Over the past year, the federal ecoENERGY program has helped thousands of Canadians in making the switch to green technology. For a period of time, Canadians were eligible to have their home evaluated for its energy efficiency and then receive grants from the government in order to upgrade their home to become more sustainable. Despite the cancellation of new registration to the program in June, however, more than 300,000 Canadian homeowners are still eligible for $8,750 in grant money.
For companies such as Elmira-based NextEnergy, there’s a push on now to remind the public the grant programs are still in effect until at least Mar. 31, 2011. There’s still time to make the switch to greener options.
“The biggest single change someone can make to ‘green’ their home is to install a geothermal system,” said Trevor Strauss, NextEnergy vice-president and general manager. “If they are currently running on oil, propane or electricity, they will cut their energy use by about 50 per cent because they will get that energy from the ground for free. When you think about geothermal, it’s really solar energy because the earth is absorbing 50 per cent of the sun’s energy whether the sky is clear or cloudy.”
Participating homeowners who booked a pre-retrofit evaluation before Mar. 31 this year have until next March to complete their retrofits and have their post-retrofit evaluation.
“When the federal government cancelled the program back in March, it was really just the cancellation of new entrants to the program, as opposed to a cancellation of the program as a whole,” said Strauss. “If you had your home energy audit done before Mar. 31 of this year you are still eligible to get $8,750 when installing a NextEnergy geothermal system and for those of you who want to get an audit done now you can still get $4,375 from the provincial government.”
The Home Energy Retrofit Program (Ontario Grant) provides $4,375 when you replace your existing heating/air conditioning system with a geothermal system. Strauss mentioned that those looking to access the government grants should schedule their appointment at the earliest possible date since it may be difficult to book an appointment as the program nears the end date.
By ending pre-retrofit evaluation bookings now, providers of the program are confident that all eligible homeowners who previously entered the program by scheduling or completing a pre-retrofit evaluation will still have the opportunity to apply for and receive a grant.
For Strauss, it’s important for consumers to understand the specifics of the changes to the offer by the government, and his concern grew when he looked at the sales of affiliated dealers of green energy products, Earth FX Energy Inc. and Bostech Mechanical. While going over their sales for the past year, they’ve seen a decline, which he believes is strongly based on people thinking these grants are completely gone.
“I think there is reluctance in general – people are hesitant to spend money on capital investments overall,” explained Jim Bolger, owner of Earth FX Energy Inc. “But in addition, we have been finding there is a misconception that there is no grant available when in fact it was just the federal portion. There is still a great opportunity to save money.”
The intention of these grants is to offer homeowners a hand up, not a hand out, he explains. For green energy companies, the government grants were helpful in enticing customers to install geothermal energy systems, but they assure that even without government assistance, switching to the new system is advisable for financial and environmental reasons.
“Even without the grants, when you consider the prices of oil, propane and electric heating, there is still a very strong business case for geothermal if you are looking to replace your old system or build new,” noted Bolger.
“Long story short, you don’t need the grants to get a return on investment with geothermal.”
For more information on government grants, check out: www.mei.gov.on.ca/en/energy/conservation/ohesp/ or visit: www.nextenergy.ca/grants.php for information on provincial grants.