A newly installed solar panel sits atop a roof in Halifax
DURATION OF PROJECT: 2012–2015

Halifax Regional Municipality, NS, offered direct financing to homeowners to install solar-powered water heating systems, lowering energy bills, water consumption and GHGs. 

In a move to stimulate the province’s solar industry and meet its own energy-efficiency targets, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) launched a pilot program in 2012 offering municipal financing for homeowners to install solar hot water systems. Residents who participated in the pilot had the chance, independent of the pilot program, to replace aging electric hot water storage tanks or convert from oil to electric water heating, while installing the solar hot water systems.

As a first step, HRM renegotiated its municipal charter with the province to enable it to offer direct financing incentives to qualifying homeowners for these types of systems on private property. The necessary bylaw and first-ever solar building permit in Nova Scotia soon followed. 

Map of Nova Scotia featuring Halifax

 

Within the first two years of the pilot, almost 400 individual property owners took the HRM up on its offer. In fact, between mid-2013 and mid-2015, the number of residential installations of solar hot water systems in Halifax exceeded the annual solar panel installations of the rest of Canada.

One of the program’s most innovative aspects was its unique financing mechanism. HRM offered property-assessed clean energy (PACE) loans to homeowners to pay for equipment and installation. The loans are tied to the property and are paid back over 10 years, while homeowners benefit right away from the energy savings. HRM was the first Canadian municipality to employ this user-pay model with the aim to create a budget-neutral program.

HRM expects to offset 660 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually through the nearly 400 solar hot water systems and related water-saving measures installed during the pilot, saving 14 million litres of water each year in 1,265 homes and reducing emissions from heating oil or coal-sourced electricity. Residents will save an anticipated $170,000 annually in energy use ($500 per home). 
 

Results

(figures reflect results achieved through systems and measures installed during the pilot period)

660 tonnes

of GHG emissions avoided annually 

$170,000

in energy costs saved annually ($500 per home)

1,265 households

educated on water conservation

The road was not always smooth for what would become an award-winning project. The financing and payback process, interest structure and return on investment were not always clear to homeowners. And while a streamlined process of working with a single contractor to install the systems worked well for the pilot, HRM now recognizes that an open-market approach is a better fit for a full program. 

The success of the pilot allowed HRM to expand it into a permanent program that includes solar hot air and solar electric systems. The municipality aims to further develop this program to include deep energy retrofits, with a focus on renewable energy and climate resilience. 
 

The project spurred the solar market in Nova Scotia and across the province and provided awareness to Nova Scotian companies that this type of project can work for Nova Scotians." 

—Kevin Boutilier, Clean Energy Specialist, Halifax Regional Municipality

© 2021 Federation of Canadian Municipalities