Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ontario Government to Phase out Natural Gas for Heating (!!!)

These pics have little to do with my article.  Here's our electrical meter arrangement.
Some of the welded aluminum ducting we are installing.  Smooth interior bore, totally leak free.   Bit of work, but I'm doing all the welding myself, so ...busy.  One of the pics is of stainless material (209 stainless, 3.5" tube, 0.080" wall, polished inside and out, $30/10' tube).  Much more work to weld due to the purging process.  The aluminum is better, but the stainless was got at such a great price - cheaper than the aluminum.  I should have gotten more.

Yesterday the Globe issued an article that the Ontario Government is legislating the phase-out of natural gas or any fossil fuel heating for houses.  They plan to spend 7B on reducing the carbon footprint of Ontario, and the revenues will come from the new carbon cap and trade scheme.
Here's the link:

This is incredible news for a province and country rich in oil and natural gas, with economies dominated by the resource sector, and millions of homes heated with natural gas, and the incredible clout Enbridge and Trans Canada seems have had in recent years with both the Canadian Government and the US government.

I received this news from my clients on the SmartHome project.   As I began sending it out, my own disbelief was mirrored by that of others - and Blue Green Group said 'Its like a dream come true!'  and also 'Is it too good to be true?'.  and 'Lets hope the legislation comes through intact.'
These are comments indicating we are hoping for, and wishing for a transformation that, we've practically given up on based on the lack of changes in legislation over the past decades.  
I noticed my attitude changing right away - First, I was ashamed at my own lack of action on this front - how it was not me influencing legislation, it was not me believing in the people of Canada, and it was not me acting to create this big change.  All I've done is work on my own house, and I've shared some of the things I've learned along the way - but my hopes of achieving a change like this were indeed left in the dust of just trying to manage a house build, a family, and a new business.
But after that, I began to realize I no longer wanted to specify gas boilers for my clients (while some of the houses I work on are electricity only, I still do mechanical designs for clients involving gas boilers).   Two projects on the go right now could potentially be changed, and my discouragement of natural gas will be stronger in all new projects.
And then, I've been looking for a utility vehicle recently - and I began to think hey - I should really be focused on getting an electric truck (they don't really exist right now on the market - but making one seems plausible) - or something really fuel efficient. - while efficiency was on my list of requirements, I wasn't intending to use the vehicle frequently, so versatility and utility were more important.    And then those solar panels I've been thinking about for my domestic hot water - I should take some action on those.
All this stuff. - One action by the government, and my own attitudes have been affected so much -.  Suddenly the idea of living in a carbon-accounting economy appears very real, and the fact that money will be attached to the amount of carbon we produce, seems natural, obvious, and necessary.  Its corny, but I feel like saying 'Canada is Back!'

One of the strategies clearly noted in the policy outline is the intention to condition homes (not sure about other buildings) using no fossil fuels.  This means electricity and heat pumps, both air source and geothermal are to take a big role.  But there is confusion about electric heating, of course.

My Mom asked the following:
I always thought that electricity created a larger footprint on the environment because of the steps needed to generate it?
My response:
There is a big misconception about electricity - it is based on the costs of using it directly for our biggest load - heating - which is generally not good.  However, employing (groundsource) heat pumps, we are able to get about 3.5 times the mileage from every watt, so then it is getting much much better - however, even then it is still more expensive than today's natural gas - and cheaper than propane, only by about 10% (compared with air-source heat pumps)

Electricity generation happens in all sort of ways -and with the solar boom, wind boom, significant nuclear advances on the horizon, and many governments phasing out coal, generation is getting cleaner and cleaner - Of course, in Quebec, a ton of home are heated with straight hydro electricity).  One big thing to watch for is the cost of distribution - losses due to distribution can amount to about 60% of what is produced - so local production is of great importance - but inefficiencies don't always matter if ultimately the practice is in general sustainable.  The main thing is that with electricity, there is every chance of getting off of fossil fuels, and much of our generation portfolio already emits no greenhouse gas.  Continued use of gas simply means NOT getting off of fossil fuels, so legislating away from gas is awesome.