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Consumers want tax- and ratepayer-subsidized home energy efficiency programs to be problem free

May 15, 2017 11:45 AM

Half of Canadian consumers say they have participated in government or utility organized programs to improve home energy efficiency and most of them were satisfied with the outcome, research by the Consumers Council of Canada found.

More than three-quarters of consumers say they favour such programs, which they most often learned about from their electrical utility bills, in-store promotions or advertising.

Delayed payment of incentives, subsequent lack of energy cost savings, and unexpected costs were the most common problems for a small share of dissatisfied program participants.

Consumers participate in these programs primarily to save money on their energy bills, and often to make a necessary home improvement. Lower income participants in home energy efficiency programs said receiving an incentive enabled them to make improvements.

“Our researchers found consumers expect to be protected within these government initiated programs, and assured of quality work,” said Council President Don Mercer. “As well, they want to choose their own contractors, with an assurance work is priced and completed properly.”

These results among others are included in the report Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers, just released by the Council.

The Council gathered consumers views through a national omnibus survey and focus groups. The survey was conducted by Oraclepoll Research Ltd. during October 2016 by telephone with 1,500 homeowners across Canada. The margin of error for the full survey was +/- 2.5%, 19/20 times. 

Focus groups of consumers were held in Toronto and Montreal in December 2016. The objective was to explore trends identified by the survey, namely homeowner views about and experiences with energy efficiency retrofits that were part of government and utility incentive programs. 

The report, based on the consumer survey, focus groups, a literature review and interviews with 36 expert informants, includes recommendations related to seven theme objectives:

  • Refine the structure of incentive programs. 
  • Ensure the availability of balanced and truthful information for homeowners from reputable sources that is available throughout all stages of incentive program participation. 
  • Ensure trained and qualified contractors and sub-contractors complete the work for the incentive program. 
  • Ensure trained and qualified energy advisors complete the work for the incentive program. 
  • Quality assurance should be part of the incentive programs. 
  • Add warranty programs to the renovation industry. 
  • Ensure contractors adhere to fair and ethical business practices.

Consumers Council of Canada has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or the Government of Canada.  
Download the report

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