Colwood Cou. Judith Cullington

A federal grant ends, but Colwood plugs the gap

Solar Colwood will pony up extra homeowner subsidies for home energy systems after the federal government ended its ecoEnergy grant program.

Solar Colwood will rescue homeowner grants for solar hot water systems after the federal government ended its ecoEnergy program two months earlier than expected.

The federal ecoEnergy home retrofit program offered $1,250 rebates for home solar hot water systems and $500 for ductless heat pumps. The program website noted it has reached its goal of registering 250,000 homes and has finished. EcoEnergy had advertised grants would be available until March 31.

“It was a pretty abrupt ending. There was no notice,” said J Scott, Solar Colwood co-ordinator. “Many people thought they had two more months and all of a sudden it was gone.”

Before the ecoEnergy grant was canceled, Colwood homeowners could get a $3,000 from Solar Colwood, $500 from the provincial LiveSmart BC program and $1,250 from the feds for a solar hot water system, a $4,750 savings on what are typically $8,500 to buy and install.

Dipping from a different pot of federal money, Scott said Solar Colwood will offer additional $1,250 rebates allocated from its $3.9 million grant from Natural Resources Canada, until March 31. The program won’t cover rebates for ductless heat pumps.

“Getting $4,750 off makes it easier to make the decision (to buy solar hot water). Price point is definitely a deciding factor for people,” Scott said. “Losing $1,250 would make it harder for people to get solar hot water. I’m thrilled Colwood is going to fill the gap.”

Solar Colwood has $3.9 million to subsidize 880 solar hot water units and 120 ductless heat pumps in Colwood homes, among other energy saving initiatives. The program is also funding a series of electric car charging stations in Colwood.

To date, the program has helped install 20 hot water and 46 ductless heat pump systems in city homes.

Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington, the driving force behind Solar Colwood, said the program budget has enough flexibility to fund extra grants. Using money now shouldn’t reduce the number of rebate grants Colwood can offer over the lifetime of the three year program, she said. Rebates can vary with the size of the system.

“It’s really just internal shuffling of where the incentives go to,” Cullington said. “It’s good news for people who live in Colwood.”

The ecoEnergy home retrofit program fell under the $1.5 billion ecoEnergy Renewable Initiative. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the program in January 2007 at Pearson College in Metchosin.

For more on Solar Colwood, see www.solarcolwood.ca.