Picking up the PACE and Running with City Charters

Picking up the PACE and Running with City Charters

Picking up the PACE and Running with City Charters:
Update on Municipal Government Act


As has been covered in several of our previous blog posts, the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has been undergoing review and revision for a few years now (see our most recent post for a summary of changes to municipal environmental powers).  Earlier this month, further changes were announced:  the passage of the City Charter Regulations and the introduction of Bill 10.  Both these changes have implications for municipal environmental authority and management.

City Charter Regulations

On April 4, 2018, both the City of Calgary Charter, 2018 Regulation and the City of Edmonton, 2018 Regulation became law by way of Order-in-Council. These regulations are made pursuant to the MGA and establish a City Charter for each of Calgary and Edmonton (the City Charters are the same for both Cities).  The effect of the City Charters is to grant more expansive powers to the Charter Cities, allowing for non-application or modification of certain provisions of the MGA (and some other pieces of legislation such as s. 9(4) of the Weed Control Regulation).

The expanded powers of the Charter Cities include authority to make bylaws for:

the well-being of the environment, including bylaws providing for the creation, implementation and management of programs respecting any or all of the following:

(i)                  contaminated, vacant, derelict or under-utilized sites;

(ii)                 climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas emission reduction;

(iii)                environmental conservation and stewardship;

(iv)                the protection of biodiversity and habitat;

(v)                 the conservation and efficient use of energy; and

(vi)                waste reduction, diversion, recycling and management

There are also several provisions in the City Charter aimed at climate change matters.  For instance, both Cities will be required to develop and adopt climate change mitigation and adaptation plans.  Mitigation plans are meant to address and mitigate the effects of climate change by addressing matters such as the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of City-owned buildings, facilities and fleets of vehicles, and development of renewable electricity.  Adaptation plans are meant to facilitate adaptation to the effects of climate change.  This includes assessing exposure, risk and vulnerability of systems within the City, and outlining actions to be taken (such as climate-resilient infrastructure and flood preparedness).  The Cities are required to provide an opportunity for public participation in the development of the climate change plans.

Another provision aimed at climate change matters is a modification of s. 66 of the Safety Codes Act.  This modification will allow municipalities to supplement existing safety codes to address environmental matters (for example, heat retention and energy consumption) thereby enabling the Cities to put energy efficiency requirements for buildings that go above and beyond those in the provincial requirements

Also aimed at climate change matters, the Cities will have the ability to make loans and guarantees for the “purposes of ensuring or improving energy conservation or energy efficiency, or both, with respect to property” under s. 264 of the MGA.   This may allow the Cities some flexibility to implement more creative financing arrangements to encourage the use of higher efficiency technology in private residences.

If the City of Calgary or Edmonton intends to make a bylaw under the extended bylaw powers granted by its City Charter, then it must hold a public hearing and ensure publication of the bylaw as a “Charter Bylaw” within a specified time period.  These requirements will apply to bylaws for well-being of the environment, to set requirements above and beyond the Safety Codes Act, to establish subclasses for contaminated property, and for enabling improving energy conservation or energy efficiency loans.


Bill 10: An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements

As mentioned, the City Charters provide some authority to implement more creative financing arrangements to encourage the use of higher efficiency technology in private residences via the use of energy conservation or energy efficiency loans. However, this authority would not be sufficient to establish an optimal, province-wide program to encourage higher efficiency technology in a broad range of private properties.  As such, in early April the government introduced Bill 10: An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements.

Bill 10 proposes amendments to the MGA to enable Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE )  programs.  Because the installation of home energy technologies and upgrades may be subject to barriers such as high up-front costs, long payback periods and limited access to financing, PACE programs are designed to address those barriers. PACE programs energy improvements on private property by providing accessible financing that is repaid via property taxes (which are transferred to subsequent owners to overcome the barrier of long payback periods).

PACE programs have been used extensively in the United States to encourage the adoption of clean energy technology in both residential and commercial buildings. These programs have raised almost $5,000 million USD investment in residential properties alone. For more information, see the PACENation website which lists all PACE programs in the United States.

Bill 10 creates a new municipal financing tool called a clean energy improvement tax (CEIT).  In order to implement a program using CEIT, a municipality must pass a bylaw that:

(a)    indicates that where a municipality has entered into a clean energy agreement with a property owner, that a tax will be charged based on that agreement;

(b)   sets the tax rate to be imposed;

(c)    indicates the process for applying for a clean energy improvement;

(d)   any other information that municipality considers necessary; and

(e)    any requirements imposed by regulations.

A clean energy improvement is defined as a “renovation, adaptation or installation on eligible private property that (a) will increase energy efficiency or the use of renewable energy on that property, and (b) will be paid for in whole or in part by a [CEIT].”  Any residential, non-residential or agricultural private property – except designated industrial property – will be eligible for a CEIT program.  Before the clean energy improvement is made, the property owner and municipality must enter into an agreement.  The owner of the property on which the CEIT is imposed is liable for payment. The liability remains with the property meaning if the property transfers to another owner, so does the outstanding loan amount to be paid via the CEIT.  The property owner does have an option to pay off the remaining amount to cover the costs of the clean energy improvement before the tax is imposed.

