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Windsor Aims for Deep Energy Retrofits in 80% of Homes by 2041

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The City of Windsor is closer to adopting a deep retrofit program to slash energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in 80% of its housing stock by 2041, following a unanimous standing committee vote last week.

Officials are concerned that only 5% of local homeowners have taken advantage of local renovation grants that are available to them, CBC News reports. So the city is considering a mass program with standardized retrofit packages, designed to cut costs through volume discounts and labour productivity. It would allow homeowners to pay for the work through a local improvement charge on their property taxes.

TONIGHT (February 26): Energy Mix Productions is co-hosting a local event on mass energy retrofits at HUB Ottawa, 123 Slater St., 7th Floor, beginning at 6:30 PM.

Windsor’s supervisor for environmental sustainability and climate change, Karina Richters, said the average home in the city was built in 1955, a time when building codes included no requirements for insulation. “So we know we have an inefficient building stock, especially in those homes that haven’t had any sort of retrofit.”

But the cost of getting the work done is beyond the reach of many local homeowners, she added, since “windows and doors are pretty expensive.” Moreover, not all owners are sure they’ll be in their homes long enough to get the financial payback from a more efficient building.

“One of the things we’re looking at is trying to set up a program that would eliminate those two hurdles to get people to actually be able to retrofit their home,” she said.

Fabio Costante, a member of the city council committee that discussed the program last week, said it makes sense to attach the cost of a deep energy retrofit to the property, rather than the homeowner. “It’s not a tax increase, but it will be attached to the property much like a tax is,” he told CBC. “If you bought into this program and you were to sell your property, whatever is left owing on the retrofit will be the obligation of the purchaser of the property—much like property taxes would be.”

But the cost and energy savings would belong to the new owner, as well.

During the committee meeting last week, city staff fielded a number of questions about the independent entity they want to create to administer the program. “But ultimately, it was seen as a net positive, and the rewards that could come from it could in fact outweigh the risks involved,” Costante said. “When we look at saving on energy as individual homeowners and as a community as a whole, this is one of those programs that could really move the needle”—not only for the 235,000 tonnes of carbon pollution the city would eliminate each year, but for the dollar savings.

“The payback that homeowners will receive and the cost savings that they’ll receive within a shorter period of time than originally anticipated is really important,” he said. “The community as a whole is going to be consuming less energy, which is great for the environment. So it’s a really good win on both sides, the environment and the economy.” 

Committee member Kieran McKenzie stressed council’s moral duty to help citizens take action. “I truly believe that we can’t afford to not make the investments that are being proposed here, and what we see in front of us is a roadmap to help us get to where we, as a community, need to be,” he said.

Richters also urged councillors to pay attention to the climate resilience of Windsor’s buildings and infrastructure. “We want people to consider, for example, if we’re building something, is it going to last the climate future?” she said. “The marina, it was underwater this year. So if we’re building another marina, let’s consider what those water levels are going to be like. Giving it a little bit of forethought, maybe we can reduce those risks in the future.”

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 26, 2020 5:34 pm GMT

Officials are concerned that only 5% of local homeowners have taken advantage of local renovation grants that are available to them, CBC News reports

Great realworld example of how making programs/technologies available is really only half the battle-- creating actual behavioral change cannot be overlooked

The Energy  Mix's picture
The Energy Mix on Feb 27, 2020 10:54 am GMT

Absolutely. We had a packed house in a large meeting room in Ottawa last night (despite a looming snowstorm and a partial transit outage) for a local workshop on mass energy retrofits, inspired in part by earlier work in Windsor. What we basically heard was that both things are true--we know what to do, in both substance and scale, but it's never been done before. It's going to be interesting to see how communities get this organized, and how quickly they can share and learn from each other's success stories.

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