Take re­new­able en­ergy off the back burner

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

WE all want to re­duce our en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print and be more re­spon­si­ble about what we buy, how we build and how we live. I make it a point to spec in sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als in all the houses I de­sign and build, and when­ever pos­si­ble make the bet­ter, greener choice.

I was dis­ap­pointed when the fed­eral ecoENERGY Retro­fit pro­gram was can­celled. Now, I’m just a con­trac­tor, not a politician, but it seems that was a govern­ment pro­gram that worked. It mo­ti­vated home­own­ers to make bet­ter choices. Peo­ple were re­warded for putting in bet­ter win­dows or en­ergy-sav­ing ap­pli­ances, or choos­ing to spend their ren­o­va­tion dol­lars on a su­pe­rior en­ve­lope that would im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. It helped the en­vi­ron­ment. We were do­ing the right thing.

In my opin­ion, if the fed­eral bud­get was fully al­lo­cated that’s be­cause the pro­gram was a suc­cess and it should be con­tin­ued and ex­panded. So then let’s di­rect more money to­ward it — fast.

Home im­prove­ments that in­crease en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and lower en­ergy costs should be en­cour­aged at all lev­els of govern­ment.

As far as I’m concerned, in­cen­tives to make the shift to re­new­able en­ergy sources are smart and long over­due.

One way to do that is to re­duce our de­pen­dence on en­ergy from non­re­new­able sources. By get­ting be­hind re­new­able en­ergy technology — and by sup­port­ing govern­ment ini­tia­tives that pro­mote re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion and mi­cro-gen­er­a­tion — we’ll re­duce our de­pen­dence on large-scale en­ergy sup­pli­ers and en­ergy sources that pro­duce a high level of GHGs.

What’s re­new­able en­ergy? En­ergy from sources such as so­lar, wind, wa­ter and biomass — sources that are free and widely avail­able. The most im­por­tant thing about re­new­able en­ergy is that it’s avail­able at a lo­cal level, un­like con­ven­tional fu­els that are gen­er­ated long dis­tances from where they’re ul­ti­mately used — in your home. Think of the thou­sands of kilo­me­tres of hy­dro lines stretch­ing across the land­scape — and of the power lost across that dis­tance as well as the cost of bring­ing it to your home.

If we can de­cen­tral­ize our de­pen­dence on big sup­pli­ers of en­ergy, we’ll be less vul­ner­a­ble. The big black­out of 2003 that im­pacted mil­lions of homes in North Amer­ica wouldn’t have been such a big deal if we weren’t all de­pen­dant on the grid.

If we start to cre­ate our own power through mi­cro gen­er­a­tion from re­new­able sources we’ll also re­duce green­house gas emis­sions (GHGS). The more peo­ple who are able to cre­ate en­ergy means there is more en­ergy avail­able for us all to use, and the cost comes down.

So­lar en­ergy is free and un­lim­ited. It can be har­nessed right on the site where you use it — the roof of your home. It’s con­verted and even stored on lo­ca­tion. The only draw­back is the

ini­tial cost of in­vest­ment.

These kinds of in­stal­la­tions can be ex­pen­sive, and they can take a long time to pay back, so with­out some kind of break, home­own­ers of­ten just can’t con­sider it, even if they re­ally be­lieve in re­new­able en­ergy. If there were a re­bate pro­gram that helps peo­ple re­duce the ini­tial cost of buy­ing and in­stalling a re­new­able en­ergy mi­cro­gen­er­a­tion sys­tem into homes, we would all ben­e­fit.

Wouldn’t you love to con­trol your source of en­ergy?

If you could re­duce your car­bon foot­print and the im­pact you are mak­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment by us­ing a dif­fer­ent en­ergy source, wouldn’t you do it?

What about if you could not only be less de­pen­dent on the en­ergy sup­plier, but could even sell ex­tra en­ergy back to the grid and earn a profit?

It’s a given we have no choice but to move away from our de­pen­dence on the fos­sil fu­els and con­ven­tional en­ergy sources that we’ve used for gen­er­a­tions. It’s in­evitable. We know it.

So, let’s act and not re­act. Let’s start mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion by mak­ing choices and by em­pow­er­ing peo­ple across the coun­try to do the right thing.

Nay­dene Lewis is a councillor in Oko­toks, Alta., who’s putting forth a mo­tion that makes a lot of sense. A lot of for­ward-think­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the coun­try — such as Oko­toks — have al­ready en­dorsed it.

She’d like to see more in­cen­tives that en­cour­age home­own­ers to go with re­new­able en­ergy in­stal­la­tions that tie into the grid and pro­vide small-scale power gen­er­a­tion.

This is the sort of grass­roots move­ment we should all get be­hind; in­di­vid­ual home­own­ers, lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties — that’s where change hap­pens. It’s not go­ing to come from big govern­ment (though that would be nice to see). Sus­tain­able-en­ergy projects and ini­tia­tives should be owned and de­vel­oped by the res­i­dents of a com­mu­nity where the project is lo­cated.

We all sup­port and un­der­stand the need to re­duce car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions. If we pro­mote en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, con­serve en­ergy use and in­vest in re­new­able en­ergy, we’ll go a long way to meet­ing our goals.

All of our gov­ern­ments should pro­vide in­cen­tives to en­cour­age peo­ple and busi­nesses to make the change to re­new­able en­ergy. We’ll all win.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

So­lar en­ergy is an in­creas­ingly cost­ef­fec­tive means to re­duce your de­mands

on the elec­tri­cal grid.

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