Harper eradicates EnerGuide program

Leaky windows and drafty doors just got harder to fix. And Yukoners hoping to receive federal funding to make their homes more energy efficient are…

Leaky windows and drafty doors just got harder to fix.

And Yukoners hoping to receive federal funding to make their homes more energy efficient are out of luck.

This weekend, it became clear the Harper government had quietly phased out the $44 million EnerGuide for Homes funding in its May 2nd budget.

The program had been running for eight years.

“We found out (the program funding was cut) in early May and it was a bit of a shock,” said Yukon Housing Corp. research and development project manager Juergen Korn.

“Especially because all indications showed it was a very successful program.”

Since its inception in ‘99, 1,900 Yukon households were evaluated for energy efficiency under the program.

“That’s about 20 per cent of all houses evaluated in the Yukon, and many First Nations were using the program,” said Korn.

After energy efficient upgrades were completed, households could apply for a second evaluation to determine their subsequent savings.

On average, energy savings were 16 per cent after the upgrades, said Korn.

But in some cases they were as high as 50 per cent, he added.

Although Ottawa has cut all funding to the EnerGuide program, its infrastructure is still in place, said Korn.

“And this is important, because we don’t have our own infrastructure to continue running the program — we use national EnerGuide software for the evaluations, federal training for our advisers and EnerGuide’s file management, database and quality assurance standards.

“So far, the government has told us to carry on with the program, although it will no longer provide funding, and I hope it decides to keep the infrastructure up-to-date and in place,” he said.

Korn assumes people will continue to get household energy evaluations, even though the cost will now increased from $99 to approximately $300, without the previous government subsidies.

It’s still a very valuable assessment that offers lots potential savings, said Korn.

And, until the end of March, homeowners who have already had an initial EnerGuide assessment and are currently working on upgrades, will still receive their second assessment for free, said Korn.

As well, homeowners who started energy-saving renovations before midnight Friday will still be eligible for federal grants under the EnerGuide program. The grants will average approximately $737 per household if the renovations are completed by March 31st, the Toronto Star reported on May 16th.

But getting the money will depend on how many people complete the process by March and how much money Ottawa sets aside to pay for the grants to homeowners, Emma Welford, an aide to Natural Resources minister Gary Lunn told the Toronto Star.

Last year, the EnerGuide program gave grants to 30,429 homeowners, saving participants an average 28 per cent on their energy bills.

That’s $750 a year – or $18,750 in lifetime savings at current energy prices, the Toronto Star reported.

The Federal Conservatives have also cancelled a new five-year, $500 million program introduced by the Liberals called EnerGuide for Low Income Households.

This program would have paid the full cost of renovations for low-income earners.

“Low-income households already live close to the edge, and steep increases in energy prices will push many of them over,” Clifford Maynes, executive director of Green Communities Canada, said in a release.

“One very powerful response is to improve efficiency of low-income housing, which reduces energy burden, by reducing energy consumption — everybody wins, including the environment,” he said.

Harper’s government said EnerGuide is being dropped because the cost of the audit’s too high, the Toronto Star reported.

Last year audits in support of homeowners’ energy renovation grants totalled $15.1 million of the total $44.3 million cost of the program.

Contractors who evaluated homes for EnerGuide grant eligibility, received a terse email from Ottawa late Thursday night announcing the impending end of EnerGuide, the Toronto Star reported.

It was inappropriate for the federal government to cancel the program, Ontario’s energy minister Donna Cansfield told CBC.

Ontario is already looking for ways to reinstate the EnerGuide program, while Quebec and New Brunswick have agreed to continue the program using provincial funding.

Green Communities Canada is calling on Ottawa to reconsider its decision to cancel the EnerGuide programs.

“The government’s cancellation of these popular, effective programs is very bad news for residential energy efficiency in this country,” said Maynes in a release.

“The government has a responsibility to keep them in place at least until it has something better to replace them with,” he said.