July 16, 2021

Clean Energy Financing

Lead municipality: The Town of Bridgewater
Lead applicant: Clean Foundation
Sector: Energy (Community Efficiency Financing- CEF)
Approved funding through the Green Municipal Fund: $ 9,570,000
Loan: $ 6,380,000
Grant: $ 3,190,000

Clean Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, launched the Clean Energy Financing (CEF) program alongside its municipal partners in 2016 to support residential energy retrofits in rural Nova Scotia municipalities. The program is currently operating in partnership with the towns of Bridgewater and Amherst, the districts of Digby, Lunenburg, Barrington and Yarmouth, and Cumberland County and plans to grow in Town of New Glasgow and Inverness County.

The program uses a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing model, where homeowners pay for their home upgrades via a special charge on their property tax accounts. Both energy-efficiency and renewable-energy measures are considered eligible, as well as some other enabling upgrades, so long as they save as much or more in energy and heating expenses as the cost of the retrofits. The recapitalized program will introduce a series of service improvements: a comprehensive marketing strategy; reduced homeowner participation fees; a more effective home energy analysis; and a new “Clean Climate Incentive” GHG emissions reduction rebate.

The program is linked to the Climate Change Action Plans of all participating municipalities, as well as provincial energy-efficiency objectives.

Financing terms extended to homeowners:

  • Financing amount: Financing amounts vary by participating municipality. Maximum amounts range from $10,000–$25,000. Some municipalities offer a set amount while others offer financing based on the value of the property
  • Financing terms and repayment: Financing agreements will have 10-year repayment periods. Payments are to be made directly to the municipality through monthly payments attached to the homeowner’s property tax account. Municipalities set the default interest rates on the financings
  • Interest rates: Rates vary by municipality, from 2 percent–4.95 percent
  • Underwriting criteria: An arrears check is completed on the homeowner’s property tax bill to see if there are any outstanding balances owing. Two of the municipalities perform credit checks in addition to the arrears check. Mortgage-lender consent is not required but it is recommended that homeowners inform mortgage lenders of their participation in the program
  • Additional fees or charges to participants: Homeowners will be charged a subsidized participation fee of $250 that includes the cost of a home energy assessment fee
  • Consumer protection measures: Home improvements must meet a 1:1 debt-to-savings ratio. All quotes will be reviewed by the program’s technical analysis team for quality assurance. The program requires that eligible contractors have liability insurance and Workers Compensation Board clearance

Municipalities will be responsible for managing program capital funds. Once work has been completed on a house, contractors will be paid by Clean Foundation, who will directly apply any applicable provincial rebates. Clean Foundation will provide municipalities with a monthly invoice for any retrofits in their districts. Upon paying the invoices, municipalities will register and manage homeowner PACE liens.

Environmental benefits:

  • Anticipated energy savings of 20,425 GJ/year and greenhouse gas emission reductions of 1,617 tCO2e/year
  • The CEF marketing team will produce leave-behind material that encourages individual behaviour changes to further decrease energy usage in homes

Social and economic benefits:

  • The program is an important component of Bridgewater’s Energy Poverty Reduction Program, which has the goal of reducing energy poverty in the community by 20 percent in five years and 62 percent in 10 years
  • An embedded mentorship component will help people from First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities’ opportunities to receive practical experience in a variety of positions relating to energy efficiency
  • Approximately 56 full-time jobs are expected to be created over four years

Innovative aspect(s):

  • The program’s Clean Climate Incentive is considered an innovative financing mechanism to drive low-carbon retrofits
  • Clean Energy Financing has the most municipal partners of any PACE program in Canada

Replicability:

  • CEF is offered as a turn-key program to rural municipalities in Nova Scotia. The program has already grown from four to nine participating municipalities, with several other communities currently in conversation with Clean Foundation. Beyond Nova Scotia, the CEF program serves as a model for other multi-municipal programs managed by a regional entity.

(Project description from original funding application)


Evaluating Halifax’s Solar City Program for Program Expansion with Accessible and at Scale Financing Options

Lead municipality: Halifax Regional Municipality
Lead applicant: Halifax Regional Municipality
Sector: Energy (Community Efficiency Financing- CEF)
Approved funding through the Green Municipal Fund: $ 175,000

The Halifax Regional Municipality will conduct a study to evaluate its Solar City program, Canada’s longest running Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. The Solar City program has financed more than $18 million in solar energy systems since its inception in 2012 and is one of the first PACE programs in Canada to generate demand that outweighs what the current program model can finance.  

The municipality wants to launch a new, expanded program in 2021, supported by its new climate action plan, HalifACT. The plan identifies the need to retrofit all existing buildings to reduce energy demand by a minimum of 50 percent by 2040, and to install 1,300 megawatts of rooftop solar panels by 2030. To meet these ambitious goals, the new program will expand to include deep-energy retrofits, resiliency measures and non-residential properties. The program will increase accessibility and affordability and select a new third-party program delivery model that will allow the program to scale beyond its current size.  

Beyond the direct environmental benefits, the new program is anticipated to improve property owners’ energy savings, enhance landlord–tenant equity, and stimulate local solar and energy-efficiency industries. The program will borrow from the core tenet of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ‘leave no one behind’.  

This evaluation study has two main goals:  

  1. Understand the barriers and limitations of the current (Solar City) program: This includes assessing past and current objectives, evaluating program equity and inclusivity with a focus on property owners facing the highest energy cost burdens, and assessing cost-competitiveness and scalability for impact commensurate with the challenge and urgency of HalifACT.  
  2. Analyze the minimum design criteria for the new third-party financing program to be capable of delivering universally accessible and equitable financing: The municipality will explore utility on-bill financing as well as other third-party loan products to meet the minimum design criteria and determine what additional requirements may be needed to secure this.  

The Solar City pilot program was supported by GMF capital project financing (GMF 12028).  

Innovative aspect(s) :  

  • The study will establish a continuous evaluation framework focused on measuring impact from the outset of the program in real time, allowing program administrators to make changes if stated objectives are not being met. 
  • The evaluation study will use an equity lens through all stages by consulting with low- to moderate-income property owners and equity-seeking groups, ensuring that the new program is designed to be inclusive, and to achieve the outcome of an accessible financing program which will advance the universal goal of clean and affordable energy for all property owners in the Municipality. 

Replicability:  

  • The study will be completed in partnership with the Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners (CUSP) network, which has a large base of member municipalities who have already expressed interest in the results of the study and whose current program design and consultations can assist the Municipality in the design of their enhanced and accessible financing program. 
  • This study will garner critical insights into how to scale up a retrofit financing program through collaboration with conventional financial institutions, which should be of interest to other municipalities with existing or developing PACE programs  

(Project description from original funding application)

Green Municipal Fund
Climate change
Energy
Sustainability
Transportation
Water
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