Renovation season now open for grant hunters

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
October 12th, 2011

 Rossland’s energy diet is now in full swing with many of the 250 free energy assessments for residences already booked following two well-attended sign-up meetings at the Miners’ Hall Tuesday evening.

This unique program is being piloted in Rossland thanks to our excessive energy bill, some 40% higher than the average British Columbian, and also thanks to lots of hard volunteer work by the Sustainability Commission and the Energy Task Force (ETF). The ETF contacted FortisBC with their ideas to help Rosslanders make the changes they need while government grant money is still available. FortisBC ran with it, forging a solid partnership with the Sustainability Commission, the City of Rossland, the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), and the Nelson and District Credit Union (NDCU).
The Sustainability Commission’s Terry Miller spoke first, describing the hard, often behind-the-scenes work his volunteer group has done. “This is one example of what all our planning has been leading to. We’ve had many successes, but you can put your hands on this one.”

The ETF’s Steve Ash also spoke. “We’ve been working on this for three years. Rossland does use more energy per capita than the rest of BC. We have more old homes and we’re a mountain community. We also have more electric heat  users.”

Ash was positive, adding, “Don’t be insulted by that. It’s not our fault. People here are keen to do the right thing, but they didn’t know what the right thing was,” he said, pointing to the complexity usually associated with accessing grants.

Ash concluded with a smile about the Energy Diet initiative: “If it’s not simple, you’d better yell and let us know!”

Beginning October 17, certified energy advisors will do the rounds of 250 Rossland homes and give each homeowner a list of federal, provincial, and FortisBC energy upgrade grants for which the home is eligible. The house will also be given an EnerGuide for Houses rating.

There is no obligation to do any upgrades, although it is highly recommended as a means not only to conserve energy, but to save the homeowner money in the short term.

Up to $12,000 in grants are available for air tightness, heat recovery ventilation, energy star appliances, insulation from tip to tail, new windows, doors, and skylights, upgraded space heating appliances including heat pumps and stoves, and improved water heating through solar hot water and heat recovery from drain water.

Download a list of eligible upgrades here.

Small businesses have an additional program they can apply for: up to $5500 through the FLIP program for the direct installation of energy efficient lighting and occupancy sensors and controls.

There is still time to sign up. Do it here, where you will also find an FAQ document, terms and conditions of the agreement, and other links.

If you want to speak with somebody about your particular needs and concerns, Community Ambassador Shelley Hastie has taken up residence at City Hall for just that purpose on Oct. 13-15, Oct. 19-22, and Oct. 26-28.

If money is your object, the NDCU has streamlined a program for up to $16,000 in a forgivable loan for qualified low income and senior homeowners. Details of this program will be available in mid-December.

Before your free initial assessment (valued at $250), make sure you’ve registered with the Rossland Energy Diet.

Then get your BC Assessment tax roll number and your FortisBC account number ready for the paperwork and go here to obtain a CID number for the federal ecoENERGY program. You can also phone 1-877-953-5454.

Twenty-four hours before the assessment, make sure all fireplaces, wood stoves, and furnaces have been fully extinguished. Close dampers and clean out the ash.

After the assessment, it’s time to get to work. The onus is on the homeowner to do their “due diligence” when deciding whether to install the upgrades themselves or to hire a contractor either independently or through a list of suggested firms.

The FortisBC participant package also comes with extensive information on local contractors, in addition to free lightbulbs, T-shirts, and other schwag.

Once your renovations are complete, a second assessment is necessary to determine whether upgrades have been completed satisfactorily; this will cost the homeowner roughly $150, FortisBC said at the introductory meeting on Oct. 11. The second assessment must be completed by Mar. 31 2012 to receive the federal ecoENERGY grant.

This date is very soon for a program that only started in June, perhaps purposefully so by a federal government that first killed this Liberal initiative and then was noticeably unhappy to offer it again (under public pressure) precisely because, as one FortisBC employee said, “it’s a really good deal.”

Nevertheless, there is still time to apply and renovate. And even if upgrades cannot be completed by spring 2012, the provincial grant (LiveSmart) and FortisBC incentives run until March 31, 2013.

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