Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner says he wants to tackle the climate crisis while helping Ontarians save on their utility bill.
Schreiner was in Sudbury on Wednesday as part of his Northern Ontario campaign tour to announce his party’s plan for a Green Retrofit Program, which would provide grants to homeowners for energy-efficient household 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 retrofitting our buildings to decarbonize them and to make them more energy efficient is vital to addressing the climate crisis.”
The $16-billion plan proposes providing grants of $15,000 to $20,000 to cover some of the costs of green retrofits like heat pumps, insulation, and solar panels. The plan also includes $2 billion to retrofit non-profit and co-op housing.
“We know that the people of this province need new solutions to old problems,” said Schreiner.
“It is clear that it is now or never to address the climate emergency, (but) at the same time, we are facing a cost of living crisis. I’m the only leader who talked about the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis that we’re facing, how the two are linked, and how the solutions to both are directly connected to each 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 $36,000 to a Toronto company for the original solar panels. After a botched installation, the panels had to be replaced with a more reliable set from local solar energy systems installer, Solar Associates, at a similar price.
The couple was eager to pursue green upgrades to their home, but the out-of-pocket costs were hard to stomach.
“That’s the reason we moved out of the city and moved here; we want to be as self-sufficient as we can,” he said.
Of the Greens’ proposal, he added, “It would have been nice because it probably would have (taken) some of the initial costs away.”
Solar Associates owner Steve Deforge, who attended the event, said the enthusiasm for green retrofits is present in the North, but so is the hesitation.
“The biggest barrier to entry we find is the capital cost investment and uncertainty,” said Deforge. “People are scared to go pull out loans on their own. We have an extensive waiting list right now, with people that are just waiting for the (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Greener Homes Grant) $40,000 interest-free loan because it could take the variable of uncertainty out of there.”
Deforge said he hopes a new provincial government will increase transparency in how money is allocated in delivering green subsidy programs, citing concerns over the extensive auditing process homeowners go through to qualify for grants, which can cost the province millions before the retrofits are approved.
“Why do we need to go through these extensive processes to put this on somebody’s roof?” he said. “(Installing solar panels is) almost like fixing a deck.”
Schreiner said the Green Party’s plan would also include an auditing process to ensure grants are used for their intended purpose.
Still, green retrofits like solar panels can be major cost-savers for homeowners, and can even be a source of income.
The Broses appreciate the flexibility the solar panels provide them, said Tom.
Currently, Ontario households who produce solar power can sell the electricity to Ontario Hydro to go 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 lifestyle. But when you’re facing retirement, and you’re disabled, the extra income is nice.”
Homeowners simply looking to power their own homes can also switch over the net metering, as the Broses intend to do when their contract comes up. The electricity billing mechanism would allow them to store and use their electricity at any time.
“It’s a simple thing to do,” said Deforge. “You go from selling and making money to saving money and producing your own electricity.”
It’s this kind of support that the Greens hope their plan will provide to Ontarians. Schreiner said he it can be beneficial to Northern Ontario residents.
“We believe Northern Ontario, as I’ve said (it) can be and will be the global leader in the new climate economy. And we just need to ensure that we have a government that’s going to provide the support the vision and the ambition to deliver on that.”