Home energy labelling will motivate Canadians to conserve
When buying a home consumers know what the mortgage will be, what the taxes are, why not energy costs? Our new coalition hopes to change that.
In an age of abundant information, consumers value transparency. Conflicting sales prices, late flights and poor service are all exposed online for everyone to see. But right now buyers of resale homes are out of luck when it comes to knowing the total cost of the biggest purchase of their lives. Mortgage and taxes are clear, but buyers are left in the dark on energy costs. Back in 2009, the Ontario government promised to introduce mandatory home energy labelling with the Green Energy and Economy Act, but it hasn’t happened yet. With the growing importance of climate change – giving tools to home owners is even more important. That’s why CEEA has joined the Home Energy Transparency Coalition. We want to make home energy labelling happen using Canada’s own energy rating system, and we’re beginning with a campaign in Ontario. Our aim is to have Ontario lead the country by getting the province to move on this important initiative.
Mandatory home energy labelling offers the same benefit as nutrition labels in the food industry or warning labels on pharmaceuticals. When homes are listed for sale, potential buyers should be able to see how much energy a house uses compared to other houses. We need to personalize the fight against climate change and home energy labels will be an effective tool to engage Canadians. Climate change is now on the political and economic agenda federally and provincially, but we need to move the discussion from the big talk of carbon tax towards getting consumers on-side with numbers they can relate to. Canadians need to understand the role they have to play in environmental protection, and they need numbers to let them know if their actions help or hinder this cause.
Can energy efficiency be seen as positively as “gluten-free”?
Consumers like useful information. Knowing what we’re buying is critical. Canadians also believe it’s important to save energy, but the reality is that many of them don’t know what to do to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This is where transparent home energy labelling comes in. Right now only newly built homes have energy labels, but older resale homes – the majority of Canadian housing stock – do not. Full disclosure would help both home buyers and sellers understand what they can do to lower their environmental footprint and reduce energy costs. Just like knowing the calories, fat and fibre content of a muffin, a home energy label shows how healthy an efficient a home is. And if it isn’t efficient, homeowners will know what has to be done to improve it. We know this concept will resonate with Canadians – look no further than Edmonton, the home of the Green Home Energy Toolkit which has proved popular at the public library.
How to make home energy labelling effective
For an initiative like energy labelling to work, education is essential. So is consumer protection and properly trained auditors and renovators. Behind all this is energy labelling. We need to measure energy performance before we can manage it. It’s a necessary first step towards upgrading homes to the levels required to make Canadian housing stocks more efficient.
Does energy transparency work in the real world? Yes. Chicago’s Multiple Listing Service has an energy cost disclosure requirement on resale properties. In an 18-month study they found the average seller received an extra US$4,576 when energy costs were disclosed. Houses with energy disclosure listings also spent less time on the market.
Taking personal responsibility for climate change
Current climate change warning bells are not enough for Canadians. Despite media and scientific reports about rising sea levels and record warm temperatures, many Canadians appear ambivalent to climate change. A University of Montreal study released in November showed that while 67 per cent of Canadians attribute at least some human responsibility to rising temperatures, there’s a perception that few see any negative impact personally. Only 14 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they are likely to be harmed a great deal by climate change, while 24 per cent believed they are likely to face no harm at all. Homeowners on Canada’s coasts might see things differently over the next few decades if sea levels continue to rise as anticipated.
What CEEA is doing to make home energy labelling happen
While we were disappointed that the Ontario budget did not usher in energy home labelling as promised, we are pursuing a dialogue with the Ministry of Energy and The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change at Queen’s Park. And that is why we joined the Home Energy Transparency Coalition (HETC) . We need CEEA members who operate in Ontario to support this undertaking – make sure Ontario MPP’s and Ministers know that you think this is important and that it will deliver environmental and economic benefits. It is essential right now to engage key players with an email campaign supporting mandatory energy labelling for resale homes. This is where you can make a difference. Please email Ontario’s Minister of Energy, email@example.com; the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, firstname.lastname@example.org; the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, email@example.com; the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, firstname.lastname@example.org; the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, email@example.com; and of course the Deputy Premier, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Premier, email@example.com. Let’s make Ontario the first province to empower resale home
buyers and sellers with true home energy transparency.
Posted April 20, 2016
Elizabeth McDonald is president of CEEA