Even as Mark Carney publicly took issue last week with the Liberal government’s decision to exempt home heating oil from the federal carbon tax (he said at a climate conference that he would have looked at “other ways” to help Canadians with the cost of heating), the first The governor of the Bank of Canada praised the second part of the Liberals’ plan.
“I very much applaud what the government did to help Canadians accelerate the transition and action on heat pumps,” he said.
Meanwhile, British Columbia Premier David Eby showed up to a meeting of provincial and territorial leaders on Monday wearing a T-shirt under his jacket with the message “I (heart) heat bomb.” (In case you missed his enthusiasm, Eby later held up his shirt for the TV cameras at the joint press conference.)
Whatever the Liberal government’s carbon tax contortions have done, they may have boosted the cause of energy efficiency, particularly for those low-income households who need the help most. And now there are calls for the Trudeau government to go even further.
He push towards heat pumps, which can provide both heating and cooling, has been growing in recent years. Because heat pumps run on electricity, they represent a more environmentally friendly option than burning oil or gas. But switching to a heat pump can also help households save money.
In September, the Climate Institute published a study looking at the cost-effectiveness of heat pumps in buildings in five cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. After crunching the numbers, the Institute found that heat pumps were “it is already the lowest cost option in two-thirds of all cases modeled“, although the exact figures understandably depended on regional energy prices and weather conditions.
(The institute also created a calculator to help individual households calculate their own numbers).
Enthusiasm for heat pumps is not entirely unanimous. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre briefly promoted Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. statement of concern last week about the fact that homes with heat pumps require a backup power source to withstand temperatures below -25 degrees Celsius.
The need for a backup system is not a closely guarded secret: Moe cited an analysis prepared by the federal government. The Climate Institute incorporated that fact in its study. And even with a backup system, switching from natural gas to electricity is environmentally friendly, especially if the power comes from a provincial electricity system that runs on clean energy.
Having said that his climate plan will be about “technology, not taxes,” Poilievre should also think twice before deciding that he opposes both the federal carbon tax and federal support for heat pumps.
Overcoming barriers to heat pump adoption
While the humble heat pump can help address both the climate crisis and cost of living concerns, the Climate Institute still identified several obstacles to its broader adoption, including unfamiliarity with the technology, the challenge of navigate complex reimbursement programs and the practical options and psychological barriers of high upfront costs.
How Efficiency Canada has argumentThose upfront costs are a particular hurdle for low-income households (the Canada Greener Home Grants program, launched in 2021, offers up to $5,000 toward the cost of a heat pump, but that support comes in the form of a rebate after completion. modernization). .
In March, the Liberal government launched the “Heat Pump Oil Affordability Program,” which provided initial support to households that use heating oil and have middle or lower incomes. It is that program that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to promote in cooperation with provincial governments, to bring the total subsidy to $15,000.
The federal government estimates that with the subsidy at that level, the cost for a household to install an average heat pump would be completely covered.
While much of the concern about emissions in Canada is directed elsewhere, buildings accounted for 87 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, the third largest source of emissions and 13 per cent of the national total. The Climate Institute Dear All that building emissions will increase in 2022. And if Canada wants to meet its Emissions reduction target for 2030Heat pumps may need to cover up to 10 per cent of the heating needs of Canadian homes.
There is also an obvious political advantage. Climate policy is often presented (fairly or not) as a burden, a cost that must be borne. When politicians talk about the benefits of fighting climate change, they usually do so through a promise for the future: good jobs in the economy of “tomorrow.” But heat pumps (and home retrofits in general) offer an opportunity to present climate policy as a way to make life easier or better in the short term.
The question now facing the Trudeau government is whether it should expand your affordability program beyond heating oil.
Help low-income households with more than just oil
TO proposal published last week by a team of policy experts focused on affordability (the Affordability Action Council) called for a “new free retrofit program aimed at making around 100,000 homes per year more affordable, energy efficient and climate resilient”. The program would fund heat pumps and other retrofits for low-income homeowners and renters, regardless of heating source.
“Less efficient homes make homeowners vulnerable to high energy costs and increasing risks from climate change,” the expert’s report states. “Without support for retrofits that reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and protect them from climate risks such as heat waves and floods, these households could face financial, health, safety, and housing insecurity risks.”
The New Democrats will table a motion in the Commons on Tuesday calling on the government to remove GST from home heating bills and “make green energy retrofits and heat pumps free and easily accessible to low-income and middle-class people. Canadians, regardless of their initial source of home heating energy.
The Trudeau government has budgeted $750 million over four years for its heating oil program; the NDP proposal would presumably cost more than that. Canada Efficiency Brenda Haleywho contributed to the Affordability Action Council’s proposal, said the program he envisions would cost $2 billion over four years.
That’s nothing. For the Liberals, however, it could be a small price to pay to help low-income households and to undermine claims that the government acted unfairly by exempting only heating oil from the carbon tax.