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Frequently Asked Questions

CleanBC Custom-Lite Program

How is the Custom-Lite Program different from the Custom Program?

The Custom-Lite Program is a simplified version of the Custom Program, meant to facilitate smaller electrification opportunities across the commercial and institutional building sector. Similar to the Custom Program, the Custom-Lite Program will offer incentives for both energy studies and capital equipment replacements that result in GHG reductions from fuel-switching and other electrification measures (such as heat reclaim systems).

What measures qualify for Custom-Lite Program funding?

  • Air-to-water heat pump water heater
  • Air-to-air rooftop heat pump
  • Sewage heat recovery pump
  • High-efficiency (>75%) HRV*
  • Electric water heater**
  • Air source VRF
  • Electrical cooking equipment

The following measures qualify but are typically found in larger buildings and as such may exceed the GHG criteria thresholds for the Custom-Lite Program:

  • Heat recovery chiller*
  • Ground source heat pump
  • Water-to-water heat pump
  • Exhaust air heat recovery heat pump
  • Electric boiler**
  • Water source VRF

*Proposed measures leading to a gas dominant heating system (i.e.  Gas heating equipment with greater than 50% share in total building heating energy consumption) should first contact FortisBC to inquire about eligibility in its gas DSM program.
**Electric boiler only will be accepted if all other more efficient heat pump options are not feasible.

Do I need an energy study to receive Custom-Lite retrofit incentives?

Eligibility for retrofit incentives can be obtained by submitting a completed Custom-Lite Workbook with either 1) an already completed energy study, 2) substantive engineering documentation, or 3) an approved energy study report. Eligibility is dependent on a review of all documentation by BC Hydro’s Conservation and Efficiency Management (CEM) Engineering.

If you completed an energy study prior to applying for Custom-Lite funding, you can still access Capital Incentive funding. An energy study completed prior to the launch of the Custom-Lite Program or funded from a third-party can be eligible for Custom-Lite Capital Incentive funding provided it is approved by BC Hydro. These studies are not eligible for Energy Study-Lite funding.

Energy studies provide detailed technical information, quantified energy information, and expected implementation costs, and help determine the most effective energy efficiency measure for implementation. The Custom-Lite program offers funding supporting the completion of energy studies.

The program will support up to 50% of an energy study cost, up to a maximum of $2,000. Any remaining balance will be funded by the customer. Energy studies must be completed by a registered member of the BC Hydro Alliance of Energy Professionals.

What is the Custom-Lite Workbook?

The Custom-Lite Workbook is an Excel Spreadsheet with information on preliminary building and/or equipment information, project cost and GHG estimates, as well as relevant contact and project team information. By completing the Workbook, both customers and program administrators will be able to determine if there is a viable opportunity for Custom-Lite funding.

The Workbook is mandatory for all commercial customers wishing to apply for energy study-lite funding and capital incentive funding through the Custom-Lite program. The Workbook is a free tool that can be obtained on the CleanBC Better Buildings website.

How many projects can I receive funding for?

At the parent company level, you are eligible to receive a maximum of $48,000 in Custom-Lite funding, which can be spread across multiple projects/properties. Approvals are subject to overall program funding availability.

Are demonstration projects eligible for Custom-Lite funding?

Demonstration projects may be considered if they are innovative technologies that are commercially available but not widely used in BC or for testing emerging technologies that are relatively new to the market. These projects may be considered for Custom-Lite funding if they create ‘real life’ examples of innovation and encourage customers to adopt emerging technologies. Such projects will be approved at the discretion of program administration.

Will there be sufficient electricity to support my project?

An important consideration when exploring any electrification project is understanding potential building or localized capacity issues in the surrounding area. An electrical service upgrade may be required. This should be identified and explored by the contractor in the workbook and in consultation with BC Hydro.

I have not received and signed my Capital Incentive Agreement, but have time sensitive purchasing and budget decisions. Can I purchase these materials before finalizing my Incentive Agreement?

Equipment purchased before the finalizing of the Capital Incentive Agreement would be deemed ineligible for Custom-Lite incentive funding.

If I received Capital Incentive funding through the Custom Program, am I eligible for Custom-Lite funding?

