If you are one of the thousands of Canadian homeowners that applied for Canada’s Greener Home Grant, it might be awhile before you see your money.
Homeowners who have gone ‘green’ with the expectation of getting some ‘green’ back from the government, are not being shown the green light when it comes to their reimbursements.
Quite the contrary, they are facing a red light on their reimbursements, which is leaving some in the red.
The Canada Greener Homes Grant is estimated to help cut greenhouse-gas emissions in Canada by 1.5 megatons by 2027. The program was introduced by the Liberal government, and it is only part of the government’s plans to help address issues of climate change. But where the Greener Homes Grant promises to put some ‘green’ into homeowner’s pockets, the program has some pretty significant problems. As such, homeowners that applied for the Greener Homes Grant, or homeowners who are trying to apply for it now, might not see their money for months.
The wait is two-fold. It stems from a backlog of applications, as well as a shortage of federally regulated energy advisors to conduct the required pre- and post- retrofit evaluations.
The Canada Greener Homes grant launched in May, and since its launch, thousands of Canadian homeowners have seized the opportunity to offset the costs involved in retrofitting their homes to make them more energy efficient. In an effort to promote a ‘cleaner, greener’ Canada, the Canadian government promised 700 000 grants. And while the grant was a great incentive for Canadian homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, the Canadian government clearly did not anticipate just how popular the program would be.
An article published by the Globe and Mail on January 23, 2022, outlines the two main causes of delay. The first is the popularity of the program and the subsequent backlogs in application.
Canadians submitted more than 32, 000 grant applications in the first three days of the program. But in the timespan of the next two months, that number had more than doubled to almost 70 000 grant applications. Fast forward to now, and program officers are trying to wade their way through more than 180 000 applications. Tens of thousands of applications have been reviewed, but thousands still have not. The grant comes in the form of a reimbursement, so homeowners have to pay out of pocket upfront for the costs of the retrofits, and then apply for the grant. But there are approximately 2500 applications that haven’t even been opened yet, leaving frustrated homeowners in the lurch.
Each individual Canada Greener Homes Grant can be as much as $5000 to help offset the costs of energy-efficient retrofits. Retrofits include things like new windows, better attic insulation, electric heat pumps, and/or better insulation. But as of January 18th, only 223 people had received their grants, even though 1, 227 homeowners had finished their retrofit. The program is expected to cost 2.6 billion dollars over the timespan of seven years. However, to date, only $978 000 has been paid out to homeowners.
And with hundreds of applications sitting in a queue, frustrated homeowners that have completed the retrofits and applied for the grant are wondering when they will receive their reimbursements. But the unopened applications aren’t the only problem – another, more significant problem has arisen and it has to do with the EnerGuide evaluations, and the lack of advisors.
In addition to the $5000 for retrofits, the grant also includes up to $600 to cover the cost of mandatory EnerGuide Evaluations. To be eligible for the grant, homeowners must complete a pre-evaluation and a post evaluation by a federally regulated ‘energy advisor.’ The evaluations are meant to help guide homeowners in making the best decisions for their homes, and to ensure that at least one eligible retrofits is completed.
But there simply aren’t enough energy advisors to go around. Some homeowners claim that the waitlist to get an appointment with an advisor is months-long; some even claim it will be years before they can book the appointment. And because the post retrofit evaluation is a mandatory component of eligibility, thousands of homeowners are wondering WHEN they’ll be able to book their appointment.
To qualify for the Greener Homes Grant, homeowners must book evaluations with an energy advisor that is registered with Natural Resources Canada. But to date, there are only roughly 1, 250 energy advisors who meet that criteria. Most of the registered energy advisors are in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, which makes it very difficult for homeowner who do not reside in those provinces. There have been applications from every province and territory in Canada. But in some territories and provinces, there are less than 15 federally registered advisors, and they have to serve the entire province or territory. Nunavut only has one.
The Greener Homes Grant is open to all Canadian homeowners, regardless of location. However, homeowners in rural and northern areas are having an even harder time booking their mandatory evaluations since the concentration of advisors is in the cities. Homeowners that live in rural and Northern communities have to rely on service organizations that are literally hundreds of kilometers away. Some energy advisors simply don’t want to travel that far. The government has tried to incentivize energy advisors who live in the city to travel to rural areas by offering to pay their travel costs. Program officers are also trying to make it easier for energy advisors who live in cities to conduct evaluations in rural areas by working with service organizations to book multiple evaluations in rural communities. This means that advisors could make one trip to a rural community and do several evaluations on that trip.
It’s unclear at this time whether or not these government incentives are actually luring more EnerGuide advisors into rural areas or not.
