New Budget Provides Interest-Free Loans for Energy Retrofits in Canada

April 27th, 2021 by Drew Vass

After skipping a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered a new federal budget last week, outlining the government’s fiscal plans, as well as social and economic policies. Prepared by the Department of Finance Canada and presented by Freeland to the House of Commons, the new budget could boost demand for door and window products through $4.4 billion in funding aimed at helping homeowners to complete “deep home retrofits.” The same measures aim to create “good middle-class jobs, especially for skilled workers and tradespeople,” the department suggests, while helping to “spur clean growth by developing an industry for energy efficient retrofits, including the development of a Canadian supply chain for high-efficiency home renovation products.”

Since 2015, Canada has invested around $60 billion toward climate action, department officials say, including an additional $15 billion in 2020 for the nation’s strengthened climate plan. “Climate change is the challenge of our times,” government officials say, adding, “And it is also one of our greatest opportunities.”

Following the impacts of COVID-19, which led officials to postpone the 2020 budget process, a 2021 version adds an additional $17.6 billion for a “green recovery,” used to create jobs and a clean economy, while protecting against climate change. In addition to funding energy retrofits, the budget includes promised investments of $2.5 billion into skills development, committing to 500,000 training and work opportunities for younger workers, as well as includes $8 billion to address climate change through the support of green infrastructure and technology. The nation’s unions applaud these and other measures, officials for Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) suggest, including significant investments into childcare and a $15 federal minimum wage.

“This budget will bring some relief to the country’s workers and their families,” says CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “Crucial investments in affordable, quality, universal childcare will help women return to the workforce much more rapidly and help undo the damage wrought this past year on hard-fought gains.”

Through the $4.4 billion set aside for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ($778.7 million on an accrual basis over five years, beginning 2021-22, and $414.1 million in future years), homeowners and landlords would receive up to $40,000 in interest-free loans to undertake retrofits identified through authorized EnerGuide energy assessments.

“In combination with available grants announced in the Fall Economic Statement, this would help eligible participants make deeper, more costly retrofits that have the biggest impact in reducing a home’s environmental footprint and energy bills,” Department of Finance officials say. Among the examples cited is replacing “drafty” doors and windows. The program would become available by summer 2021 and is designed to be “easily accessible through straightforward online tools.”

Robert Daoust, vice president of innovation and marketing for door manufacturer Novatech Group Inc., praises the move, which he says carries implications beyond just energy savings.

“It is positive for our government to encourage the replacement of old doors and windows by products with enhanced energy efficiencies … This is in line with plans to reduce our carbon foot print and global warming,” Daoust says. “High performance can also mean improved comfort, user experience and quality of life.”

Officials for Fenestration Canada praise the government’s investments into energy retrofits, while stressing the need for programs that ensure new doors and windows are installed properly.

“As an organization, we are committed to supporting initiatives that support products and services targeting energy efficient upgrades,” says Fenestration Canada executive director Stéphane Labelle. “That being said, especially with these announcements, we still firmly believe that a national installers certification program is long overdue and are ready to work hand in hand with the government to make sure it is done properly.”

Climate action “starts at home, and deep home energy retrofits can have a big effect on emissions reduction,” officials say, while estimating that more than 200,000 households will take advantage of the opportunity. That, they say, will do more than build efficiency among Canada’s existing housing stock; it will also bolster supply chains for energy efficient products. The same program includes funding dedicated to supporting low-income homeowners and rental properties serving low-income renters.

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