Good morning, committee members, staff, and Mr. Zilberbrant. Greetings from Waterloo region.
I am honoured to be part of this discussion today and am very interested in this topic. Our observation as a non-profit is that the private sector is ready and willing to partner and to show leadership, not only by sometimes sponsoring our work but many times by participating in it as well.
I work for REEP Green Solutions, an environmental non-profit organization that serves the Waterloo region. We focus on energy and water sustainability. In particular, we've delivered the EnerGuide for houses home energy evaluations for 16 years. We've now been in 14,000 homes in Waterloo region and participants in our program are collectively saving 21,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually through their home energy upgrades.
Some of the work we're doing is cutting edge and actually similar to what you described, Mr. Zilberbrant, such as climate change adaptation to prevent flooding and to protect our streams and rivers. When a business gets involved in one of our programs as a participant or a delivery partner, they're showing leadership because together we're helping to establish a new norm of behaviour in our community. The strongest most effective programs we've seen have government policy and incentives as their foundation. In other words, you have two legs of the stool in the description of this study: the private sector and non-profit organizations. I propose that we add a third leg, and that is government policy and incentives.
I want to give you examples from our stormwater program and our energy efficiency work to make three points. First is that private sector partners strengthen our impact. Second, government policy and incentives are an essential foundation for this work, and third, these programs are good for the economy.
Let me give you a recent example involving a bank as a partner and a property management company as a participant in our RAIN program. RAIN is an ecological approach to stormwater management. We had the pleasure last week of receiving a cheque for $5,000 from RBC to support a rain garden party at a six-plex residential building in Kitchener. Rain gardens are a creative and beautiful way to reduce flood risk and protect our streams and rivers by soaking up and slowing down stormwater. Although they're not new technology, they are cutting edge in terms of public adoption.
The private sector leadership in this case is twofold. One is the property owner doing something new and different to solve a flooding problem on his property, and the other is RBC showing their private sector leadership by helping our organization turn this single action into a living classroom in the community so that neighbours can come to our training session and a work party.
RBC receives positive recognition and the staff feel part of making their community better. I can say that this was really clear when we went to get the cheque. All the staff had blue T-shirts on and there were giant blue raindrops suspended from the ceiling with tips on how to conserve water. They were really proud of what their company was doing for the community.
What really made this project possible was the third leg of this stool: government funding and an incentive. Our work in stormwater management began with funding from the Province of Ontario and it continues now under contract with the municipalities. The local government also provided an incentive of $4,000 to the property owner to encourage uptake of this kind of project so that it can become a public demonstration of innovative stormwater management practices.
The third leg in the stool is really the first one. The government's role is very important in these partnerships to steer us to the future we want for our country and for our communities. We need good public policy based in evidence to provide a framework for private and non-sector action, and incentives to help put these policies into practice.
At REEP we often work with small and medium-sized businesses. If I look at it from their perspective, I see that they want to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the community. They want to increase their sales. They want to be responsible corporations, and sometimes, they also want to solve a problem on their property that we can help them with. In all of these cases, they're looking for ways that their goals intersect with the public good.
We want the public good to be well defined. Otherwise, we risk public sector investment going to activities that look good for public relations reasons but don't contribute to the end results we want for our country and our community.
One of the best examples I've seen of the private sector, the non-profit sector, and the government working together has been the ecoENERGY home energy efficiency program. The federal government provided the financial incentive to homeowners to spur them to action. They based it on a third party audit to benchmark and verify the results. REEP was one of the many service providers for that audit. A number of them were non-profit also. Renovation contractors were essential additional private sector actors providing the retrofits for these homes.
We worked closely with renovation contractors during that time. All of us were really proud to be part of a government-led initiative that we brought our local strength to. The contractors were key partners who helped spread the word about the program and spur uptake. They also benefited economically. We think somewhere in the neighbourhood of $41 million would have been spent in our community to implement those retrofits over the years. We really cannot underestimate the economic value of these programs and the jobs they create and sustain.
The ecoENERGY incentive ended in 2011, and there hasn't been anywhere near the retrofit activity in our community there was before. At REEP we used to do 100 energy evaluations a month. Now we barely do that in a year. It doesn't mean there aren't home energy retrofits happening, but there really isn't anything to spur homeowners who are putting it off to do it now, or to move it up higher in their priority list, or to access those people who aren't planning to do it already.
We've really looked for ways ourselves to encourage home energy retrofits in the absence of the incentive. For example, we've talked to our electric and natural gas utilities about working together, and in some ways, we are. But what we've heard from them is that they're really focusing on the commercial sector rather than the residential sector, because that's where they have the easiest gains and the greatest impact.
Some homeowner-targeted programs continue in some areas, but they're not able to have the impact the federal incentive was able to have. This demonstrates to me the importance of the federal government being at the table to provide a framework that makes sure key sectors or issues are not left out because they're harder to address. If you look at the residential sector, it accounts for 50% of our natural gas consumption in the Waterloo region and 30% of our electricity consumption. That's a really significant sector that we want to address.
I'll give you one more example of private sector leadership, in this case spurred by a Natural Resources Canada call for proposals. REEP is partnering with two businesses in the Waterloo region, Mindscape Innovations and Scaled Purpose, for a proposal to NRCan to encourage home energy retrofits by providing both a retrofit coach to help people through the process and innovative community-based financing to help address the capital cost.
We are proud to partner with these two local businesses, and very pleased that we may have the support of the federal government to provide this pilot, but I know that each gain and every retrofit will be hard won, because there really isn't anything like a federal incentive to motivate action by homeowners. If this approach had the support of a federal incentive to build on, then it could really fly. I feel sometimes like we're trying to build something in mid-air. We really need a foundation for the residential sector from the federal level to make things happen.
My conclusion is that the third leg of the stool is really critical. The private sector is ready and willing to partner, and their input really makes the impact much stronger. We can make that generosity and corporate innovation count most when there's a solid public policy foundation based in evidence that steers us forward together. Then we as non-profits and our private sector partners have something to build on. We're part of something bigger than ourselves, working together not only for our community but for our country, for our country's climate action plan. It becomes an economic stimulus and an environment benefit rolled into one powerful package.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. I'm looking forward to the discussion.