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Don’t Leave Homeowners Out In the Cold

Tuesday, November 30th 2010 10:42:28am

Media Release

Toronto, November 30th, 2010 – The province’s Environmental Commissioner says Ontario should continue to have a home-energy retrofit program.

In his report Rethinking Energy Conservation in Ontario – Results, Gord Miller warned the Ontario Home Energy Savings Program (HESP) will stop taking new applications at the end of March, 2011. The federal ecoENERGY – Retrofit Homes program, which provides matching funds, has already stopped accepting new applicants.

Miller says, “the Home Energy Savings Program has helped to start to build an ethic and culture of conservation among the province’s homeowners.”

With no real marketing
• 158,000 homeowners have retrofitted their homes, and cut their energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions by upgrading their heating and cooling systems, adding insulation and high-efficiency doors and windows.
• 112,000 people have received grants under the HESP to replace an old furnace or boiler with a more efficient model.

“The program is particularly effective for homes built before the building code changes of the 1970s,” says the Environmental Commissioner, “but the current uncertainty over the program’s existence may hurt companies that supply conservation services in the province.”  

While the Environmental Commissioner believes Ontario needs a home energy retrofit program, he says changes should be made to improve its scope and efficiency.

• Homeowners need to be encouraged to undertake a suite of multiple improvements to their home’s energy efficiency. Currently, one-quarter of the program participants carry out only one of the upgrades recommended to them and miss opportunities for additional energy savings. Only about a quarter of participants do a deep retrofit involving four or more of the recommended improvements.

• There needs to be better evaluation of the HESP, and other ministry conservation programs, to verify the energy savings and improve the design of each program. Right now the Ontario Energy ministry is relying on estimates produced by the federal government.

The Environmental Commissioner says there are alternatives to the outright cancellation of the popular HESP, which has so far cost the provincial government $205 million over the last three years. Miller says, “the program could be redesigned to offer less money, older, draftier homes could be targeted, or it could be taken over by Ontario’s gas utilities, which have been focusing their efforts on the commercial and industrial sectors.”

The Commissioner questions the province’s support for the program. “The government’s Long-Term Energy Plan, released last week, makes no mention of continuing financial assistance for retrofits, and only says it will ‘propose to support homeowners to have energy audits.’ Yet the government also anticipates that 30% of the new conservation target contained in the Plan will come from the residential sector, and gives no details on how its targets will be met without retrofit programs.”

Details on the HESP and other conservation initiatives can be found in the report Rethinking Energy Conservation in Ontario – Results available at www.eco.on.ca/eng.

View clip below to see the Environmental Commissioner’s comments on Ontario's Home Energy Savings Program

For more information, contact:  
Hayley Easto
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario


The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the province's independent environmental watchdog, and report publicly on the government's environmental decision-making. Under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has a new responsibility to report annually to the Speaker of the Assembly on the progress of activities in Ontario to reduce or make more efficient use of electricity, natural gas, propane, oil and transportation fuels. The ECO is also required to review the progress in meeting any government-established targets to reduce energy consumption and increase efficient use of these fuels, as well as to identify barriers to conservation and energy efficiency.

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