A construction worker watches while the other descends a ladder from a freshly insulated attic.
DURATION OF PROJECT: 2012–2017

A municipal loan pilot program in Plessisville, Varennes and Verchères, QC, gave residents who may not have been able to afford energy-efficiency renovations the chance to reduce their GHG emissions and save on energy costs.

In 2016, after three years of careful planning and preparation, the municipalities of Plessisville, Varennes and Verchères banded together to launch a joint pilot project that would bring energy-efficient home renovations within reach for more homeowners.

Many municipalities in Quebec have homes built in the 1930s, 40s and 50s that fall short of today’s environmental and energy standards. Energy-efficient homes can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 to 30 percent, using 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water. Yet the cost of the renovations makes these improvements almost impossible for many residents.

Map of Quebec featuring Plessisville

 

The three municipalities created a new financing mechanism, the Financement innovateur pour des Municipalités Efficaces (FIME) program (Innovative Financing Mechanism for Efficient Municipalities), to support energy-efficient solutions like heating, lighting and insulation. The pilot program also included personalized coaching services.

Qualifying households received a loan of up to $20,000, to be repaid through municipal property taxes over an average of 20 years. The program linked the loan to properties and not property owners, lowering the risk of default while increasing property values and municipal tax revenues. 

The program quickly achieved energy efficiencies that surpassed initial targets, which was key to its success. In 2017, 12 homeowners took advantage of FIME loans for their properties in Plessisville alone. Residents not only benefitted from higher-quality housing, better indoor air quality and increased property values—they became more aware of their energy use. The program also supported local businesses and stimulated the local economy.

Results

32%

reduction in the average electricity bill

40%

average energy reduction per participating household

1.35 tonnes

of CO2e reduced per renovation

While the anticipated environmental and financial benefits were clear, rolling out the pilot was not all smooth sailing. Regular communication and education were needed to get residents enthusiastic about reducing their community’s GHGs. The municipalities learned that collaborating across organizational silos and hierarchies ensured a more informed and efficient decision-making process.

The benefits of this pilot program have extended beyond Plessisville, Varennes and Verchères. By the end of the pilot in 2017, plans were set in motion to deploy the program to the rest of the province, with 10 more municipalities joining—a true testament to how innovative thinking and collaboration can remove barriers to energy efficiency and lower GHGs.

The [FIME] program democratizes the energy transition among our community members by offering them affordable, environmentally responsible renovation opportunities they would not have had access to with traditional financial institutions."

Justine Fecteau, General Manager, City of Plessisville

© 2021 Federation of Canadian Municipalities