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Low-income Canadians need access to barrier-free programs that provide them with efficient homes and affordable energy

One in five Canadian households struggle to meet their home energy needs due to rising costs of food and energy, leaving them to decide between heating their homes and feeding their families.These growing affordability concerns are leaving families and individuals with a series of impossible choices.

“Do I pay my energy bill? Do I buy food for my family? Do I pay my housing? Or do I put fuel in my car? All of these things are critical things that they absolutely have to do, but at the end of the day, which one do you choose?” — Sue Quinn, Why addressing energy poverty is a climate solution, What On Earth (CBC)

Energy efficiency upgrades are a proven way to lower energy bills, locking in savings over time. It creates good jobs, conserves energy, offers protection from cold and extreme weather events, and improves health and housing quality for those struggling to meet their home energy needs. Providing energy efficient homes to all Canadians, including private market renters, is critical to address these energy affordability concerns and in reducing emissions to achieve Canada’s climate goals.

Existing federal programs remove financial barriers for middle and upper-income Canadians looking to make their homes more energy efficient. However, policy gaps are preventing millions of low-income Canadians from accessing potential energy cost savings through energy efficiency programming. Why?

  • Canada does not have a national approach to improving energy efficiency for low-to-moderate income homes.
  • Existing programs require an investment – and not everyone can cover the upfront costs.
  • Private market renters are still excluded from energy efficiency programs.

Let Minister Freeland know that funding for low-income energy efficiency should be a central part of the Green Buildings Strategy.

    By coordinating with existing regional programs and securing additional funding for energy efficiency programs, the federal government could fill policy gaps that exclude low-income homeowners and tenants in the Green Buildings Strategy.

    Characteristics of an effective low-income energy efficiency program should include:

    • No-cost upgrades for income eligible participants to fully remove financial barriers
    • Deep energy savings per household to meaningfully reduce energy bills
    • Turn-key upgrades managed by the program to remove hassle and physical barriers
    • Community partnerships to build trust and raise awareness in traditionally marginalized communities
    • A policy-mix to improve energy efficiency while also protecting and enhancing tenant rights

    Ask Minister Freeland to prioritize low-income households in the Green Buildings Strategy, as this target would align with her mandate to support clean energy, and make life more affordable for all Canadians.

    As a policy goal, low-income energy efficiency faces barriers and challenges with potential consequences. Increasing housing marketability through efficiency upgrades may trigger rent increases, “reno-victions”, and political backlash from property owners and landlords. However, neglecting energy efficiency upgrades in an attempt to keep housing affordable leads to inadequate housing quality.

    Adequate heating and cooling are important public health measures. Rates of poor physical and mental health have shown to be significantly higher in households unable to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures across all seasons. In addition to health problems, poor heating and cooling can cause structural damage to buildings, making more homes inhabitable.

    Want to do more?

     More than 4.5 million Canadians — often those who need it most — are excluded from Canada’s federal energy efficiency programs. Here is the breakdown by province:



    Nova Scotia



    New Brunswick

    British Columbia



    There is national support for low-income energy efficiency

    The federal government has strong public support for expanding low-income energy efficiency. According to polling conducted by Abacus Data for Efficiency Canada, 72% of Canadians are in favour of government funding toward energy efficiency for low-income housing. This support spans across rural and urban populations, owners and renters, all income groups, voters for all political parties and in all regions*.

    The United States have had a national low-income energy efficiency program in place since the 1970s

    The Weatherization Assistance Program has provided energy-saving upgrades at no-cost to 7 million low-income households. The benefits go beyond lower energy bills:

    • Reduced 1 million+ metric tons of C02 every year
    • Supported 8,500+ jobs in communities across the country
    • Sustained national network of 700+ local service delivery organizations providing weatherization services in every county

    Energy efficiency helps those who need it the most

    The people who deliver low-income energy efficiency services have first hand experience with the impact energy efficiency has on people’s lives. Funding from the federal government could help remove barriers, reaching more low-income Canadians. Several provincial programs are over-subscribed, are seeking to achieve deeper savings to have a meaningful impact, and recognize the need to couple efficiency and cost savings with health and safety upgrades to break down barriers and expand benefits.

    A participant, a single mom, recently wrote to tell us how important the insulation upgrades were to her – she felt she could sleep easier knowing her children would be warmer at night because she often worried about how cold they were in their rooms. It is just one of the ways the program upgrades make a tangible difference in the daily lives of our participants. 

    Brenda Willington

    Program Manager , BC Hydro for the Energy Conservation Assistance Program

    Certainly the biggest impact is felt by those who need it most. For example, widows who fear they will not be able to stay in their homes without the upgrades, or single parents who need the work done for the comfort and safety of their children.

    Maureen MacNevin

    Energy Programs Assistant, EfficiencyPEI

    Ensuring health and safety in homes is a priority – understanding what other supports (outside of energy efficiency) we may be able to provide or refer to is key to ensuring we can deliver the greatest benefit to participants.

    Stephen Lachan

    Program Advisor, Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

    We realized that sometimes we were missing really good opportunities for energy efficiency in customers’ homes because there were factors about the home that were stopping us from proceeding with direct install work (mould issues, vermiculite, etc.)

    Nola Sperle

    Energy Efficiency Representative, FortisBC

    Past budget submissions

    Past Actions

    Open Letter 2024

    132 organizations signed on to our open letter, submitted to Ministers Freeland, Wilkinson, Fraser and Guilbeault for budget 2024. 

    Open Letter 2023

    136 organizations signed on to our open letter, submitted to Ministers Freeland, Wilkinson and Guilbeault for budget 2023. 

    Open Letter 2022

    134 organizations signed on to our open letter, submitted to Ministers Freeland, Wilkinson and Guilbeault as part of the pre-budget consultation process for budget 2022. 

    Virtual Rally for Energy Justice

    We held a virtual rally to hear from leaders and activists across Canada. Speakers shared stories about the challenges of living with the burden of high energy and working for change. We discussed solutions, including energy efficiency.


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