Aderonke Akande is the Manager of the Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization Unit, which leads the Tower Renewal Program with the City of Toronto.
Two of Aderonke’s colleagues — Fariha Husain and Sarah Rodrigues — will be presenting on “Toronto’s Home Energy Loan & High-Rise Retrofit Improvement Support Programs” at the Gowling WLG Theatre on December 5, between 3:15–4:00pm, as part of the Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017.
We recently spoke to Aderonke about some of the programs offered by the City of Toronto that help its citizens reduce energy and water consumption, how these programs have recently been expanded to include renewable energy technologies, and what her team hopes to achieve by participating in the Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017 for the first time.
Two of your colleagues will be sharing information about the HELP and Hi-RIS programs at Solar Canada. Can you please tell us a bit more about these programs and what attendees can expect during their session?
We look forward to attending Solar Canada to generate awareness for two award-winning City pilot programs that began back in January 2014. Both HELP and Hi-RIS are designed to provide financing for property owners that want to improve the energy and water efficiency of their dwellings or install renewable energy technology. In our presentation, we plan to discuss how these two City programs have successfully been able to help property owners overcome capital funding constraints and make energy efficiency improvements, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The City of Toronto’s Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) offers low-interest loans to help cover the high upfront costs of home energy improvements, such as high-efficiency furnaces, replacement windows and doors, low-flow toilets, and improved insulation. Owners of single family dwellings in Toronto can apply to participate in the program and receive a loan of up to $75,000, with interest rates starting at 2% and repayment terms of up to 15 years.
The City also offers a High-rise Retrofit Improvement Support (Hi-RIS) program. Hi-RIS offers low-cost, fixed rate financing for capital improvements that provide energy efficiency and water conservation benefits. While HELP caters to residential homeowners, Hi-RIS is targeted to owners of apartment buildings with three or more storeys. Hi-RIS provides interest rates ranging from 2% to 3.75% and repayment terms of up to 20 years. The City also offers support to apartment building owners interested in making improvements through the Tower Renewal Program.
With all programs, our goal is to encourage projects with higher capital costs that result in more significant reductions in energy and water consumption. We are not focused solely on low-cost solutions; such as switching to LED light bulbs in high-rise buildings or air sealing in residential homes. The reality is, most people are already doing these things because of the relatively small investment required, available incentives, and the short simple payback.
In our Solar Canada presentation, being held in the Gowling WLG Theatre, we will run through case studies demonstrating the potential benefits of using HELP or Hi-RIS to finance renewable energy technologies as part of a holistic energy efficiency retrofit. We will also discuss how HELP and Hi-RIS can support solar contractors looking to integrate this financing tool within their business processes and share information about the programs with their clients.
In 2017, the City announced some changes to these two programs. Can you share with us a few details on what changed this year?
Both programs were introduced in January 2014 as three-year pilots. In 2017, we went back to City Council to share feedback on the first three years of the programs, armed with an independent evaluation completed by a third-party consultant. We requested a two-year extension and some program refinements — including an increase to the maximum amount of financing available from five to ten percent of a property’s assessed value and adding renewable energy technologies as an eligible improvement.
City Council authorized the extension and financing is now available for renewable energy technologies, such as rooftop solar PV panels, solar thermal water heaters, and geothermal systems until the end of 2018. By expanding the range of eligible measures, these programs are now able to support a larger breadth and depth of energy retrofits and provide a viable pathway to ‘net-zero’ energy-use in residential properties.
You mentioned the completion of an independent evaluation, completed by a third-party consultant. Did the report summarize some of the benefits of these programs?
The report contains a number of interesting findings, including:
- Toronto home and apartment building owners that received financing were more likely to make bigger investments and undertake more involved projects that resulted in more significant reductions in energy and water consumption.
- For HELP (which provided funding for improvements to 125 houses), the average participating home reduced its total energy consumption by 30%, saved on average $560/year on their energy bills, and lowered their greenhouse gas emissions by 395 tonnes/year.
- The Hi-RIS program (which provided funding for improvements in six buildings), reduced total energy consumption by an average of 23%, saved apartment owners $46,000/year, and lowered their greenhouse gas emissions by 1,400 tonnes year.
Canada’s Federal Government, as well as several provinces, have recently made announcements related to emissions reduction and renewable energy. Given the involvement of those two levels of government, what role do you see municipalities playing in the future of Canada’s renewable energy industry?
Municipal governments offering local improvement charge programs like these can contribute to larger provincial, federal, and global goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. City programs are part of the operationalizing mechanism for that.
The City of Toronto, for example, has a climate change action plan called TransformTO. Both the HELP and Hi-RIS programs contribute to the short-term strategies and long-term goals of TransformTO and can help the City achieve its greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% by 2050.
More broadly, at the City of Toronto, we offer what we like to call a ‘one window’ approach. We offer free support services, working closely with local utilities — electricity, water, and gas — to explore incentives that might be available to property owners from those sources. Our interest as a City is to help property owners to take action, save energy, and improve the comfort and quality of the residential stock.
What are your thoughts on participating in the Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017?
While the City of Toronto has participated before, including a sponsorship last year, I have not yet attended Solar Canada. We are very excited by the opportunity to gain a greater sense of the industry and bring something new to the table. We want the solar industry to learn about the role our programs can play in financing solar projects across Toronto.
The introduction of renewable energy technologies to the list of eligible measures for HELP and Hi-RIS opens up new opportunities for property owners to increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the overall performance of their properties.
We know that not everyone is aware that the City of Toronto provides low-interest loans for these kinds of improvements and we want to broaden the awareness of our programs; particularly, the recent addition of renewable energy technologies. We are looking forward to meeting people from the solar energy industry and, as always, we welcome questions and feedback about our programs.
Aderonke Akande is the Manager of the Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization unit with the City of Toronto. Tower Renewal focuses on improving the City’s older apartment buildings and the neighbourhoods that surround them. Aderonke has been instrumental in leading the design and implementation of Hi-RIS, a $10 million financing program designed to support energy retrofits and renewable energy technologies in apartment buildings. She also has a leadership role in the implementation of many Tower Renewal initiatives, including a partnership table on Tower Renewal champion sites. Her previous experience includes municipal policy and program development and project management. Aderonke is a Registered Professional Planner (RPP) with a background in sustainable community planning practices and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).
Fariha Husain is the Project Manager for the Hi-RIS Program with the City of Toronto.
Sarah Rodrigues is the Program Coordinator for the HELP Program with the City of Toronto.
The Canadian solar energy market is growing rapidly
Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017 will provide an excellent platform to connect with industry professionals and enter this growing market. Solar Canada takes place December 4 – 5, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. Canada’s largest solar energy conference is a must-attend event for solar energy professionals, stakeholders, and advocates. Register today.