Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hydro pays for retrofits, puts them on your tab

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Manitoba Hydro wants to pay for the upfront costs of insulating your old house or replacing your cash-burning furnace.

The program, to be launched in September, will pay for a customer's energy and water retrofits and then recover the money over time on their monthly utility bill.

"You'll be able to finance an improvement to your home that will pay an immediate benefit in a saving," Premier Greg Selinger said Tuesday. "This will help many homeowners put in the kinds of things that will allow them to save and conserve energy and have an immediate benefit."

Selinger said attaching the improvements' cost to the meter, rather than extending a loan, gives homeowners more flexibility to do the work as it gives them a longer time to pay back Hydro at a modest interest rate.

The program is mostly aimed at insulation upgrades to older homes. There are about 65,000 homes in the province that need the work. It will also offset the cancellation of the federal energy-retrofit program earlier this year.

"This new financing option opens it up to even more people to be able to do energy improvements to their home," Selinger said. "They don't have to have a loan that is paid off within five years, which may cost more in the short run than the energy improvements. The way this is structured, they'll get that benefit right away."

Manitoba Hydro's Lloyd Kuczek, vice-president of customer care and marketing, said the advantage to the homeowner is it's not a hit in the pocketbook to get the work done. It also helps sell a home, if the customer is thinking of moving, because the upgrades have been done.

"We would create a monthly charge that would go over a period of time," he said. "For a furnace, it would likely be over a 20 or 25-year period of time because that's roughly the life of a furnace."

Kuczek also said if a customer gets work done through the program, their monthly bill will stay essentially the same because of an energy efficiency improvement charge added to the bill.

For example, if the cost to heat your house drops to $80 a month from $100 after the work is done, you'll still pay $100 because of a $20 improvement charge.

"The $20 pays Hydro back for the capital investment we're making," Kuczek said.

Selinger also repeated an election promise to guarantee the province's utility rates will remain the lowest in the country.

He said by the end of September, the government will issue a report comparing the cost of electricity, home heating and auto insurance with the rates in other provinces.

"We'll just have an independent auditor verify that on an annual basis and report that, so people can have some confidence that we're paying attention to that promise," Selinger said.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2012 A6

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