province of British Columbia is engaging with local governments, the construction industry, the insurance and finance sectors, NGOs, and others on what it is calling an Alterations Code for Energy Efficient, Resilient Buildings. The project seeks to provide clear requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use in existing buildings. The team aims to provide codes and standards for voluntary early adoption in 2022 in advance of province-wide requirements in 2024. Local governments can engage with the Province in the development of the retrofit code, and work together to advocate for solutions that support a transition to zero carbon emissions in the existing building stock.
Stay tuned as more information becomes available.
Reduce barriers to heat pump adoption
Make Your Case
The following facts may prove helpful when explaining this Big Move to constituents, staff, or other elected officials:
- Most building owners and architects estimate that investments to retrofit commercial and institutional buildings will pay off in fewer than ten years.
- Residential energy efficiency improvements helped Canadians save $12 billion in energy costs in 2013, an average savings of $869 per household.
- Investments in retrofits to improve energy efficiency have been shown to be strong job creators, providing direct local benefits and reducing energy bills.
Inspiration from Near and Far
Here we share case studies of how other jurisdictions have enacted creative policies, partnerships, and programs.
1. Nelson Eco-Save provides on-bill financing to help pay for energy retrofits
The City of Nelson’s EcoSave program provides a simplified process for its residents to access discounted energy evaluations, access rebates, and receive energy coaching. Because the City owns its own utility – Nelson Hydro – it can offer on-bill financing for eligible energy efficiency upgrades. Building on the success of this program, the Regional District of Central Kootenay launched the Residential Energy Efficiency Program, which expands the offer to all residents within the RDCK.
2. Improving buildings across the boroughs with New York City’s Retrofit Accelerator
New York City has developed a state-of-the-art energy retrofit program that has emerged as the envy of city governments across North America. The Retrofit Accelerator provides building owners or managers with individual assessments, contractor referrals, advice on incentives and financing, and training of building staff. This end to end support is proving the right recipe for strong uptake.
3. Improving Health and Social Justice Outcomes in the City of Cape Town, South Africa
The City of Cape Town achieves multiple benefits by focusing on retrofitting attics in low-income communities and social-housing projects. The city measurably improved the health of the communities and the energy efficiency of the social housing. This project targets the low-income communities placed on the outskirts of Cape Town with many financial burdens including transportation, food costs, and energy costs.
4. An energy utility partners with trusted parties to support its low-income customers
For years, DTE Energy, a Detroit based electric and natural gas utility, struggled to increase participation in its Low-Income Energy Efficiency Assistance (EEA) Program. But it had limited uptake among qualifying low-income customers; understandably, they did not always trust the utility that in the past may have shut off their power or gas for non-payment. So it partnered with more than 30 agencies and organizations that already serve low-income households. The partnerships immediately increased participation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount comparable to the annual energy-related emissions of more than 1,000 homes in one year alone.
5. Minneapolis, Minnesota Pursues a Green Zone
The City of Minneapolis, Minnesota created an environmental justice working group to help insure its climate plan would support the needs of vulnerable and traditionally under-represented communities. The group proposed a series of Green Zones—districts and neighborhoods that would receive special support and attention due to a combination of cumulative impacts from higher levels of environmental contamination exposure and higher rates of poor socioeconomic and health outcomes. The work has yielded a wide array of grassroots community projects.
6. City of Toronto extends credit to home owners on energy efficiency
Through its Home Energy Loan Program (HELP), Toronto homeowners can secure a low-interest loan of up to $75,000 to cover the cost of energy improvements. With low fixed interest rates, and terms of up to 20-years amortization on qualifying measures, HELP makes it easy and affordable for homeowners to pay for these home improvements over time, and access rebates offered by utility companies. The program has seen strong uptake and as of late 2019 was up for recapitalization.