Ottawa’s Greener Homes Grant Program Running Out of Funds Sooner Than Anticipated

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Ernest Moral about a heat pump he was installing during a visit to an apartment construction site in Hamilton, Ont. on July 31, 2023. He was joined by Mayor of Hamilton Andrea Horwath. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

In a surprising turn of events, the federal government’s Greener Homes Grant program, designed to incentivize homeowners towards more energy-efficient retrofits, is facing a premature depletion of its funds. According to CBC News, the program, which started in 2021 with a budget of $2.6 billion and was expected to last until 2028, might exhaust its resources as early as 2024.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson confirmed the rapid expenditure, attributing it to the program’s popularity. Wilkinson stopped short of announcing a sudden closure of the program but suggested the possibility of its extension. “Yes, we’ve actually started to exhaust the funds earlier than what we had anticipated, and that’s largely a function of the popularity of the program,” Wilkinson stated.

eco-friendly home

The program offers up to $5,000 for energy efficiency retrofits and home energy evaluations, plus an additional $600 to aid with the cost of these evaluations. Homeowners like Diana Birsan, who was planning renovations on her Ottawa home, expressed shock upon learning about the accelerated spending. “So it’s a shock to me,” Birsan said, emphasizing her reliance on the program for replacing her gas furnace with a heat pump and fixing leaky windows. Birsan voiced concerns about having to resort to fossil fuel heating systems if the program is discontinued.

CBC News reports that more than 124,000 applicants have already received funding, with over $450 million disbursed from the allocated budget. Wilkinson highlighted the popularity of heat pumps as a retrofit choice and left open the possibility of additional funding in the next federal budget. “We have a certain budgetary envelope. We have to exhaust or utilize that envelope before we can ask the minister of finance for additional money,” he explained.

Canadian homeowners can get thousands of dollars back from the government for making energy-efficient upgrades to their homes.Alexander Naumov | Dreamstime

Industry stakeholders like Brent Kopperson, executive director of Durham’s Windfall Ecology Centre, warned of potential repercussions in the sector if the program ends prematurely. Kopperson recalled the abrupt termination of a similar ecoEnergy home retrofit program in 2012, fearing a repeat of history. “We are in a climate emergency and we can’t be putting our feet on the brakes. We need to really be accelerating the program,” he emphasized.

The Trudeau government, following the launch of this retrofit program, announced contracts of up to $10 million to recruit, train, and mentor 2,000 energy auditors. Dylan Trebles, a trainee who left his corporate tech job to become a registered energy auditor, expressed concerns about the program’s uncertain future. “I’ve been doing this about a year now. And so to have the rug pulled out a little bit… It feels a little soon,” he lamented.

Dylan Trebles trained to help people with their home energy retrofits. The 30-year-old left his corporate tech desk job hoping to become part of an army of registered energy auditors.

Experts like Abhilash Kantamneni, a research manager at Carleton University’s Efficiency Canada, urged the government to offer long-term policy commitment and certainty to support the growth of the clean tech sector, which includes energy auditors and heat pump installers. “What the government should be doing is to signal an intention for long-term policy commitment and policy certainty… as a way to… get to our climate goals and [do] so in a way that leaves no one behind,” Kantamneni advised.