Canadian Manufacturing

Ontario pushing residential efficiency, offers $100M for upgrades to natural gas furnaces, water heaters

Plan takes aim at emissions, looks to boost homeowner energy efficiency

TORONTO—Ontario announced a $100 million program Thursday to help homeowners upgrade their furnaces, water heaters and insulation, but did not provide a start date, eligibility rules or rebate amounts.

The goal of the plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time help create jobs and lower residential natural gas bills, said Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray.

“This investment will help homeowners upgrade their homes and save money, while keeping Ontario on the path toward a low carbon future,” Murray said.

Statistics Canada says 62 per cent of Ontario homes use natural gas for heating, compared with 28 per cent for electricity and just three per cent for oil.

About 37,000 customers of Enbridge Gas and Union Gas will be able to have home energy audits, and after that can apply for financial help—how much is still unknown—if they buy a new furnace or water heater or install new insulation.

The opposition parties agree homeowners need financial help to upgrade to more energy efficient heating systems, but complained that too few would qualify and that eligibility rules and rebate amounts won’t be known for months.

“Frankly, the lack of details is really worrisome,” said NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns. “It looks like it’s an announcement made for the (Whitby-Oshawa) byelection so they can get a headline.”

There are over four million homes in Ontario, and offering financial incentives to only 37,000 over the next four years means it would take decades to get everyone to upgrade their heating systems and insulation, added Tabuns.

“So who wins this lottery,” he asked. “Why is it people who have electric baseboard heaters wouldn’t qualify? Their electricity is partially made with natural gas.”

The Progressive Conservatives said the Liberal government needs to tell people how much its planned cap-and-trade system to fight climate change will increase prices for many consumer goods, including electricity.

“We support helping Ontarians make their homes more energy efficient to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and electricity costs,” said PC energy critic Lisa Thompson. “What we don’t support is the Liberals’ refusal to reveal how much their cap-and-trade scheme will cost Ontarians on their hydro bills.”

Enbridge Gas and Union Gas already offer rebates for energy audits, heating system replacement, Energy-Star windows, air sealing and insulation of $500 to $2,000, depending on the amount of natural gas savings the customer can demonstrate.

The government said every dollar spent on energy efficiency retrofits can save natural gas customers $1.50 to $4.

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