Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he wants to tackle the climate crisis while helping Ontarians save on their utility bills.
Schreiner was in Sudbury on Wednesday as part of his campaign tour of Northern Ontario to announce his party’s plan for a green retrofit program, which would provide grants to homeowners for energy-efficient upgrades.
“Buildings, depending on how you count climate pollution, are either the second or third largest source of climate pollution in the province of Ontario,” Schreiner said. “So we know that renovating our buildings to decarbonize them and make them more energy efficient is key to tackling the climate crisis.”
The $160 billion plan proposes giving grants of $15,000 to $20,000 to cover some of the costs of green renovations like heat pumps, insulation and solar panels. The plan also includes $2 billion to modernize nonprofit housing and co-ops.
“We know the people of this province need new solutions to old problems,” Schreiner said.
“Clearly it’s now or never to deal with the climate emergency, (but) at the same time we are facing a cost of living crisis. I am the only leader who has spoken about the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis that we are facing, how the two are linked and how the solutions to both are directly linked to one to the other.
The announcement took place outside the home of Lively residents Tom and Kim Brose, who had their home fitted with solar panels in 2016.
According to Tom, the upgrade didn’t come cheap.
The couple paid a Toronto company $36,000 for the original solar panels. After a botched installation, the panels had to be replaced with a more reliable set from local solar power systems installer, Solar Associates, at a similar price.
The couple were eager to continue the eco-friendly improvements to their home, but the out-of-pocket costs were hard to bear.
“That’s why we left town and moved here; we want to be as self-sufficient as possible,” he said.
On the Greens’ proposal, he added: “It would have been nice because it would probably have (removed) some of the initial costs.”
Solar Associates owner Steve Deforge, who attended the event, said enthusiasm for green renovations is present in the North, but also hesitation.
“The biggest barrier to entry that we find is capital investment and uncertainty,” Deforge said. “People are afraid to go out and get loans on their own. We have a long waiting list right now, with people just waiting for the $40,000 interest-free loan (the Homes Grant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), as this could eliminate the uncertainty variable.
Deforge said he hopes a new provincial government will increase transparency in how money is allocated to deliver green grant programs, citing concerns about the extensive vetting process owners must go through to qualify for the grants, which can cost the province millions before the renovations are approved.
“Why do we have to go through these extended processes to put this on someone’s roof?” he said. “(Installing solar panels is) almost like fixing a patio.”
Schreiner said the Green Party’s plan would also include a vetting process to ensure grants are being used for their intended purpose.
Still, green renovations like solar panels can be big savings for homeowners and can even be a source of income.
The Bros appreciate the flexibility the solar panels give them, Tom said.
Currently, Ontario households that generate solar power can sell the electricity to Ontario Hydro for feed back into the grid. The guaranteed rate starts at $0.39 per kWh, with homeowners able to buy back their energy for personal use well below market value at $0.12 per kWh.
“I care about the environment, as evidenced by my way of life. But when you’re about to retire and are disabled, the extra income is great.
Homeowners just looking to power their own home can also switch to net metering, as the Bros intend to do when their contract rolls around. The electricity billing mechanism would allow them to store and use their electricity at any time.
“It’s a simple thing to do,” Deforge said. “You go from selling and making money to saving money and generating your own electricity.”
That’s the kind of support the Greens hope their plan will bring to Ontarians. Schreiner said it can benefit residents of Northern Ontario.
“We believe that Northern Ontario, as I said, can and will be the world leader in the new climate economy. And we just have to make sure that we have a government that will provide the support, the vision and the ambition to make this happen.
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Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star