Guelph Mercury, Chris Seto
Mayor Cam Guthrie said he’s interested in seeing if the East Coast pilot program, involving the installation of solar systems on rooftops to save energy, could also be successful in Guelph.
For two years, the City of Halifax encouraged residents to take part in the Solar City program and install solar thermal units on rooftops. The units were financed by the city and designed to save homeowners on their electricity bill by warming water in the sun and sending it back to their hot water tank.
Guthrie was impressed with the large uptake on the program and the amount of money saved by residents who took part. But most of all, he was amazed by the way the program was operated and how it was designed to be cost neutral over the long run.
“This idea really is attractive to me because it can accomplish some of the exact goals of the community and myself without the heavy capital up front that’s required,” he said.
In Halifax, 388 residents installed the solar hot water system over the two-year project, which ended on March 31 of this year. Each unit cost around $8,000. The installation cost was initially paid for by the city and then paid off by the homeowner through an additional charge on their property taxes. The city collected interest on this loan at a rate of 3.5 per cent per year, gradually making its money back, with interest, over time.
Guthrie said if a program like this was brought to Guelph, the extra money brought in through interest payments would be put toward funding the program.
In Guelph, this type of program wouldn’t have been made possible without the changes that were made to the Municipal Act in 2012. These changes gave municipalities a new financing tool called a local improvement charge, which allows property owners to finance improvements to their homes aimed at reducing energy or water consumption. Previously, local improvement charges could only be used to finance neighbourhood infrastructure projects.