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Homeowners Wait Months as Ottawa Scrambles to Train New Energy Auditors

The federal government’s Canada Greener Home Grant is having trouble keeping up with its own popularity, with applicants waiting months or even years for home energy audits they’ve requested under the program.

“The government has now received more than 180,000 applications to the program, which helps cover the costs of investments in energy-conserving improvements such as electric heat pumps, new windows and doors, solar panels, and better attic insulation,” the Globe and Mail reports. “While program officers have managed to wade through tens of thousands of applications, they have yet to open roughly 2,500 of them.”

In Yellowknife, Northwest Territories alone, there are 200 homes on a wait list for energy evaluations, Arctic Energy Alliance Executive Director Mark Heyck told the Globe.

The seven-year, C$2.6-billion program is supposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1.5 million tonnes by 2027 by funding up to $5,000 in energy retrofits for as many as 700,000 households, plus $600 for before-and-after home evaluations conducted by federally regulated advisors. But the Globe cites homeowners who’ve found the process so “painful” that they now regret participating.

“The federal Greener Homes grant is a hot mess,” said one applicant, in a Reddit post that triggered dozens of frustrated comments.

The majority of the 1,250 federally-registered advisors are currently based in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, the news story states. Ottawa has committed $10 million to recruit and train more than 2,000 new advisors. But with only four of the 18 programs in operation so far, the shortage “may take time to resolve,” given the six to eight months required for training and mentorship.

“It’s really created a logjam—a crazy logjam,” Jason Neal, executive director of the Siding and Window Dealers Association of Canada, told the Globe. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good program,” but “the lack of auditors is the real linchpin in this.”

Joanna Sivasankaran, press secretary for Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said the government is “exploring all options to ramp up this program, train more energy auditors, and ensure that grants are delivered in a timely manner.” Officials are covering travel costs for energy auditors working outside their home communities, considering remote home evaluations, and aiming to get cheques out within 40 days of when an application is considered complete.

But so far, “there’s a real squeeze and bottleneck that’s happening,” Heyck said. “There just aren’t the skills and capacity out there to meet the demand.”

However, one barrier to expanding the program may soon evaporate. In the past, the ebb and flow of government support for energy efficiency has made potential applicants hesitant to seek training as energy auditors. Now, “given the increased importance of climate change in the minds of the public, and in the minds of politicians, I think it’s unlikely we’ll see a wholesale withdrawal from the industry,” Heyck told the Globe.