Because these amendments are being made to the MGA (as opposed to in the City Charters), there is potential for a province-wide PACE program to be established but this would require municipalities to opt in by adopting a bylaw (and its various administrative trappings).  This approach has the advantage creating a uniform PACE program with increased leverage (more properties involved in one program) and provincial administrative efficiency; however, lack of municipal capacity and/or motivation may undermine the approach.  Bill 10 takes the important step of enabling PACE programming.  Now municipalities need to pick it up and run with it.



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  • Climate Change and the Law: Can anyone really have a right to sun? | Environmental Law Center
    Posted at 18:55h, 09 April Reply

    […] with lowering costs and new government run programs such as the PACE program (see blog posts PICKING UP THE PACE AND RUNNING WITH CITY CHARTERS: UPDATE ON MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT ACT and Keeping up the PACE: An update on the Pace Program and Associated Regulations). However, with […]

  • Climate Change and the Law: An Introduction to Mitigation in Alberta | Environmental Law Center
    Posted at 17:39h, 27 March Reply

    […] Alberta PACE program – for more information you can find two of our other blogs on this topic “Picking up the PACE and Running with City Charters: An Update on Municipal Government Act” and Keeping up the PACE: An update on the Pace Program and Associated Regulations). PACE […]

  • Ryan Buchberger
    Posted at 23:18h, 02 March Reply

    Hello, here are a couple more environmental suggestions that are 100% effective no matter who uses them. They won’t cost big families extra compared to singles, these two are pure and simple commonsense and need to be started immediately once the remaining plastic bags and thick pill bottles are all used up.

    #1. The grocery stores need to start switching over the plastic produce bags for the fruit and vegetables to be “compost bags” and . . . also switch the carry-outs to “compost bags” as well. The USA is already doing this.
    I can’t believe that Saskatchewan has stopped recycling bags even though they still use them and don’t use the compost bags that are available!!
    I’ve put in suggestions to Safeway/Sobeys, Lowblaws, and CO-OP grocery store head offices to start those bags since the US is already using them at a bunch of their stores. I had told GLAD they’d get good advertising if they did it and would save all the cardboard from their compost bag boxes they’re sold in; but have since found companies that are already making produce and carry-out bags that are made out of plants. (no plastic) I was so happy when I found them, and surprised that the US is buying them but Canada is still behind on starting them even though they’re being manufactured here.
    It’s still best to use old boxes like Costco does but compost carry-outs will be great whenever a box isn’t an option.

    #2. Pharmacies cause a huge amount of pollution by using the thick plastic bottles and lids to transfer the pills into even though pills come in similar thick bottles with child proof lids that usually have the same small amount of pills. I had a talk with lots of pharmacies and asked why they use the thick bottles and the response from each was always “They’re recyclable so it’s OK!” I would then explain to them, “There is no comparison between manufacturing thick plastic that needs to be recycled and re-manufactured into new thick plastic bottles each time over and over again, compared to reducing and reusing. Please tell you’re head office to start reusing by simply supplying your customers with the original bottles from the manufacturers, and then reducing by supplying pills in thin bottles for the prescriptions that don’t come in reusable bottles. This creates much less pollution for the earth and it will also save your company a lot of money since all the extra bottles and lids cost money.” (Pennies are pennies but when billions of bottles are manufactured per year it adds up.)
    CO-OP, (Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell CO-OP as a good store and honestly, I never shop there anyway since they’re to far away from my house.) Their bottles are thin and I never used my tools to measure it but their bottles probably use less than half the plastic that the other ones that make up over 95% of the rest of the bottles used by everyone else.

    I’d love it if pharmacies were . . .
    #1. required to put their stickers on original bottles received by the suppliers that still have the child safe lids anyway. Eliminating the majority of pollution caused by using extra bottles and lids.
    #2. required to use thin as possible bottles when original bottles aren’t usable.
    #3. And suppliers were required to use the thinnest possible plastic since they’re currently thicker than required.
    I made Safeway stop putting mine in their thick bottles years ago, and to give me the original bottles, they argued so I told them if they didn’t they’d lose me as a customer. Another example of money talks, the threat to stop giving them my money is what convinced them to stop using the thick bottles with me. And I wish they had to do that with everyone. I’d also like people who don’t have children in their homes to request the small lids that are for the elderly since they use a lot less plastic as well.

    Thanks for looking at this,
    Ryan Buchberger

    PS I’m surprised we don’t have the EPR set up here in Alberta.

  • Keeping up the PACE: An Update on the Pace Program and Associated Regulations | Environmental Law Center
    Posted at 17:30h, 05 February Reply

    […] previous blog post “Picking up the PACE and Running with City Charters: An Update on Municipal Government Act” introduced Bill 10: An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements[1] which amended the Municipal […]

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