Editorial: Regulatory dos and don’ts

Approaches to energy efficiency a study in contrasts.
Patrick Flannery
March 05, 2018
By
Big attempts are underway in Canada right now to do nothing less than change the way we build and buy windows. Ontario launched its GreenON rebate program in December, with approximately the same results as a North Korean missile test. It caught (almost) everyone by surprise; generated jubilation in some, anger and alarm in others; cost a lot of money the cash-strapped state can’t afford; and has so far completely failed to hit its target, though the attempt may set the stage for future success.


Then there’s the national initiative by Natural Resources Canada to transform the market through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. This is the plan Debbie Scharf has been championing across the industry since early 2017 that aims to have all Canadian homes Net Zero-ready by 2030. You can read our report on NRCan’s latest consultation meeting on page nine.

There are other plans moving forward across the country, but I want to focus on these last two as they provide some guidance as to how to move industry transformation programs forward effectively and how not to.

As GreenON’s senior manager, Evelyn Lunhild, heard loud and clear at the NRCan meeting, many Ontario fabricators, contractors and dealers are not happy with the way the rebate program was rolled out. The incentives are great: $500 per hole up to a maximum of $5,000 per project when homeowners install Energy Star Zone 3 Most Efficient windows. But the process leading up to the launch was shrouded in secrecy, known only to a few industry individuals invited to participate. When the province started running radio ads in mid-December announcing the rebates to the general public, dealers started getting calls asking about the rebate and having no idea what the caller was talking about. In some cases the customer wanted to cancel existing orders so as to re-order and get the rebate. GreenON certainly did the right thing in specifying an installation standard, since the efficiency benefits of high-performance windows are mooted by a bad installation. And WindowWise was the only choice as the only nationally recognized standard for installers in Canada. But of course there was no way that SAWDAC could immediately certify every uncertified installer in the province, so a sizable bottleneck was created. Then there are the concerns over the sometimes conflicting specifications for qualifying windows and the seemingly irrelevant requirements that appear to have been imported into the appendices by cut-and-paste. Overall, it comes across as a rush job dreamed up to drive good feelings in homeowners. I certainly don’t want to look a $300 million gift to Ontario’s fenestration industry in the mouth. But as of mid-February, the rebate program had only received 60 applications for rebates.

Contrast the long and careful program NRCan has embarked on. I was flattered to be invited to the Ottawa meeting on Feb. 6, and impressed by the depth of technical knowledge of the NRCan staff in the room as well as the deep cross-section of the industry represented by the window and door company owners and managers there. Fenestration Canada was included in a leading role, as is appropriate for Canada’s national voice for the sector. There’s no question NRCan is doing everything in its power to extract the information it needs from us to give its ambitious agenda the best chance for success.

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