The Comox Valley Regional District’s Wood Smoke Reduction Program granted 28 rebates — 12 electric heat pumps and 16 gas stoves — amounting to $50,500 last year. Unclaimed money from a remaining 13 rebates will be rolled into the 2022 program, which has $89,000 available.
The CVRD proposes to increase rebates from $1,000 to $2,000.
“High rebate amounts are an effective incentive,” planning and policy analyst Daphne Mazarura said at the Jan. 25 board meeting.
This year, the district proposes to offer rebates only for wood heating appliance exchanges for electric heat pumps. It will discontinue fossil fuel heating appliance rebates.
Another change is to include Hornby and Denman islands in the program.
Area C director Edwin Grieve questioned if the district has been able to measure progress in hot spots in older areas in west Courtenay, as well as Comox and Cumberland.
Comox director Ken Grant also questioned if “we’re hitting the right targets.” The district will “win,” he said, if old wood stoves are replaced in the hot spots. However, residents in these areas don’t tend to have an extra $10,000 to make that change. He is interested to see the addresses of rebate recipients to determine if it’s a case of “people taking free money from us,” or people helping to fix a problem. Grant also noted that heat pumps don’t work in every household.
While most recent reports place the CVRD in the orange zone, Mazarura said the Environment Ministry still considers the Valley to be a red zone community — an area that exceeds Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Alana Mullaly, general manager of planning and development services, reminded the board that the program aims to remove wood stoves, and to reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in targeted areas.
“This is a bit of a test case,” she said.
CAO Russell Dyson added that staff are handling the wood smoke issue off the side of their desks. It is not a specific service, so it takes time to deal with the issue.
Mullaly hopes the next staff report about the program can touch on affordability and feasibility. A housing needs assessment shows that renters are most likely to experience poverty; owners, therefore need to be encouraged to make changes in rental properties to hopefully improve health outcomes and the monthly budget of tenants, Mullaly said.
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