As the federal government’s popular Canada for Greener Homes grant program draws to a close, the energy auditing industry could collapse and businesses across the country are warning of mass layoffs in the coming months. come.
The federal government reported the end of the program, which provides up to $5,000 for energy-efficient improvements such as insulation, windows and heat pumps. New applications are expected to close by the end of March, but the official timeline is unknown.
Meanwhile, business is temporarily booming for companies across the country carrying out required residential energy audits, as homeowners try to secure the subsidy before it dries up.
The surge in business is why Stephen Farrell canceled all vacations for his staff at VerdaTech Energy Management. Currently, the company conducts about 600 assessments per month in Alberta and British Columbia, but he anticipates that number will drop to one or two per month once the federal program ends. The company also operates in Ontario.
“We have just significantly increased the number of energy advisors across Canada. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent training new energy advisors,” he said. “I would say we can lose about 70 percent of them. They will leave the industry.”
“There are going to be enormous consequences,” he added.
Her advice to clients is to enroll in the program and have the initial assessment completed. Still, it’s difficult to provide advice to clients or his own staff, since Farrell said there’s no clear timeline from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the department that administers the program.
“We have asked and we continue to ask for clarity,” Farrell said. “Please communicate clearly in writing with service agencies, what is happening? »
The temporary halt to new applications in Ontario adds to the confusion. effective January 19 in order to “reconcile all current application files”.
The grant program was supposed to last seven years, but it has proven so popular that the money is being used up faster than expected.
The federal grant made it possible to reduce the price of installing solar panels on the roof of Nicolas Gautier’s house in Calgary by $5,000. It also takes advantage of a related federal program offering an interest-free loan.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” Gautier said of the savings.
The Greener Homes program took effect on December 1, 2020, and will end on March 31, 2027, although it still came with a caveat that applications would be accepted until the money was allocated.
In total, the program is worth $2.6 billion, including up to 700,000 grants of up to $5,000 and funding for the recruitment and training of energy advisors. “Canada’s Greener Homes Initiative will help homeowners save money, create new jobs across Canada for energy advisors and fight climate change,” NRCan said. says on its website.
The program requires a homeowner to undergo an energy audit before and after improvements are made to the residence.
Industry officials describe how the program was designed, in part, to increase the number of trained energy assessors across the country. These workers will be especially crucial in 2025, when proposed changes to the building code could come into effect, potentially requiring energy audits on new homes to meet building performance standards.
Job cuts expected
However, if the Canada Greener Homes grant ends in the coming months, industry officials are warning of a mass exodus of appraisers.
“There are literally thousands of people whose jobs are on the line,” said Rachael Murphy, co-owner of Energy Werx Alberta, who estimates 98 per cent of her business is tied to the Canada Greener Homes grant. Statistics Canada does not explicitly track the number of people who work as energy assessors.
Becoming an energy assessor can take between three and six months for training and exam writing, Murphy said, adding that the job requires about $10,000 worth of equipment. The abrupt end of the program amounts to pulling the rug out from under people who joined the profession to have a stable career, she said.
“There’s no way we’re going to have as much work for the staff that we currently have if this program ends, so it’s incredibly concerning,” Murphy added.
New applications still viable, says official
NRCan declined an interview request. In a statement, a department spokesperson said the program will accept new applications until all currently available funds are allocated, and Canadians who have already started an application will remain eligible for assistance.
Potential job losses extend to other industries providing energy upgrades, such as window installers, HVAC companies and solar panel suppliers.
“The last thing we want to do is layoffs, but that’s an inevitable conversation,” said Gursh Bal, co-CEO of the solar energy company. “2024 is going to be a difficult year.”
He, too, is urging the federal government to provide a clear answer on the fate of the grant program, so that there is some level of certainty about what happens next instead of relying on rumors and hearsay.