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Victoria’s heat pump incentive helps boost uptake, likely not needed anymore

Record heatwave in 2021 highlighted the need for more effective home cooling
Upper levels of government offering heat pump purchase incentives means the City of Victoria will likely do away with its program. (Black Press Media file photo)

The City of Victoria’s incentive for homeowners to install electric heat pumps seems to have served its purpose and likely won’t be extended, as similar benefits from upper levels of governments are now in place.

Staff updated council at a Feb. 24 meeting on the city’s key climate action initiatives and the progress Victoria is making on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Acknowledging the extreme weather events that wreaked havoc on B.C. in 2021, staff noted how scientists found climate change made last June’s record heatwave – linked to 18 deaths in Victoria – 150 times more likely.

Those sweltering conditions might’ve also helped sway some residents on the need for home cooling. Staff said the number of households using the city’s heat pump incentive in 2021 tripled from the year prior.

The Oil to Heat Pump Incentive Program gives residents up to $2,500 toward installation costs. Council in 2021 budgeted $450,000 toward continuing the program.

The program has helped about 200 households make the switch in the last three years. The number of households going from oil-based home heating to a heat pump system roughly doubled each year the program was in place, while the number of homes switching from natural gas has more than tripled.

READ: Climate change report a grim warning for Canada

“This illustrates that current incentives are bringing the affordability of heat pumps in line with traditional fossil fuel home heating systems, such as oil and gas furnaces,” read the city’s climate action update, noting gas companies also offer their own incentives. “One of the aims of this program is to avoid the ‘locking in’ of the GHG emissions associated with installing new fossil fuel equipment.”

While the city program was created to entice people to make the switch, it likely won’t be needed anymore.

The climate action update said residences can now tap into up to $12,000 in heat pump incentives from upper levels of government. Those benefits are expected to continue the rising uptake of heat pumps, even without the city program. For this reason, staff anticipates the city won’t have to keep putting funds toward a municipal incentive.

Getting electric heat pump systems in more homes is a key climate action strategy for Victoria, where emissions from buildings have increased compared to 2007 levels.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she knows many people who have benefited from switching to heat pumps, but asked staff if the city was considering complaints about how loud the machines are in the city’s ongoing noise bylaw review.

Staff confirmed that heat pump noise is included in the bylaw’s review.

READ: Road vehicles drove Capital Region’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions, despite COVID-19 impacts Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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