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Resale homes should carry energy use label by 2019, environmental groups say

Last Updated Aug 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm EDT

A sold sign is pictured outside a home in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, June 28, 2016. A coalition of environmental groups wants to see homes listed for resale in Canada to carry information about how much energy they use. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

OTTAWA – Listing your home for sale in Canada could soon mean you not only have to tell people how much it costs to buy it, but also how much it costs to run it.

When 11 provinces and territories signed the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change in 2016, they agreed to look at requiring all existing buildings to have an energy label outlining how much energy the home or building uses as early as 2019.

This week a coalition of environmental groups wrote to the federal government saying Ottawa should set that date as a hard target and help provinces implement a policy that requires the information from a home energy audit be provided when a home is listed for sale.

“It’s just another way for a home to be valued and also gives an indication of how energy efficient is this home and what kinds of improvements and therefore cost savings could I be making if I’m going to be buying this home,” Karen Tam Wu, director of the buildings and urban solutions program for The Pembina Institute, told The Canadian Press.

The recommendation was one of nearly two dozen the Pembina Institute and nine other environmental organizations made in a letter to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna this week.

A spokeswoman for Carr said when the minister met with his provincial counterparts earlier this week in New Brunswick they endorsed a plan that helps outline how they will meet this and other goals of the framework.

However the plan doesn’t mention requiring the information at the time a home is listed for sale.

Rather it suggests an online portal will be created in 2019 to start sharing information on building energy use but that full adoption of energy labelling for all buildings including residential homes wouldn’t be required until 2026.

Tam Wu stressed making buildings more energy efficient is not just good for the environment, it also creates jobs and drives economic growth.

She said Europe is many years ahead of Canada, spurred on by energy prices which are as much as twice what they are in Canada. The new carbon price being implemented nationally next year will add to the economic case for Canadians to make their homes and buildings more efficient as well.

The Pembina Institute also points to studies in the United States which have found more energy efficient buildings are more valuable to buyers and renters, meaning sale or rental prices go up when energy use goes down.

Pierre Leduc, spokesman for the Canadian Real Estate Association, said the organization has already been working with different federal departments to see how it can help support Canada’s climate change commitments. It is also working on a publication for realtors to provide their clients that discusses energy efficient options for housing.

Canada has to reduce annual carbon emissions almost 200 million tonnes to meet its international commitments, which is the equivalent of taking 44 million cars off the road — twice the number of passenger vehicles registered in Canada two years ago.

Direct emissions from buildings accounted for about 10 per cent of Canada’s total emissions in 2015. However the environmental coalition points to a 2014 Natural Resources Canada report which found buildings account for one-quarter of Canada’s emissions when both direct and indirect emissions from the generation of the electricity they use are factored in.

Buildings are responsible for about one-third of the energy use in the country.

Tam Wu said the goal for new construction homes is to make them all zero-net-energy ready by 2030, meaning they are as energy efficient as possible and can produce the majority if not all of the energy they do need on their own, largely from solar panels.

The framework intends to have all provinces implement a zero-net-energy building code by 2030.

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