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There may be good news in store for HRAI members.

From the perspective of HVACR professionals, one of the potentially most significant initiatives to come from the Federal government’s spring 2019 budget was a boost to $1.01 billion for the Green Municipal Fund (GMF) administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

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This fund provides financial support for green buildings and vehicles owned by municipalities, or owned by citizens and businesses under municipal support programs.

In an exclusive interview with FCM officials, HRAI recently acquired some of the details on how this money will be spent. According to FCM President Bill Karsten, the expanded program will launch soon, with the first funding call in mid-late spring, 2020.

PACE-STYLE FINANCING FOR CLEAN ENERGY

Karsten says “the key principle for the expanded program is to address affordability and energy efficiency at the community level and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This program will seek initiatives that need significant incentives to get off the ground, such as the Halifax Solar City example where we helped the city provide funding for solar thermal for homeowners. We will be looking at models such as ‘property-assessed clean energy’ (PACE), which have been successfully used by some governments in North America.” 

PACE-style municipal programs have grown in popularity from just a few three years ago, to 130 or more across North America. They allow municipalities to solve the up-front funding dilemma. Proven green technologies such as those mentioned later in this article all pay for themselves, usually several times over. However sometimes it takes years to reach the breakeven point, discouraging many homeowners and business owners, because with geothermal or solar systems, for example, the up front costs can be more than $20,000.

Because conventional banking organizations are only just beginning to learn about these projects and create risk profiles for them, normal improvement loans been difficult. Environmentalists and clean energy professionals have been asking governments to help with creative financing programs and affordable interest rates.

A SOLUTION TO THE UP-FRONT COST CHALLENGE

PACE programs can be structured so that utility cost savings cover the interest on the loan, thus allowing homeowners and business owners to install clean technology with no cash outlay, remaining in the black from day one. The popularity of PACE is partly attributed to the fact that the loan is generally secured to and transferred with the property, eliminating hesitation for those who worry about selling before the term ends. Repayments are also administered as extra charges on property tax or utility bills, a familiar and convenient model for property owners.

HEAT PUMPS, GEOTHERMAL & SOLAR

In our discussion of eligible technologies, FCM officials made it clear that fossil fuel equipment is not likely to be supported, because the priority is to make a significant impact against greenhouse gas emissions.

“What this means is that as long as it’s a significant project we are not ruling out technologies such as passive house, heat pumps, energy recovery from space & water heating, geothermal, solar PV, solar thermal, and electrical vehicles charging systems,” said Karsten. “We are still working out the types of eligible initiatives the expanded program will offer to ensure they are appropriate for communities of different sizes and regions.”

“It will be mix of grants and loans, for example, a grant might be used to reduce project risk by covering a non-recurring item such as engineering costs.”

One of the questions was whether the election would affect the program. Officials say that, because the funds have already been transferred to FCM, there is minimal likelihood of a pullback.

These details appear to be very good news for the HVACR industry and HRAI members. Once municipal projects are approved, likely in 2020, we will be able to develop strong marketing programs for clean energy technologies for property owners all over the country.

It is worth noting that HRAI staff have already had multiple discussions with representatives of FCM and allied organizations about creating a meaningful role for HVACR technologies in the program mix starting in 2020.