No. If you have already received Capital Incentive funding from the Custom Program, you are not eligible for further funding under the Custom-Lite program. If you received Energy Study funding under the Custom Program but were not eligible for Capital Incentives funding due to not meeting the GHG reduction threshold of 1200 tCO2e over the lifetime of a measure, you may be eligible for Capital Incentive funding through the Custom-Lite Program.

I have applied for additional funding through a third-party organization, will this affect the Capital Incentive funding I receive?

Yes. The total amount of third party funding would be subtracted from the original Incremental Cost applied to the original calculated incentive amount. This updated incremental cost would then be applied and a new Incentive amount would be calculated.

For example, if you have a project with a $25,000 incremental cost that will produce 1,000 tCO2e of lifetime GHG savings, your maximum eligible Custom-Lite Capital Incentive will be $12,500 (50% of incremental cost). If you have received $5,000 from a third-party towards that same project, the Custom-Lite Capital Incentive would be recalculated to $10,000 ($25,000-5,000= $20,000 incremental cost).

What happens if my project requires an extension?

Projects will be expected to be completed within a 12-month timeframe. If an extension is required, the request must be made to your Key Account Manager or the Power of Business Help Desk if you do not have a Key Account Manager. BC Hydro will assess the request, and if approved, will issue a one-time only extension of 6 months after the original expected project completion date as per the Incentive Agreement.

What if the consultant I want to work with is not a member of the BC Hydro Alliance of Energy Professionals?

If the consultant/contractor you have chosen to work with is not an approved member of BC Hydro’s Alliance of Energy Professionals, the consultant may contact BC Hydro for assistance with gaining membership. After review and consent from BC Hydro, the application may continue moving forward while membership application is being completed.

CleanBC Custom Program

What measures qualify for EfficiencyBC Custom Program funding?

  • Heat recovery chiller*
  • Air-to-water heat pump
  • Air-to-water heat pump water heater
  • Ground source heat pump
  • Air-to-air rooftop heat pump
  • Water-to-water heat pump
  • Exhaust air heat recovery heat pump
  • Sewage heat recovery heat pump
  • Electric boiler**
  • Electric water heater**
  • High-efficiency (>75) HRV*
  • Air source VRF
  • Water source VRF

*Proposed measures leading to a gas dominant heating system (i.e. gas heating equipment with greater than 50% share in total building heating energy consumption) should first contact FortisBC to inquire about eligibility in its gas DSM program.
**Electric boiler only will be accepted if all other more efficient heat pump options are not feasible.

What is the Low-Carbon Electrification Workbook?

The Low-Carbon Electrification Workbook (Workbook) is an Excel spreadsheet that helps customers and program administrators determine if there is viable opportunity within a building. The Workbook contains preliminary building and equipment information, project estimates, relevant project team information, and is mandatory for those seeking Custom Program Funding. The Workbook is a free tool accessed through your BC Hydro Key Account Manager, and is filled out by the customer and/or consultant and is a requirement for program participation.

The Custom Program offers funding supporting energy studies, which are used to complete the inputs of the Workbook. Energy studies provide detailed technical information, quantified energy information, expected implementation costs, and help determine the most effective energy efficiency measure for implementation.

The Program will support up to 50% of an energy study’s cost, up to a maximum of $20,000. Any remaining balance will be funded by the customer. Energy studies must be completed by a registered member of the BC Hydro Alliance of Energy Professionals.

How many projects can I receive funding for?

At the parent company level, you are eligible to receive a maximum of $200,000 in Custom Program funding, which can be spread across multiple projects/properties. Approvals are subject to overall program funding availability.

Are demonstration projects eligible for Custom Program funding?

Demonstration projects use commercially available technologies that are not widely used in BC or are relatively new on the market. Demonstration projects may be considered for Custom Program funding if they create ‘real life’ examples of innovation and encourage customers to adopt emerging technologies. Such projects will be approved at the discretion of program administration.

I’ve completed an energy study prior to applying to the Custom Program. Is this study eligible for capital incentive funding?

Yes. An energy study completed prior to the launch of the Custom Program or funded from a third-party can be eligible for Capital Incentive funding provided it meets the requirement in the Low-Carbon Electrification Workbook and is approved by BC Hydro. However, these studies are not eligible for Custom Program Energy Study funding.

