Kitchener Home Energy Grants
The City of Kitchener has a fantastic fund called the “Local Environmental Action Fund” that invests city monies in projects that improve the ‘environment’. Through the 2011 funding cycle $500,000 was allocated to help owners of homes in Kitchener, built prior to 1970 insulate their homes by doubling ecoENERGY grants.
Except. This grant is not for Kitchener homeowners, it’s for customers of REEP that have homes built prior to 1970 and are insulation deficient. You see, while the standard upon which this grant is based is one defined by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) it’s only the local charity that is granted access to the grants.
This is blatantly anti-competitive.
Over time REEP continues to lose share in the local energy evaluation market. They appeal annually for more of your tax dollars to subsidize a product offering their competitors actually generate profits from.
I am a for-profit energy advisor in Waterloo Region. 70% of the homes I evaluate are in Kitchener, over half of those are built before 1970. I used to have the enviable job of evaluating homes and providing grants to help homeowners address deficiencies that save on energy bills, reduce emissions, increase comfort and increase resale value. Now, I still do that, but with a guilty conscience since I know there are more grants available, if only the homeowner had chosen a less responsive, less professional or inefficient service organization - REEP. This is not right.
Kitchener City council, for the first time in over 1800 evaluated homes has created a situation where I no longer represent the best interests of the homeowner - that’s shameful.
The energy evaluation in Canada is mandated by a standard set by NRCan. All service organization operate within this standard and it is the basis for all grant applications.
This initiative sets a dangerous precedent in the City of Kitchener, which HAD been making great progress at establishing itself as a green economy destination. It says that charities are better than viable businesses and that history is more important than customer satisfaction. These are dangerous consequences for the overall green movement which needs to be based on smart economics and ethical business practices.
It serves all citizens of Kitchener to help pressure our local government to open this grant up based on the NRCan standard and age of home, not the service provider. Otherwise this grant is for REEP, not homeowners or our shared environment - that must be clear.
Consider e-mailing Mayor Carl Zehr or Kitchener City Council (e-mails below) asking that they tolerate competition for service, they respect homeowners and the law.
Some talking points you may consider:
- Energy evaluations exist in a for profit, results driven marketplace
- Energy evaluation standards are set and maintained by NRCan - there are over 15 service organizations that service Waterloo Region
- Does Kitchener want to be known for green economy solutions or charity?
- Increasing insulation can reduce home energy costs by 50%
- Insulation materials are made locally and employ local installers
Some things you should know about REEP:
- REEP does not maximize grant opportunities - specifically the Ontario Ministry of Energy initial rebate. Then charge customers more on grant application visits.
- REEP does not adhere to NRCans standards, maintaining a list of “master contractors”. Service organizations should represent unbiased third party advice and not promote specific contractors or products by name.
- REEPs office on Frederick St has a low efficiency air conditioner and original wood framed windows with single panes and wood storms - they don’t practice what they preach.
- Calling REEP you get an answering machine, a testament to their commitment to customer service
- REEP schedules your appointments around their schedule, responsive service providers schedule your appointment around your schedule
- REEP wastes tremendous amounts of time in the home - their evaluations are known to take up to 4 hours
There’s a huge opportunity for a results driven organization to fill the void, the City of Kitchener ought to support this sort of competitive innovation towards solutions, not handouts. The city should not so clearly identify themselves as supporters of such a blatantly anti-competitive program. In fact, with so much of our tax dollars going to REEP in operational grants, and with other profit motivated organizations chomping at the bit, this must be a good time to see if REEP can compete.
If you want a Kitchener where citizens are free to make their own customer choices for their own home. If you want a Kitchener that values sensible economics and fair competition. If you want a Kitchener that supports innovation, productivity and efficiency, then you need to ask our leaders to allow all eligible homeowners access to this grant pool and tolerate access from any NRCan licensed service organization.
If REEP can’t compete, then so be it. I’m tired of my property taxes going to subsidize an organization that is favored in such an uncompetitive fashion that it threatens my very ability to pay those increasing property taxes. At the same time as contractors and homeowners migrate away from the service to more responsive customer driven providers of the same standard service.
Mayor Carl Zehr
Office of the Mayor & City Council