The government knew there would be a lack of federally regulated advisors at the onset of the program. Two weeks prior to the launch of the Greener Homes Grant, Ottawa committed to investing $10 million dollars to train as many as 2, 000 new energy advisors. These new advisors would be trained across the country; the government knew there would be an increase in demand and they promised to provide advisors to meet that demand. The Canadian Institute for Energy Training has received $91, 345 in federal funding, which has only allowed them to train 272 advisors. That’s a far cry from 2, 000. There are more funding agreements that in the works, though, and they are expected to be finalized over the next two months though.
Furthermore, becoming a registered advisor is no walk in the park. It take the average person around six to eight months to complete all the required mentorship and training involved. And some people are hesitant to undergo the training, because it seems like the demand for energy evaluations is directly tied to both public and private sector’s incentive programs, programs that come and go. However, some experts believe that energy-evaluation is a quickly becoming a steady industry. Climate change is becoming increasingly important, to both the government and the public, so it’s highly likely that the field of energy-evaluations will continue to grow, and that more people will want to become federally registered advisors.
Which is great for people who will apply for the Greener Homes Grant in the future, but what about the people who are trying to apply now? The shortage of federally registered energy advisors is clearly not something that can be solved overnight. It will take time to find and train new advisors, but that does nothing to assuage the current homeowners who need those evaluations now.
The problems homeowners are facing with the Greener Homes Grant is leaving some people to wonder if the program is really worth all the trouble. Some critics claim that programs like these are motivated politically. They claim that these types of renovations were going to be done anyway, and that the government is simply giving money to people who already sit in the wealthiest part of the population – homeowners. Other critics claim that the energy savings provided are modest and negligible, and although they do afford homeowners some savings in home maintenance costs, experts, such as a professor of environment and public policy at the University of Ottawa states: “It’s an important part of the solution, but it’s a small part.’
And like so many things in the past two years, the pandemic has played a part in the program’s success, or present failure. During the pandemic, homeowners were already turning to residential renovations during lockdowns and restrictions. Before the program even started, with its required energy evaluations, companies that offered products like that were already backlogged because of Covid protocols. And, these pandemic-fueled renos were already causing supply-chain problems and labor shortages.
Offering Canadian homeowners a cash incentive to renovate only made the problem worse; without the incentive, it’s possible that many homeowner’s wouldn’t have chosen to do the renos during a time when resources were already tight. The Greener Homes Grant, with its $5000 reimbursement, was likely enough to entice homeowners to do renovs that they might have waited to do. In fact, some industry leaders and business owners say they aren’t even promoting the program, because existing demand is already too high.
So, like the EnerGuide advisors, there simply aren’t enough contractors to go around.
Homeowners that were lucky enough to find contractors to complete their retrofits are still facing the energy evaluation problem though. Energy advisors simply cannot keep up. For example, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, the owner of All Season Inspection cut the interview short, claiming he had to get back to work because he was ‘crazy busy.’ All Season Inspection is based in Toronto and is an energy auditing company that serves B.C. and Ontario. Their phone is ringing off the hook with appointment requests. And up North, the Arctic Energy Alliance is telling homeowners in the Northwest Territories they may have to wait up to two years before they can schedule an appointment with an energy advisor. The Arctic Energy Alliance is the “sole provider of Greener-Homes-compatible evaluations in the territory.”
The struggle is real.
And average homeowners who were relying on the reimbursement from the grant are also feeling the pinch. The Globe and Mail highlights one family’s struggle with the grant process. Willian To applied for the grant on behalf of his parents, who live in Hamilton, Ontario. He claims that the process was “so painful that his family regrets participating”. They completed the pre-retrofit energy evaluation in June. The evaluation cost them $452. From there, his parents spent $1,545 to make their home’s attic more energy efficient by insulating it.
But it took them two months to get the post-retrofit evaluation done, and cost them a further $256 for the post-evaluation. They applied for the grant and submitted all the required documents, but then their application sat in “in progress” status.
They have been $1,500 out of pocket for months now, and they are not alone.
One thread on Reddit, titled “The federal Greener Homes grant is a hot mess. Before you spend money on renovations know that you probably won’t see your rebate until Summer 2022, if you see it all,” is full of complaints about the grant. The thread has close to 100 comments from frustrated homeowners who are all trying to apply for the grant. The main rants seem to deal with both the delays in getting appointments with energy advisors, and with the long waits for application approvals.
The government is aware of the problems and the frustrations. As stated by the Globe and Mail, “the government is now experimenting with remote evaluations, and it has set a goal of issuing cheques within 40 days of when applications are considered complete.”
A lofty goal, but the issue remains – applications cannot be completed without the energy evaluations, and the evaluations can only be done by federally registered energy advisors.
But there aren’t enough federally registered energy advisors to go around at the moment, so until there are, homeowners who went ‘green’ through energy efficient retrofits will have to wait to see their green from the Greener Homes Grant.