Michael MacKay from the Clean Nova Scotia Foundation appeared before Richmond Municipal Council on October 23 to tell them about two programs the not-for-profit organization is offering.

ARICHAT: The Clean Nova Scotia Foundation (CNSF) wants people to know about two programs to increase residential energy efficiency.

During the monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council in Arichat on October 23, Michael MacKay with CNSF told councillors about the Home Warming Program which funds energy upgrades for low income homeowners. MacKay said this program is not a money-maker for the non-profit group but part of their overall goal to improve the environment.

For each applicant, Clean Nova Scotia does an assessment of the home, then recommends upgrades based on a cost-benefit analysis. The work can include everything from repairing insulation, to the installation of a heat pump.

Since they have a large bank of contractors across the province, MacKay said they can use smaller, more local contractors in each region, and there is no bill for the homeowner because Clean Nova Scotia pays the contractors directly.

“People who need it most don’t have the capital so this helps,” MacKay told council.

MacKay said homeowners only need to provide copies of their municipal tax bill and assessment notice.

He said a home on electric heat can save up to $1,000 annually, and for those on oil, it can cut bills in half. The income threshold to be approved is between $22,000 and $56,000 depending on the number of occupants in each residence.

In acknowledging the Home Warming Program is more inclusive than previous incarnations, district 2 councillor Alvin Martell wanted to know if there’s a cap on how much CNSF will put into a home.

MacKay responded that budgets are based on the homeowner’s ability to pay for the work. He said the average cost for upgrades is around $6,000, and in a couple of cases, they funded $40,000 in efficiency renovations.

District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher asked about cases where elderly residents have sold their homes to relatives.

MacKay said since they operate on a one-on-one basis, they request homeowners contact them individually to work something out.

“We’re pretty confident in our program,” MacKay added.

The other program highlighted by MacKay was the Clean Energy Financing Program which involves Clean Nova Scotia working with municipalities to provide low interest loans for upgrades. Clean Nova Scotia analyzes each application, and if recommended, the municipality receives four per cent interest on each loan. The municipalities would finance the upgrades, and the homeowner would pay them back on their municipal taxes.

Once approved, homeowners have a 10-year period in which to pay back the loans, and with the potential to pay 33 per cent less on energy bills, MacKay said this translates into “major savings” for homeowners.

In responding to a question from district 1 councillor James Goyetche about income brackets, MacKay explained they work with municipalities to look at things like an applicant’s history paying taxes and added that every municipality can establish its own rules.