Beyond Carbon, Beyond Today

Some of my family members become apoplectic at the mention of the carbon cap-and-trade fee. It didn’t help that oil companies staged a wild jump in gasoline prices of about 10¢ to 12¢ per litre to coincide with the introduction of cap-and-trade on January 1. You know we’re being bamboozled when I could find gas at 8¢/litre less than the going rate only a couple of days later. But other than raging into the dark, where do we go from here?

My guess is that as reality sinks in, households and businesses will begin to think hard about alternatives. Here are some thoughts:

If you’re thinking of moving to Innisfil, as many have already, forget about commuting, at least to the GTA. Look for new local/regional employment instead or, if you have an office job, have a serious talk with your employer about telecommuting for at least part of the week. (I know people who have successfully made the transition.) Spending a soul-destroying 2 to 3 hours on the road daily is not worth the seasonal hazards and fatigue. The financial burden will negate any gains you think you made. Offer to trade commuting hours for greater productivity and more flexible hours. 

Secondly, rethink the gas-guzzling vehicle you may be in today. Is there an option for a more fuel-efficient vehicle? Can you negotiate flexible work hours that match available transit? Are you fed up with your employment situation anyway and ready to strike out in your own business? We definitely need some ambitious entrepreneurs in Innisfil.

My home makes full use of natural gas for heating, cooking etc. Before cap and trade, natural gas prices have been declining. It occurred to me that the effect of creeping global warming and the few energy efficiency steps I’ve taken should be visible in lower natural gas consumption and expenses over the last few years. Fortunately I’ve kept pretty extensive notes on my gas consumption and expenses. Arbitrarily comparing 10 years ago with last year’s winter gas bill, my natural gas consumption is 25% lower. Using a 3-year moving average to account for fluctuations in weather conditions, my average annual consumption is still 12%+ lower.

The interesting thing is that an energy audit was performed on this household last fall under the auspices of an energy conservation program. The ‘score’ was a middle ranking – not particularly air-tight but not an emergency case either. I didn’t qualify for any free upgrades but I learned that a few tubes of caulking could eliminate the equivalent of about a square foot of air leaks around the building. What if some of that carbon money was available to bring the energy efficiency of this aging house closer to current standards? I’m pretty sure natural gas consumption could drop by at least half.

If your lower household income qualifies you for the Ontario Electricity Support Program which takes $30 or more off your monthly electric bill, I wondered if it would be worthwhile to trade off use of an electric space heater for less frequent use of a furnace? Could you cut gas consumption and still come out with a net benefit on your electric bill? Maybe somebody could figure that out.

Cap and trade should be another major incentive to develop a local commercial and shopping district in Alcona to reduce unnecessary travel to neighbouring municipalities. The potential for local shopping here has been estimated in the millions of dollars if investors would recognize the opportunity.

Finally, for those in the right situation, geographically and financially, ‘net metering’ of electricity seems to be an ideal option:

“Electricity consumers in Ontario who produce some of their own power from a renewable resource may take advantage of the “net metering” initiative. Net metering allows you to send excess electricity you generate from renewable resources to the distribution system for a credit toward your energy costs. In essence, it’s a “trade” of electricity you supply against electricity you consume… If you supply more power than what you take from the grid over the billing cycle, you’ll receive a credit toward future energy bills.   The credit can be carried forward for up to 12 months.” (source – Ontario Energy Board)

  • You must generate electricity primarily for your own use;
  • The electricity must be generated solely from a renewable resource (wind, water, solar energy or biomass); and
  • The maximum capacity of the generation facility can’t be more than 500 kilowatts.

I’d like to get that electric meter spinning backwards lickety-split! In the meantime, I have a DIY energy project planned for this year. What are your plans for a lower-carbon future?

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7 thoughts on “Beyond Carbon, Beyond Today

  1. Technologies such as heat pumps have made some giant leaps in recent years. Many no longer require expensive underground geothermal piping. These heat pumps draw upon outside air and work up to -25 C. On both the Northeast and Northwest coasts of the U.S. there are subsidies for installing these systems. Up to about -7C these systems produce heat at a competitive price with natural gas. Below -7C they cost more to operate. I’ve written to both the Provincial government and have spoken with InnPower to see if any programs exist. In our region there are no programs. I feel that anyone who can prove that they use electric baseboard heaters as a main source of heating, should get a significant carbon credit. In Ontario, the electricity that powers the electric baseboard heaters has almost no carbon emissions. Electric baseboard heaters are 100% efficient. The electricity for electric heat pumps is also almost carbon emissions free. Programs that would encourage people to convert to either of these systems would encourage the use of very clean, carbon free electric power and wean us off our carbon dependency.

    • Thank you for your input. I’m not very familiar with heat pumps. It would be interesting to hear from people who are using the most current technology. Electric baseboard heaters are very expensive to operate. I have been investigating Electric Thermal Storage heaters (ETS) as an alternative. I agree we need to know more about how Ontario’s carbon funds are going to be used for our benefit.

  2. Why would an investor consider Alcona, when the majority of the residents will not have extra funds to spend, once that they have paid the “inflated” property taxes, all of the utility charges, their personal living expenses (car insurance and operating costs etc.), and other incidental expenses. I don’t know how anyone can afford to smoke anymore, let alone enjoy the occasional beer.
    Invest within Innisfil … a precarious thought

    • How is it then that these residents have enough money to drive back and forth to Newmarket or Barrie for shopping? Wouldn’t it be more economical to shop locally and spread the ‘wealth’ among their community members at the same time? Supporting local businesses also supports the local tax base that provides municipal services we all rely on.

      • I too, believe in supporting local business. This has been an issue as long as I can remember within Innisfil, and I have been here for over sixty years. I am of the opinion that most of the shopping is done on the way home from work. As well, Barrie and Newmarket have a larger concentration of shopping, cutting down on the running around for different stops.
        I understand that the overall cost of living is lower in Barrie and/ Newmarket, than it is within Innisfil.
        How does supporting local businesses support the local tax base? Income taxes to Revenue Canada, and onto to the Provincial and Federal coffers. How much, if any, is being returned to Innisfil?
        I do not understand your statement.

      • The largest share of commuting in Innisfil is now to and from Barrie. The “larger concentration” of shopping there is due to the lack of options locally. Having more shops and more local shopping opportunities increases the commercial tax base for Innisfil reducing the relative tax burden on residents. Shopping here increases job opportunities and incomes in Innisfil – money that can also be spent here creating a “multiplier” effect. You ‘believe’ in local business but argue for the status quo.

      • To continue this debate: My “belief” is: an Innisfil Township that does not over burden the residents with outrageous costs of living. As the housing market has ballooned, so have the property taxes, and all of the mandatory costs associated with home ownership. I do support local enterprise, as long as they maintain a competitive approach, allowing the local residents to purchase in their area.
        We need industry to assist with the tax base. However, our “current” Council believes that they should borrow the infrastructure funds necessary, which, of course, would be funded by the local residents, and play to the major developers who own the industrial lands. If the developers were not just profit motivated, and Innisfil had something valid to entice their business interests, just maybe there would be an employment opportunity for many local residents to keep their spending within the community.
        Of course, we have to realize that there is no guarantee of major tenancy, even after the industrial lands are available.

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