I have not received and signed my Capital Incentive Agreement but have time sensitive purchasing and budget decisions. Can I purchase these materials before finalizing my Incentive Agreement?

Equipment purchased before the finalizing of the Capital Incentive Agreement will be deemed ineligible for Custom Program incentive funding.

I have applied for additional funding through a third-party organization, will this affect the Capital Incentive funding I receive?

Yes. The total amount of third party funding would be subtracted from the original incremental cost applied to the original calculated incentive amount. This updated incremental cost would then be applied and a new incentive amount would be calculated.

For example, if you have a project with a $77,000 incremental cost, that will produce 2,829 tC02e of lifetime GHG savings, your maximum eligible incentive will be $38,500 (50% of incremental cost). If you have received $10,000 from a third-party towards that same project, the Custom Program incentive would be recalculated to $33,500 ($77,000-10,000= $67,000 incremental cost).

What happens if my project requires an extension?

Projects will be expected to be completed within an 18-month timeframe. If an extension is required, the request must be made to your Key Account Manager. BC Hydro will assess the request and if approved will issue a one-time only extension of 6 months after the original expected project completion date as per the Incentive Agreement.

What is energy benchmarking, and why am I required to sign up for Portfolio Manager?

Building energy benchmarking is the ongoing review of your organization’s energy consumption to determine if your building’s energy performance is getting better or worse. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) supports building energy benchmarking through the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, a free online tool developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Participants in the Custom Program are required to have a Portfolio Manager account containing the building where the incented measures will be implemented. Participants will also be required to share access to their Portfolio Manager in ‘Read Only’ mode with BC Hydro and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources’ (EMPR) Program Administrator. This will enable program administrators to easily verify that your account has been properly set up before administering the incentive payment.

What if the consultant I want to work with is not a member of the BC Hydro Alliance of Energy Professionals?

If the consultant you have chosen to work with is not an approved member of BC Hydro’s Alliance of Energy Professionals, the consultant may contact BC Hydro for assistance with gaining membership. After review and consent from BC Hydro, the application may continue moving forward while membership application is being completed.

Energy Efficient Buildings

What is ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager?

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is a web-based benchmarking tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows you to benchmark the energy performance of your buildings. It has been adapted for use by Canadian users and includes, Canadian weather data, postal codes, metric units and other data specific to Canada. It is a valuable management tool that is used to compare, measure and track energy use over time, and calculate valuable metrics that can help identify under-performing buildings and set investment priorities.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager has been widely adopted across Canada because the tool:

  • Is free to use
  • Stores data securely
  • Is accessible from any web browser
  • Has free training and online support
  • Promotes recognition through ENERGY STAR certification
  • Compares your ENERGY STAR score to national sample of similar buildings
  • Can benchmark energy, water, and waste & materials use
  • Offers data exchange services through utilities (BC Hydro and FortisBC)

Understand the ENERGY STAR score: The 1-100 ENERGY STAR score is an easy way to compare your building’s energy performance to similar buildings across Canada. A score of 75 means your building performs better than 75% of buildings, while a score of 50 represents median energy performance. This is based solely on energy performance, not water and waste & materials. Benchmarking is a best practice for all buildings, but not all building types are eligible for an ENERGY STAR score at this time. See the Natural Resources Canada website for a list of eligible buildings types.

Data Exchange Services: Benchmarking your building is made easy with the data exchange services integrated with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. This web service is a way for utilities to interact directly with Portfolio Manager’s database, eliminating the need to manually enter consumption data into the application. In BC you can connect buildings in your portfolio to both BC Hydro and FortisBC (natural gas) to have your utility data automatically uploaded. See the following pages for more information on connecting to your utilities in Portfolio Manager.

For more Information on ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, visit the ENERGY STAR website.

What is a Utility Account Manager and how do I find mine?

A utility account manager (FortisBC) or key account manager (BC Hydro) assists commercial and business customers with their energy needs. They are able to answer any questions about utility services, rates, energy efficiency, and incentive programs.

Many of the commercial incentive programs require contacting your utility account manager or key account manager to get started.

For FortisBC commercial customers, visit their website where you can find your key account manager according to your industry.

For BC Hydro business customers, find your key account manager by calling BC Hydro business Account Services at 1-866-266-6366.

