The City of Charlottetown says a new energy-efficiency program has been a huge success so far.
Nearly 300 P.E.I. homeowners have taken advantage of the Switch Efficiency Program since it launched in July — 155 of them in Stratford and 139 in Charlottetown.
The program offers zero-interest loans and technical advice to people looking to upgrade their homes to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It also helps people get funding through other provincial and federal programs.
"The uptake has been very, very positive," Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said. "More than $1 million of the $10 million that we will receive in capital has now been committed."
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities granted Charlottetown, Stratford and Wolfville, N.S., $10 million to run their version of the Switch program. Additionally, each of the three communities contributes 20 per cent of that sum.
The Switch programs are administered by PACE Atlantic, which has previously helped finance other energy-efficiency projects.
Faraaz Hussain, project manager at Aspin Kemp & Associates, says his company has been getting a lot more inquiries from homeowners who want to install solar panels.
"Before the program we'd probably get maybe like 10 calls a month, but now it's like 10 calls a week," he said.
Hussain said wait times for people looking to install the solar panels could extend to next spring.
He said most people who are looking to make the switch are doing so primarily for financial reasons.
"You could eventually just pay zero dollars on energy bills if you offset all your electricity through solar," he said. "We have many customers who have been able to achieve that."
Jeremy Ladan is the first Charlottetown resident who completed a solar installation by using the program. The province held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his house Wednesday to celebrate Switch's progress.
"I've always wanted solar panels to help do my part for the planet and offset power bills," said Ladan. (Coincidentally, he does unrelated work for Aspin Kemp; he stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of the company.)
Ladan said more Charlottetown residents should be taking advantage of the loans.
"The city program is zero per cent [interest], so even with the little fee they tack on, it makes it better than any interest rate you can get," he said.
The city said more than 50 energy-efficient projects under the program are underway.
"Residents are interested," Brown said. "We need more and more residents to get involved in this program because it's good for the environment, it's good for our community and it's good for the city moving forward in reducing our carbon footprint."