As Dion Hackett watched his 17-month-old granddaughter Ursa sleep one January afternoon, his thoughts turned to the impact of climate change on her future.
“I got emotional,” he said.
He was in good company.
Famed climatologist James Hansen has said, “I have been described as the grandfather of climate change. In fact, I am just a grandfather, and I do not want my grandchildren to say that grandpa understood what was happening but didn’t make it clear.”
Hackett too understands global warming issues. He gets energized by energy-issue research, drives an electric car and actively encourages people to deal with greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency.
And yet, on that January day, he felt the need for speed. As a long-time carpenter who has made energy retrofits in his own home, he considered barriers to adding efficiencies like insulation, heat pumps and solar hot water heaters.
Money came to mind. Make that upfront money.
An average homeowner might need a loan of $4,000 to $12,000 for installation of a heat pump, which would pay for itself in three to five years and help the planet. Rebates usually come after, not before, the job is done.
A homeowner might also avoid investing in expensive energy retrofits if a home sale is on the horizon, common in B.C.’s hot real estate market.
Looking for innovative ways to fund upgrades, Hackett was soon knee deep in PAPER – Property Assessed Payments for Energy Retrofits.
Reports from the Pembina Institute, David Suzuki Foundation and Sonja Persam suggested municipalities offer property owners upfront loans for energy retrofits with convenient repayment through either on-bill financing (monthly payments on utility bills), or “local improvement charges” paid through property taxes.
LICs normally finance infrastructure improvements, like road paving in a neighbourhood. Adjacent property owners are assessed a Local Improvement Charge on their property tax bill, until the improvement is paid for.
PAPER takes LICs one step further by financing improvements on private property. Homeowners benefit from long repayment periods (20 years versus five to seven years for a bank loan) and low interest rates. Costs of approved contractor energy retrofits stay with the building, so that both costs and benefits are shared by current and future owners.
But using LICs to support energy efficiency and renewable energy investments on individual properties could require a legislative change.