Clean Energy Improvement Program
Property owners face several barriers to investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, including high upfront costs, access to affordable financing, and concerns over their ability to recover the cost of investment when a property is sold. To help address these barriers, the Government of Alberta passed An Act To Enable Clean Energy Improvements in 2018. This legislation allows municipalities to offer low-cost financing to residents who undertake clean energy improvements through a program known as the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP).
The CEIP has a unique delivery model, whereby a central administrator – Alberta Municipalities – administers the program on behalf of participating municipalities. This approach enables municipalities of all sizes to offer this financing solution. CEIP is a series of local programs that help property owners reduce energy use on their properties and keep money in their pockets, all while reducing carbon emissions.
Through CEIP, property owners improve a building’s energy performance by installing energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, and access competitive financing that covers up to 100% of the upfront costs. This financing is then repaid through the owner’s property tax bill, often using the savings realized as their energy costs go down. Most importantly, this type of financing is tied to the property, not the property owner. If the property is sold, the new owner can assume repayment of the loan, while enjoying the benefits of the upgrades.
Before a CEIP program is launched, Alberta Municipalities supports partner municipalities through the bylaw adoption process (a bylaw is required to offer the program locally); market study development (baseline market information, housing stock assessment); framing of program outcomes (e.g., energy savings, GHG savings, economic impacts); and program design (including marketing and implementation strategies).
With the groundwork laid, Alberta Municipalities supports partner municipalities through the necessary bylaw adoption process, market study development, and program design. Once a local program is ready to launch, a municipal webpage is added to the CEIP website serving participants. Property owners are encouraged to visit the site and submit a pre-qualification application. The application is assessed by Alberta Municipalities and approved by the partner municipality.
Once pre-qualified, a property undergoes an assessment to identify energy savings opportunities. The assessment report helps property owners select the upgrades best suited to their property. They then choose an Alberta Municipalities-approved qualified contractor to carry out the work and submit a project application for Alberta Municipalities to review.
Once the application is approved, agreements are signed and the upgrades are installed. After the upgrade is installed, Alberta Municipalities pays the contractor using municipal funds. These payments are recorded and added to the property’s tax roll — allowing the property owner to repay the municipality over time.
With so much of the guessing, stressing, and upfront costs removed from the energy improvement process, property owner uptake has been very strong, with some programs filling up within hours of launching!
Over the last decade, the uptake of property-tied financing programs has been relatively slow across Canada, with only a handful of programs in Ontario and Nova Scotia. However, in Alberta, when enabling legislation came into effect in 2018, there was an immediate surge of interest from municipalities wishing to take action on climate change and create job opportunities for local contractors.
Thanks to Alberta Municipalities, its municipal partners, and the Government of Alberta, 12 programs were brought to market in just under 2 years. As of August 2023, there are approximately 600 CEIP projects under way or completed. Supporting bylaws have been passed by 26 municipalities, meaning many more programs are under development.
With support from industry peers, a rapidly expanding knowledge base, organizational expertise, and strong relationships with municipal partners, Alberta Municipalities has propelled Alberta forward as a national leader in property-tied financing for clean energy improvements. With the Clean Energy Improvement Program, Alberta Municipalities is helping scale carbon reductions door-to-door.