Ont. opens carbon tax purse

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A new Ontario government program will use millions of dollars raised through carbon taxes to boost green technologies. On Aug. 30 the government announced the launch of the Green Ontario Fund – or GreenON – with $377-million in proceeds from its “carbon market”. It “will deliver programs and rebates to help reduce energy costs in homes and businesses,” said Chris Ballard, Ontario minister of the environment and climate change.

This includes the new Green ON Installations program. It’s first initiative, also launched Aug. 30, invited homeowners to have a “Green Ontario Fund-trained technician visit and install a smart thermostat at no cost.” The technician would also “provide advice and tips as well as personalized suggestions for additional energy-saving upgrades.” The offer of a free smart thermostat received over 100,000 responses.

This doesn’t sit well with many in the industry. As reported in the last issue, HRAI chair Bruce Passmore (Emco HVAC) expressed concern that the government is spending enormous amounts of money on HVAC/R systems without consulting the industry. “They are spending cash today; let’s make sure it’s going to the right places,” he said at the group’s annual meeting in August, adding that the industry must have influence on how this money is being spent.

Over the next three years, the Green Ontario Fund has pledged up to $1.2 billion to help businesses and industries adopt low-carbon technologies and up to $1.2 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings.

With a provincial election due next year, it’s likely the Ontario government will announce considerable spending on green initiatives, noted HRAI president Warren Heeley.
HRAI has had some discussion with the Ontario government about the GreenON fund over how the industry can be involved and it also held a focus group for residential contractors in which they looked at potential opportunities.

However, the contractors present were not interested because of the conditions attached, said Heeley. In the smart thermostat program, for example, contractors could only charge a flat fee, they were not allowed to upsell and their employees would be required to wear a Green ON uniform.

And then there’s the issue that many homes still have older HVAC equipment that is not compatible with a smart thermostat. “(The thermostat program) is a huge problem for our industry,” noted Heeley. “They didn’t do it properly.”

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