--- On Mon, 3/16/09, Jim Wilson, MPP
From: Jim Wilson, MPP
Subject: Home Energy Audits Will Be Costly Says Wilson
Date: Monday, March 16, 2009, 8:50 PM
Jim Wilson, MPP Queen's Park Report
Home Energy Audits Will Be Costly Says Wilson
Forgive me for writing another column on Bill 150, the Green Energy Act. As the centerpiece of Dalton McGuinty's legislative agenda this spring I think it is important that we all understand the many ways that this Bill will concern your pocketbook and community.
As I wrote previously, if Bill 150 passes, it will drive energy costs up by shifting the risk of cost overruns and scheduling delays in the energy sector from private developers on to taxpayers. It also eliminates the last remnants of a competitive marketplace by allowing private developers to build anything, anywhere, anytime, at any price.
When I was Energy Minister, our Progressive Conservative Government said "never again" to that approach. Those who remember Darlington or the $38 billion in accumulated debt from the old Ontario Hydro know why. Unfortunately, it appears as though Mr. McGuinty's Liberal government is now saying "one more time!"
But the most controversial aspect of the Bill that directly impacts every homeowner is the requirement in Bill 150 for every home sold to undergo an energy audit. It will cost about $300 and will consider everything from your showerhead to your furnace. If one isn't up to snuff, be prepared to fix it. The average cost of repairs? Based on past examples it's going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
Gary Weir of the Ontario Real Estate Association noted "the results of these audits will be used by home buyers as bargaining chips to significantly reduce the final selling price". This could be particularly worrying for seniors relying on the equity in their home for retirement. Same for first time home buyers who will now need more money to buy their first resale home.
Most troubling is the legitimacy of these audits. In 2007, a Toronto Star investigative report explained how four companies came up with four different energy ratings for the very same house. One company said the house required $3,000 in renovations while another claimed the need for $25,000 worth.
If that doesn't concern you, maybe the new "toaster police" will. Bill 150 allows for government inspectors who will be able to conduct inspections and searches in your home, not for criminals, but for energy-efficiency. Granted, they must get a search warrant, but they can apply for it without notice to the homeowner.
Once the warrant is in hand, they can enter and seize any document or computer and search through your garbage. Interfering with the inspector or even failing to assist is an offense punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 -- all of this in the name of energy efficiency.
Finally, Bill 150 will take away local autonomy by exempting renewable energy projects from local zoning by-laws. This means that McGuinty will decide what gets built where and he doesn't have to give a hoot if you object.
In the end, despite what McGuinty would like you to believe, Bill 150 is no panacea to the economic crisis in Ontario that he helped to create. Ontarians are going to end up paying the price, for more expensive energy and for McGuinty pet conservation projects too. Hold on to your wallet.