Pincher Creek to have clean energy improvement plan this spring

The Town and MD of Pincher Creek are in the process of developing the Clean Energy Improvement Program for launch in spring 2024, according to a report accepted as information at the May 13 town council meeting.

CEIP, passed as a bylaw in July of 2023, introduces loans to residents for the purpose of financing clean energy and resiliency upgrades, and paying it back through property tax bills with a small incentive.

The MD applied for funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which was approved and will provide 73 per cent of loan requirements. The town and MD will each be responsible for their own loan requirements, amounting to the other 27 per cent.

The property owner would then pay the loan back in small instalments on their property taxes, over a 20-year maximum time limit, with a small amount of annual interest. To ensure cost recovery to the town and MD, the property owner would pay two per cent interest to the municipality on the 27 per cent of the loan provided by the town or MD, and two percent back to FCM on the 73 per cent portion provided by FCM grant.

Since the tax applies specifically to the property being improved, the loan instalments will continue to be built into property taxes even if the property changes ownership.

This program would offer the Town and MD of Pincher Creek a way to improve energy and utility efficiency while putting a lesser burden on residents. According to a recently released Smart Energy Communities Benchmark, energy efficiency, management and delivery are areas needing improvement in Pincher Creek.

The report scored Pincher Creek’s funding and financial mechanisms supporting local energy initiatives at 31 per cent, identifying key opportunities in energy programs targeting energy poverty and low-income households, and affordability requirements in energy incentive and financing programs.

The report also recommended an equity-driven approach to shared distributed energy systems, something this new program could also contribute to.

To be eligible for CEIP, a property owner must be current with property tax payments for the last five years and provide a record of property tax verification from another municipality if new to this one. New property owners will be subject to an enhanced financial eligibility review.

The owner must also be in good standing with the municipality, and must not be bankrupt or have ever been in collections for a property in Pincher Creek.

The municipality also reserves the right to deny applicants if the mortgage amount exceeds the assessed value of the home.

The loan will cover an instalment permanently affixed to the property that will increase energy efficiency or the use of renewable energy sources.

Some potential installations are lighting controls, water heating, high efficiency furnaces and solar panels.

The cost of contracting and the improvement itself must exceed $3,000 in capital cost of the projected value, and must cost less than $50,000 for residential improvements and $50,000 for non-residential and non-designated industrial properties.

A property owner may submit one CEIP application annually and must not be in more than three agreements at one time.

Mia Parker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze