Banff putting up funds for homeowners to go green(er)

New financing will allow Banff residents to receive help funding energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to their homes.

Banff council approved a bylaw to allow the municipality to borrow $1.16 million from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) for the Clean Energy Improvement Program.

“I was really proud to be able to talk about this program and what it’s going to be able to do for Banffites,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno of discussing the initiative at a recent developer’s summit hosted by the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association and Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley at The Malcolm in Canmore on Nov. 6.

“It was really great to be able to kind of start to have that united, consistent approach to retrofitting our old buildings as we move into the future with all kind of climate change adaptations that are needed”

The program will help residents with upfront energy improvement costs and work toward advancing Banff’s climate goals.

The Town aims to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and reduce GHG emissions 80 per cent by 2050.

Council greenlit a budget of $2.18 million during 2024 budget deliberations to be used over four years for the clean energy program, with funding coming from a combination of the FCM loan, a $436,208 long-term internal borrow from the municipality’s environmental reserve and a separate operating grant of $581,600 as part of the FCM agreement.

The core budget enables around 18 residential upgrade projects, averaging $21,000 each, and covers program startup, administration, and staff expenses.

The program is designed to allow the Town to give low-interest loans to residential homeowners that lead to energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. The loans would be repaid over time via a charge on the homeowner’s residential property tax bill.

“Homeowners will enter into agreements with the Town to borrow money from us and will repay that borrow as an additional payment on their property tax bill, but it doesn’t have anything to do with property taxes,” said Michael Hay, manager of environment with the Town of Banff.

Coun. Ted Christensen asked for clarification on whether homeowners using the program or the Town would be responsible for paying the two per cent interest rate on the loan. He wanted to know how the environmental reserve would be repaid.

Hay said the Town will be charging program users three per cent on the loan.

“The homeowners will repay the principal of the loan from FCM, as well as the interest. ... Everything is netted out so that the program balances out to zero basically, right now,” he said.

“One of the key drivers there is we want to offer the lowest interest rate possible to homeowners while still covering all of our costs.”

Repayments would be directed to pay back the loan, as well as to replenish the Town’s environmental reserve.

The loan term with FCM would be 25 years. The disbursements for it would be in 2024, 2026 and 2028, with payments beginning in 2025 and ending in 2052. The loan is eligible for an early repayment.

The budget for the program would support about 18 residential upgrade projects with an annual average value of $21,000, including startup and staff costs.

Coun. Hugh Pettigrew expressed concern about passing third reading of the borrowing bylaw without council knowing at this stage whether the FCM loan will be approved. Hay noted, however, that if the Town is unsuccessful in getting the loan, it wouldn’t proceed with the project and the borrowing bylaw would be repealed.

Other Alberta municipalities participating in the clean energy program include Canmore, Calgary, Edmonton, Okotoks, St. Albert, Rocky Mountain House and others.

The Town of Canmore approved its program in 2022 for $2.04 million, with $1.5 million coming from FCM, $541,000 from the Green Municipal Fund grant and $405,000 from the Town. Its program estimates 14-18 applicants per year, with each loan expected to have an average of about $24,500.

Council previously passed first reading in January and the full details of the program will be released in the coming months.

Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Rocky Mountain Outlook