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Climate-ready homes, empowered owners: SwitchPACE CIC’s winning combo 

The residential sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, making improving the energy efficiency of Canada’s housing stock crucial for climate change mitigation. However, improving energy efficiency often requires homeowners to invest in expensive retrofit projects, which not everyone can afford.

For SwitchPACE CIC. – a Community Interest Corporation based in Halifax, Nova Scotia – the answer lies in an innovative solution: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing.

Often offered by municipalities or non-profit organizations, PACE loans provide flexible, low-cost financing for homeowners to carry out energy efficiency upgrades on their properties with no upfront costs.

“Home energy retrofits go a long way in mitigating the negative effects of climate change, like health concerns stemming from extreme heat,” says Alfred Lee, Climate Finance Manager at Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB). “But PACE programs haven’t been implemented at a large scale in Canada yet.”

With a mandate to scale up carbon reductions, SwitchPACE CIC. is turning the tide by becoming a leader in PACE program development and execution.

“The municipal PACE efficiency programming we run really empowers residents in the fight against climate change,” says Julian Boyle, President at SwitchPACE CIC. “Climate is such a large, complex global issue, but bringing it down to the local level to help homeowners save energy and save the planet is really exciting.”

Breaking the entry barrier with values-aligned financing

Earlier this year, Switch Pace CIC. launched a new program with financing support from VCIB – the Switch Program – Switch West Hants.

Through this program, homeowners within Nova Scotia’s West Hants municipality can finance almost any project that saves energy, increases comfort, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions – including geothermal heat pumps, air heat pumps, solar panels, window upgrades, insulation, and air sealing, amongst others.

Solar system installment on a Nova Scotia property. Photo courtesy of SwitchPACE CIC.

“Financing highly collaborative approaches like SwitchPACE CIC’s programs are core to VCIB’s mission,” says Alfred. “Through these programs, SwitchPACE CIC. is making home energy upgrades accessible by covering the upfront cost of the contractors and offering homeowners a 10-year payback period.”

Through PACE, homeowners can also repay the loan through a surcharge via their property tax bills.

A pathway towards a net-zero future

Through deep energy retrofits, SwitchPACE CIC’s municipal programs are reducing an average of 50 to 70% greenhouse gas emissions per year and have a market uptake of 2 to 5% of the housing stock.

“A large portion of all energy consumed in Canada comes from buildings, which creates great economic opportunity to invest in energy efficiency and solar,” adds Julian. “If we are to have a shot in building a net-zero future, we need to mobilize more low-cost private capital to enable 3 to 4 times more energy efficiency investments in buildings.”

With seven active programs across Nova Scotia, SwitchPACE CIC. is looking to launch 20 more programs across Canada within the next 2 years.

“VCIB has been very supportive of our program developments” says Julian. “We are looking forward to working with the climate finance team more in the future to scale efficiency financing across Canada.”

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Learn more about VCIB’s climate financing in our website. If you’re looking to finance a specific project, get in touch.

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Vancity Community Investment Bank is a member of CDIC and is a Certified B CorpTM