How do I apply for ENERGY STAR® certification?

Certain building types can achieve ENERGY STAR® certification. ENERGY STAR certified commercial and institutional buildings have a high level of energy performance and meet strict standards set by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). To qualify, you must do the following:

  1. Benchmark your data – Use the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to benchmark your building with at least 12 consecutive months of metered energy data.
  2. Run a data quality check – Make sure your data is accurate by running a data quality check in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.
  3. Score higher than 75 – Your building needs to earn a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score of at least 75 and meet certain other criteria.
  4. Verify your application – Have a licensed professional confirm that the information provided in the application is accurate before it is submitted to NRCan.

For more information, visit NRCan’s guide on applying for ENERGY STAR certification in Canada.

What is energy benchmarking?

In order to manage your energy consumption, you must first understand it. Energy benchmarking is the ongoing review of your building’s energy consumption, which provides the data to encourage building operators to strive for continuous improvement and reductions in the use of energy. By engaging in ongoing energy benchmarking, you can:

  • Identify poorly performing buildings
  • Establish a baseline for measuring improvement in energy consumption
  • Enhance and create competition through comparison with similar buildings
  • Earn a rating or gain recognition for having a high-performance building
  • Make a business case for efficiency investments
  • Track how current projects are expected to save energy, money, etc.
  • See how a certain building compares to a portfolio or peer group.
  • Assess a building’s performance before you buy/lease it
  • Present building performance to a potential buyer or lender
  • Set targets for improved performance
  • Facilitate assessment of property value and marketing rental properties

The ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager tool helps you measure and track the energy and water use of your buildings, all in a secure online environment. You can use the results to compare your building with other similar Canadian buildings, identify under-performing buildings, set investment priorities, verify efficiency improvements, and receive recognition for being a high-performance building. Visit ENERGY STAR® to get started with energy benchmarking.

Check out our ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager FAQ for more information.

Learn more with the Natural Resources Canada Energy Benchmarking Primer.

What are the benefits of energy efficient buildings?

Canada’s commercial building sector is a significant energy user and producer of carbon emissions. It includes a range of building types, including offices, hospitals, schools, and more. Buildings retrofitted to higher energy-efficiency standards provide multiple benefits to those who own and occupy them, including:

  • Long-term energy and cost savings: an energy efficient building will have the advantage of lower energy, water, and maintenance costs.
  • Lower emissions and overall environmental impact: energy efficient buildings have lower greenhouse gas emissions due to their reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Buildings that use primarily clean energy such as hydroelectricity have the lowest emissions.
  • Better thermal comfort: well-designed mechanical systems and building components work together to manage comfortable indoor temperatures.
  • Improved comfort and health: continuous ventilation and fresh air throughout the building can lead to better well-being with occupants and as a result, a more productive workforce.
  • Higher Value: businesses and consumers see the value in energy efficient buildings, and as a result there is a premium associated with buying or leasing space in well-built, energy efficient buildings.

Check out our resources for commercial buildings for more information.

See FortisBC’s Energy-Saving Tips for Business.

Resources

Resources for Commercial Buildings

Find selected resources for benchmarking, case studies, and best practices below. These resources are intended mostly for building managers and other decision-making stakeholders to aid in the development of business cases and first steps towards renovations.

 

General Resources – Commercial Renovations and New Commercial Construction

 

General Resources – New Commercial Construction

  • Energy Efficiency in New Buildings – A collection of resources and best practices from Natural Resources Canada for maximizing energy efficiency, including guidance on Benchmarking.

 

Reports – Commercial Renovations and New Commercial Construction

 

Reports – New Commercial Construction

 

Case Studies & Reviews

General Incentives and Upgrades

What incentives are available?

There are many incentive programs available for improving the energy efficiency of commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential buildings in BC, and each program is different. Visit our incentive search tool to find the right program(s) for you.

Take the time to read thoroughly about the incentives you’re interested in. Find out which incentives you are eligible for based on:

  • The building’s location
  • Your utility provider
  • Your fuel consumption rate
  • Whether you need an Energy Assessment or Benchmarking Study before starting
  • What kinds of documentation are needed
  • What the incentive deadlines are

If you have any questions, you can also contact us.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Get solutions for common problems & learn about energy efficient upgrades.