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Council to push province on energy efficiency program

PACE program aims at making it easier to install solar panels, green upgrades
Thornhill resident Martin Holzbauer stands in front of his energy-efficient home in 2015. For his property and two other storefronts, Holzbauer said he pays around $1,500 a year for utilities. (John Massey photo)

Terrace City Council will write a letter to the provincial government inquiring about a program aimed at encouraging clean energy investments to local properties.

The Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) program is used as a way for governments to encourage energy efficiency upgrades for commercial, residential and agricultural properties, weaving the cost of installation into property taxes instead of tying it to an individual. This includes solar power projects, upgraded insulation, windows and doors, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems.

Thornhill resident Martin Holzbauer began delving into the subject after hearing that Alberta had introduced legislation back in April, and wondered why B.C. hadn’t followed suit. He presented a request for a letter of support to Terrace City Council on July 9.

“It really ticked me off because B.C. is considered to be the greenest province in Canada and we don’t have it,” he said. “That’s why I figured I would do a presentation to municipalities because any municipality can do it.”

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First implemented in California in 2008, PACE programs have extended to a vast majority of the U.S., generating $6 billion in economic activity in the country. Programs also exist in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, with Alberta recently passing legislation on June 6.

To set up a PACE program, the province would need to pass legislation that authorizes municipalities to pass a bylaw to deliver the program to residents. In Alberta’s case, Energy Efficiency Alberta covers the administrative work and finds third-party funding for cities. 

Property owners would then sign an agreement with the municipality and have an approved contractor install the upgrades, paying it back through property taxes instead of having to pay the full cost up-front.

“The only thing [levels of government] would have to do is adopt the program and administrate it,” Holzbauer said to council. “In Alberta, where it was introduced to the legislature in April… they have planned to do it so the program would be self-funded.”

Holzbauer knows the cost-saving potential of energy efficient upgrades first hand - with the work that he’s done to his duplex and two shops in Thornhill, he said his utilities cost him about $1,500 a year for all three buildings.

He made plans to build a more energy efficient home after buying the property in 2007, and said he believes it should be easier for others to do the same, especially with the province’s commitment of making buildings net-zero ready by 2032.

“The way I designed my place, it will meet the building code 15 years down the road,” he said. “If we built more like that, it would also create more jobs for a very simple reason — it takes a little bit more materials and a little bit more labour.”

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Holzbauer has done some work advocating on the provincial level and received a handwritten letter from Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen about the PACE program earlier this month.

“Efficient economics are clean economics and more fair. Certainly we should just get on with it,” Cullen wrote.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing wrote in an email to the Terrace Standard that the government is “open to innovative ideas that will help grow a sustainable, clean and diverse economy, that enables green innovation and increases economic opportunities.”

“We look forward to learning more about proposals that not only have a meaningful impact on our economy, but also strengthen communities by creating incentives for people to participate.”

During the council meeting Coun. Downie said he thought encouraging B.C. to take a look at the program could be a way to nudge the federal government as well.

“Property assessment is one way of creating an incentive but property assessment is within the authority of provincial government. So nationally that is not applicable… but if B.C. were to take on that incentive program through the assessment or other ways then it may be something that would catch on nationally, but it would start in the province.”

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