How climate change helped greener energy companies take off in Canada

Many Canadian businesses have been hit hard in recent years by everything from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine and climate change.

But for some, climate change has been a boon, in part due to government grants set to boost energy efficiency as Canada aims for net zero emissions by 2050.

It’s all part of a global shift towards greener energy options. Solar power now provides the majority of jobs in the renewable energy world – 4.3 million jobs by the end of 2021 – according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in collaboration with the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO).

There were 700,000 new renewable energy jobs created worldwide last year, bringing the total jobs in this sector to nearly 13 million, according to the IRENA report.

And the rush to find greener ways to beat heatwaves and cold snaps resulting from extreme weather caused by climate change is driving unprecedented demand for solar and electric options, according to those who sell and install solar panels, systems heating and cooling and fuel efficient upgrades such as heat pumps.

The federal government has announced details of a new grant to help lower- and middle-income Canadian families switch from oil to heat pumps, electrical devices that can be used to both heat and cool homes. (Yvette Brand/CBC)

Consumers opt for heat pumps

A heat pump is an electrical device that uses many of the same components as a refrigerator or air conditioner, such as a compressor, condenser, expansion valve or evaporator, and can be used for both heating and cooling. a house.

On Monday, Canada announced details of the Oil to Heat Pump Affordability (OHPA) grant, designed to help lower- and middle-income households switch from oil to heat pumps.

The grant will offer up to $5,000, depending on family income, to help cover costs, including the purchase and installation of heat pumps and the safe removal of oil tanks.

But even before that announcement, heat pump installers say business was already booming.

Toronto-based Ricardo Ramberansingh operates, and the Boiler Shoppe.

He says he’s selling hundreds of heat pumps in Ontario as customers are “ripping out gas furnaces” over concerns about climate change, fuel costs and the environment.

WATCH | New Grant Helps Homeowners Switch From Oil to Heat Pumps:

Ottawa Announces $250 Million Grant to Help Homeowners Switch to Heat Pumps

The federal government has announced a new $250 million Oil to Heat Pump Affordability Grant to help low- and middle-income Canadian families transition from oil to heat pumps.

Business, says Ramberansingh, has been spectacular.

“We actually made a conscious decision to go down this path. We were consciously aware of the effects of climate change and are doing everything we can.”

For competition reasons, Ramberansingh won’t say exactly how many heat pumps it has installed, but says sales have increased by 300% in recent years.

“I think the world has seen the dramatic effects of climate change. It’s a reality we are living with.”

A sea of ​​solar panels stretches towards the horizon, with some workers in safety vests seen.
Workers install array of 1,000 solar panels on the roof of Snowcap Enterprises in Burnaby, BC (Curt Petrovich/CBC)

Switch to solar

Kaleb Rodgers of Rikur Energy Inc. in Burnaby, BC says solar energy sales have really soared since the pandemic. The company went from installing about 30 systems a year to about 75.

Each system costs between $15,000 and $30,000, but Rodgers says the Canada Greener Homes initiative, which launched in May 2021, helps people offset the “heavy price up front.”

Rodgers notes that many people are very proud of their systems and says customers have told him they feel they are contributing not only to the environment but to the population at large because solar power means they “feed clean energy back to our hydroelectric grid.” .

BC Hydro allows customers to use any excess energy their solar systems produce to offset future energy bills, so that’s also an incentive.

To help Canada reach its goal of zero emissions by 2050, federal and provincial grants, including Greener Homes and OHPA grants and rebates offered by BC Hydro, are available to help people renovate their homes.

Brad Gordon, left, owner of Rikur Energy, talks with Rodgers about their stock for installing solar panels. Rodgers says many customers feel they make a difference with solar energy as it allows them to feed clean energy back into the water supply. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Greener Homes grants stimulate interest

Natural Resources Canada’s Greener Homes initiative offers grants of up to $5,000 and interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for energy-conscious home retrofits.

According to the government, the program received more than 196,000 grant applications in September, with more than 38,000 applications received in the first week the program launched in 2021. The program has provided $69 million in grants to nearly 19,000 homeowners. houses

As of Nov. 14, the program had issued 3,202 grants for solar panels, 8,572 grants for heat pumps, and 11,123 grants for window and door upgrades.

The program helped initiate the changes, according to Chris Palliser, a spokesperson for Shift Energy Group in BC

He says Canada is about five years behind the United States when it comes to adopting solar energy, but says the country is following the same path towards energy efficiency.

“The United States is kind of our crystal ball, if you will. Now, in California, every new building has to have solar,” Palliser said.

Shift Energy began designing and building solar energy storage systems in western Canada but is now expanding to the east coast.

Palliser says the cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the past decade and that it is now cheaper to produce power using solar panels than to pay the cost of hydroelectricity. How much cheaper depends on the province.

He says the falling price of solar panels isn’t the only reason business is booming.

“Climate change is playing a huge role,” Palliser said. “It’s the heat domes, the atmospheric rivers that are happening in our faces. I think people take notice and think something needs to be done.”

WATCH | Workers install solar panels on the roof:

Solar panel installers at work on the roof of Snow Cap Enterprises in Burnaby, BC

When complete, the array is expected to generate half a gigawatt of electricity annually and offset the company’s $19,000 monthly water bill by a third.

He said high energy costs and climate change have come together for a variety of groups, including frugal investors, climate activists, energy independence seekers and tech trendsetters.

Since 2020, Palliser says Shift Energy’s solar system installation rate has increased sixfold, and they’ve hired 35 new employees in the past six months.

“The question is there. Everyone is looking to solar,” he said.

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