Financing Energy-Saving Retrofits with the HSC Green Loan Program
In early February, the Housing Services Corporation (HSC) launched its Green Loan Program, a new financial tool for energy-saving capital improvements. The program, offered in partnership with Infrastructure Ontario (IO), is intended for housing providers covered under the Housing Services Act looking to complete capital projects that are valued at $250,000 or more. Loans may cover up to 100% of the project costs. In addition, providers with other existing loans may have the flexibility to re-negotiate and consolidate them at IO’s low rates.
The key component of HSC’s program, which sets it apart from other lending programs, is the Energy Savings Warranty. “The goal of our program is to enable providers to undertake important capital projects they would not otherwise have the financing to do. Through the Energy Savings Warranty, financial risks are shifted away from providers,” says Sarah Baker, HSC’s Director of Energy Services.
How it works
Because energy-saving projects result in lower utility bills, the program utilizes the projected cost savings over time to finance the repayment of the loan. Then to protect providers in the event that the savings don’t materialize as expected, all projects require an Energy Savings Warranty.
Sarah explains, “Let’s say, for example, that you decide to update the building’s heating and cooling systems, install low-flow toilets and energy efficient lighting. As part of the process, an energy management firm would look at current energy consumption, determine the potential projects and associated savings and calculate the project payback period.” As part of the financing package, then the Energy Management Firm who did the analysis would obtain an HSC Energy Savings Warranty to back the projected savings. “At the end of the day,” she explains, “providers are not on the hook if the energy savings don’t materialize.”
Provider Response to the Program
For providers like Peterborough Housing Corporation, the program is welcome news. “We were preparing to approach lenders to finance a series of energy retrofits for two seniors high-rises in our portfolio when the news about the Green Loan Program came out,” explains Darlene Cook, CEO of Peterborough Housing. “Our board had already determined that these buildings would continue to be part of our future, but to make them viable we need to convert them to natural gas, replace the domestic hot water and make major lighting and heating improvements,” she says. In total, the Board is looking at a total project cost of nearly $4 million.
“For us, the financing approach and the Energy Savings Warranty really distinguishes the HSC program from what other lenders offer,” says Darlene. “It speaks to the fact that HSC is mindful of the business challenges providers face,” she adds.
To date, interest in the program among non-profit and cooperative housing providers has been quite high. “We’ve had great response from providers since the program’s launch,” Sarah says. As inquiries turn into applications, Sarah anticipates that timelines for getting loans will vary.
“It really depends on where people are starting from. But HSC is pleased to offer support for providers in putting together a complete package for moving forward. At the end of the day, everyone – building staff and residents – will benefit from more energy efficient and better-maintained communities.”