Every Day is Earth Day (in a Passive Net Zero House)

Happy Earth Day!

Happy. Maybe we should change that adjective for this years Earth Day. I mean, we do need to celebrate the Earth, our only home and planet but I wouldn’t necessarily call this Earth Day “happy”. With news headlines this year reading “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN” and a change in governance in our Province to one that just doesn’t have a “good” climate plan, happy is not an appropriate word to use. In fact, Jason Kenny has promised to shut down Energy Efficiency Alberta and it’s related programs, part of which Sol Invictus Energy Services has been a part of. With Alberta homes generating some of the highest energy intensities per living space in Canada; a slash in programming related to reducing energy & emissions isn’t doing any favours for our province, or homeowners in meeting climate goals or reducing heating & energy costs.

20190419073013.jpg

We specialize in Net Zero housing. What that means is we help homeowners, builders & other construction pro’s design and build a house that generates as much energy as it consumes on site. However, part of this is ensuring the home is constructed as efficiently as possible first, and then adding solar energy to help offset the consumption for heat and power. Currently in Alberta, the electricity fuel mix is supplied with 45% coal, and 45% natural gas (the rest is a mixture of solar, wind, biofuel etc).

IMG_20190414_164311.jpg

This means that although a net zero home is offsetting its emissions, it is still producing emissions. This is a misconception I’ve seen multiple times. Net Zero does not mean Net Carbon (yet). Energy is still required from the grid at night and during the wintertime and that energy will be supplied by a mix of coal & natural gas. Yes, clean energy is being over-produced in the summertime and sold back to the grid, and that’s great. But, producing clean solar energy doesn’t just eliminate the emissions produced in the wintertime to heat and power the Net Zero Home. However, approximately 40-50% of the emissions can be saved by a Net Zero house, and that’s still a great achievement.

Alberta is supposed to be transitioning to a cleaner, more renewable energy grid by 2030 by taking coal generated electricity off-line through phase out. It’s hard to say what Kenny plans to do and there have not been any real definitive positions in the media regarding this topic from the UPC perspective. However, if we stay on track toward cleaner, lower greenhouse gas emitting electricity sources, then Net Zero homes will move closer toward being Net Carbon as well. However, in Alberta, electricity generated from natural gas will always produce emissions and being totally Net Carbon won’t ever be reality.

So what are the options for someone who wants to live in a Net Zero home for environmental reasons? Choosing energy retailers that support green energy is a great step. Everyone can get behind green energy retailers, regardless of if they live in a Net Zero home or not.

Luckily for us at the #Thomashouseproject, we’ve been able to support a local energy retailer who not only provides electricity generated from renewable energy, but truly supports small solar producers like us. Spot Power provides us with maximum solar generation credits in our solar producing months. This means that we’re able to export our solar at 18.75 cents/kWh when we over-generate in the summer, and then we can switch back to regular rates in the winter-time months when we can’t produce as much electricity. I’ve estimated we’d save hundreds of dollars by using this program. And solar producers automatically get 30% of their energy required for consumption from green energy at no additional cost ! Usually you have to choose to opt-in to green energy, and if you are not a solar generator, you still can (adding 1.66 cents/kWh).

So, on this Earth Day, I’d like to replace “happy” with “cautiously optimistic" but that doesn’t really sound great when exclaiming out loud. Meh, let’s try it.

Cautiously Optimistic Earth Day, everyone!