How to Climb the Residential Retrofit Mountain

2-minute read

To combat climate change, current and future housing in Calgary and Edmonton urgently needs to be more efficient because residential emissions are responsible for 29% of Calgary’s and 20% of Edmonton’s total greenhouse gas emissions each year. To achieve the large scale residential retrofits we require, we need a Retrofit Accelerator Network.

The Residential Retrofit Mountain

According to the latest civic census, there are over 500,000 residential dwelling units in the City of Calgary and nearly 400,000 in the City of Edmonton, including single family, duplex, row housing, walk-ups, and towers.

Recent modelling suggests that to keep emissions below the levels needed to maintain a 1.5 degree world Edmonton will need to retrofit 20,000+ dwellings per year to a standard that reduces the home’s energy demand by at least 50%, over the next 20 years. 

The modelling further asserts that fuel switching to renewable sources, either on site or at the utility level, must occur simultaneously. Edmonton’s forecasted retrofit need is largely front loaded with a large proportion of dwellings undergoing renovations within the next ten years in an effort to stay within a local carbon budget that is coincident with the 1.5 degree target. Calgary would need to follow a similar trajectory.  

The rate of renovation suggested is unprecedented, because it is an estimated ten fold increase in the current renovation rate. Moreover, the suggested performance targets are far outside the current market norms, making this a challenging retrofit mountain to climb because there is so much to retrofit and little time. 

It is clear that the current measures implemented over the last decades are not reducing emissions fast enough and new solutions must align with the magnitude of renovations required and deliver them faster so that we can climb our huge retrofit mountain in time to meet emissions targets.

We need a fully funded retrofit accelerator network model that works collaboratively across the country to achieve the large scale residential retrofits we require.

The network would provide project origination services and ensure public funding and programs are fully subscribed. The retrofit accelerator model will help to build capacity in industry so that it can invest in innovation and the industrialization of the retrofit economy.

In collaboration with other members of the Low Carbon Cities Canada network and other interested organizations, we support the creation and funding of a network of retrofit accelerators across the country that are focused on market development and the provision of retrofit services. Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and many other organizations are supporting a $100 million annual fund request from the federal government for a Retrofit Accelerator Network. 

You can support a low-carbon future by adding your organization’s voice to the Retrofit Acceleration campaign, so that we can put dedicated resources towards becoming a retrofit accelerator for Alberta.

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Mike Mellross
Program Director

For the past two years, Mike has taken a lead role in establishing the Climate Innovation Fund. Mike has nearly a quarter century of experience in climate change, sustainability, and environmental management working across the private, public and charitable sectors. Mike is a published author with articles in popular science journals on the application of market transformation theory for the achievement of climate change goals. Mike has degrees in Environmental Science, Water Pollution Studies, and Natural Sciences and is a registered Professional Agrologist with the Alberta Institute of Agrologists. Mike was a recipient of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Best for Canada Innovator award and a 2019 winner of the Charles Labatiuk award for environmental excellence.

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