Today, Sustainable Prosperity released a new Policy Brief on how residential energy savings can be encouraged with innovative financing programs. You can read the full Policy Brief for the details on how these programs work, in theory and in case study examples.

I have a case study of my own to share with you. This summer, my husband and I found ourselves taking on a renovation project. Like most people, our initial priorities in our renovation were cosmetic (say goodbye to the stippled ceilings, bring our kitchen out of the 1980s), but like most people, we uncovered a few surprises along the way, and so our renovations grew in scope. What we didn’t expect to discover was the poor level of insulation in our home – and so, mid-reno, we embarked on an energy retrofit of our home. After demolition, bat and spray-foam insulation installation, and finally reconstruction, we’re now in an enviable position of being warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We even threw in a cool new Nest thermostat to control and monitor our energy use.

We’ll save money in the long run and live in a more comfortable house all the while – not to mention we’ve contributed to our local economy, reduced demand for new electricity generation capacity, and reduced emissions associated with energy production.

Energy retrofits make sense from just about any perspective. But the kicker is their upfront price tag. Take the cost of the insulation, add in labour for installation, then calculate in the demolition cost (labour + dumpsters), plus the reconstruction (replacing the drywall that was taken out, painting, etc.), and in the end, our bills weren’t small. And though we’ll save money for the lifetime of the insulation, the renovation bills came in right away.

Many people would love to do an energy retrofit on their homes. But getting access to the upfront capital to make it happen can be a big challenge. In the end, the retrofit will pay for itself (exactly how long that will take depends on the particular retrofit and on present and future energy costs), with those savings showing up as a lower energy bill than what you would have had otherwise. In our case, the final bills haven’t all been tallied, but because we’re confident we’ll be in this house for quite awhile, the investment is an obvious one for us – even if it means some of those more cosmetic improvements will have to wait for awhile.

All to say that we need to think of creative mechanisms to get homeowners (and even renters) access to cash for energy retrofits. SP’s new Policy Brief looks at ways in which residents can get access to cash now, then repay the costs via their utility bills or on their property taxes. Case studies show that programs like these can be very successful. A number of Canadian municipalities now have such programs on offer, with more likely to come.

And I’m hoping Ottawa gets one soon. . . I still have drafty old windows to replace. . .