Energy retrofit plan could benefit BC

Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

- Robyn Meyer

A team of UVIc MBA graduates are urging the government to consider an energy retrofit plan for BC homes and buildings, that they say will result in cheaper power bills, less CO2 emissions and more than 1,000 new jobs for the province.

The new report—Cheaper Power Bills, More Jobs, Less CO2 : How On-Bill Financing Done Right can be a Quick Win for British Columbia—was released September 29 by the UVic-based Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). The thesis research—conducted by former UVic Gustavon School of Business MBA students Seref Efe, Inam ur Raheem, Tingting Wan and Carter Williamson—analyzed 30 OBF programs in Canada, the US and the UK.

Under OBF programs, loan repayments for energy retrofits (such as insulation, draft-proofing and solar panels) are added to the customer’s regular utility bill, which doesn’t change in cost because the house now requires less energy to run. Once the loan is paid off, the house also gains capital value as an energy-efficient home.

Co-author and spokesperson Carter Williamson says the OBF is hugely successful in many places including Manitoba, which renovates some 5,000 houses a year despite having one-quarter the population of BC. He says this province’s previous attempts at OBF were a failure, and this new report identifies what went wrong, and how it can be fixed.

The report makes three key recommendations for OBF in BC:

  1. the government (rather than the utility) should be the champion and marketing face of energy efficiency;
  2. that promotion is also supported by accredited construction contractors who can submit loan applications on behalf of homeowners as well as carry out the retrofits, thus ensuring a fast turnaround; and
  3. loan underwriting criteria should be relaxed compared to typical bank requirements. 

Williamsonsays around 40 percent of British Columbia’s homes are energy inefficient so this research could have wide impact. “Being able to dive into something you are passionate about that can potentially change the lives of everyone in British Columbia made this project a highlight of the MBA program.”

The report concludes should OBF done right, BC can conservatively deliver the following: 12,000 homes retrofitted per year; energy savings of 4 TWh plus three million tons in total (direct and indirect) GHG reductions after 20 years; $60 million annually in additional economic activity, and 600 to 1,080 direct and indirect fulltime jobs (i.e. building/maintenance and construction related).

“This is effortless policy magic,” says Tom Pedersen, PICS executive director. “It costs the public purse essentially nothing, yet it saves BC a significant amount of electricity while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report is already attracting interest in BC, particularly among municipalities looking into climate protection and energy conservation measures. 


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Keywords: clean energy, sustainability, research

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