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COLUMN: Welcome HERA, goddess of retrofits

"Programs such as HERA also boost our local economy. Edmonton’s previous program resulted in more than $15 million in economic activity. Such programs also enhance our wellbeing through a sense of ecological empowerment, comfort in our homes, and financial savings reaped."
Jill Cunningham
Columnist Jill Cunningham

Hera was a Greek goddess born to Titans. As a ruler, she laid claim to family, hearth, and home.

HERA (the Home Energy Retrofit Accelerator program) made its way to Edmonton in January 2021 and intends to assist St. Albert this coming year, budget-depending. 

The program's purpose is to educate residential homeowners about efficiencies available in the running of their homes, as well as to offer rebates for upgrades such as insulation, triple-pane windows, and water and space heating equipment.

Why has this goddess of hearth and home arrived to intervene in our human affairs?

“We’ve made progress in clean-energy generation and transportation, but buildings [continue to] use excessive energy and emit extreme amounts of carbon dioxide” says Vince Romanian, CEO of Gradient. Globally, buildings account for 28 per cent of emissions. Some say it would take 500 years at our current pace to retrofit these buildings. We need incentives to speed this up.

HERA provides such incentives. Upon applying for and receiving an EnerGuide home evaluation, the best retrofits for a home are determined and homeowners can apply for a rebate for up to three categories. If they retrofit in three different categories, they may receive a 20-per-cent bonus. 

Every city can set its own budget dedicated to support energy retrofits and totals allowable for individual rebates. Edmonton, for example, has set aside $600,000 per year for three years and will pay, say, $50 per triple-pane window installed, with a limit of $5,000. If you are going to net zero, Edmonton would allow you a total of up to $10,000.

Programs such as HERA also boost our local economy. Edmonton’s previous program resulted in more than $15 million in economic activity. Such programs also enhance our wellbeing through a sense of ecological empowerment, comfort in our homes, and financial savings reaped.

Keep your ears open for a new term: a climate-ready (or resilient) home. Look up climateresilienthome.ca, which indicates this type of home “is better able to cope with climate change events … saves money, reduces damages, and keeps us comfortable and safe.”  

With record-breaking heat — think 49 C in British Columbia this summer — global demand for cooling has more than tripled since 1990 and it’s expected that four billion residents will buy their first air conditioner by 2050. Trouble is, air conditioning is a major contributor to climate change because it uses massive amounts of electricity. According to a CNBC report, one small window-mounted unit consumes more than four refrigerators' worth, while central AC consumes more than fifteen! They can also leak potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

This is where retrofits step in to save the day. Chelsey Long of Edmonton’s Eco Mechanical Solutions recently retrofitted her 1976 bungalow. She did not install an air conditioner, but found that triple-pane windows and proper insulation kept her house at a comfortable 25 C while the heat wave raged outside.

My hope is that St. Albert will see the benefits of opening our arms and our fall budget to HERA. As a goddess, she is looking out for our families and our homes. Let’s express our faith in her vision and invite HERA to St. Albert this fall.

Jill Cunningham grew up in St. Albert, has a Bachelor of Education from University of Alberta, and is passionate about nature, the environment, and building community.