een wereldwijd elektriciteitsnet een oplossing voor veel problemen  GENI es una institución de investigación y educación-enfocada en la interconexión de rejillas de electricidad entre naciones.  ??????. ????????????????????????????????????  nous proposons la construction d’un réseau électrique reliant pays et continents basé sur les ressources renouvelables  Unser Planet ist mit einem enormen Potential an erneuerbaren Energiequellen - Da es heutzutage m` glich ist, Strom wirtschaftlich , können diese regenerativen Energiequellen einige der konventionellen betriebenen Kraftwerke ersetzen.  한국어/Korean  utilizando transmissores de alta potência em áreas remotas, e mudar a força via linha de transmissões de alta-voltagem, podemos alcançar 7000 quilómetros, conectando nações e continentes    
What's Geni? Endorsements Global Issues Library Policy Projects Support GENI
Add news to your site >>

About Us

Renewable energy: good for the world, better for the bottom line

Monday, October 2, 2000
By Dwane Wilkin

Christian Vachon dropped all the green slogans from his spiel two years ago, when it finally dawned on him that people who buy clean energy really don’t care about the environment.

“The bottom line is money,” says Vachon, an engineer whose Canadian company, Enerconcept Inc., sells and installs renewable solar and wind power systems in southeastern Quebec. “That’s the kind of world we live in.”

Pious-sounding homeowners who take the time to indulge a twinge of guilt about global warming still call on Vachon sometimes. He used to spend hours with them, reciting the virtues of renewable energy, only to watch their gusto wilt with the price tag.

These days, Vachon hands customers a brochure and sends them on their way. “When we talk business, we never talk about the environment,” he says.

The search for clean alternatives to fossil fuels has held Canada’s public imagination for more than three decades, yielding some remarkable technologies since the early days of the ecology movement. But they haven't produced much in the way of sales.

So the pitchmen and the pioneers of the clean energy trade have shaken themselves from the dream of greening the planet with good intentions.

Forget about pollution and climate change; the masses aren’t interested. To make it in the renewables business you’ve got to sell your solar to Big Business.

And industry is slowly warming up to renewable energy, — not because it’s good for the environment, but because it’s good for the bottom line.

“Energy efficiency and environmental management systems in general are increasingly being taken as a measure of good management in financial markets,” says Rebecca Last of the Canadian Environmental Industry Association.

Last points to an index of publicly traded companies kept by the U.S. bond-rating agency Standard and Poors. The list is called the sustainability index.

“That list of companies has significantly outperformed counterparts who didn’t make the sustainability index,” she says. “So there really is recognition in financial markets for companies who perform well on the environmental front.”

Four years ago, the Canadian multinational company Bombardier installed the world’s largest industrial solar air heating system at its Canadair plant in St. Laurent, Quebec, using a technology called Solarwall made by Conserval Engineering Ltd. of Downsview, Ontario.

The US$1.65 million price tag for the solar panel retrofit at Canadair was US$171,000 higher than the conventional alternative, but annual fuel savings of US$90,000 resulted in a simple payback period of 1.7 years.

Automakers Ford Canada and GM Canada have also installed solar air heating systems as have smaller companies such as rugmaker Beaulieu Canada in Farnham, Quebec.

Some farmers have begun using the technology to dry their crops. Enerconcept’s Vachon, who is flogging the Solarwall systems to industrial clients in the Sherbrooke region, says, “The biggest barrier’s ignorance. It’s rarely technical.”

Architects and engineers, conditioned by the prevailing conservatism of the building industry, have been slow to appreciate renewable energy technologies, he says. “But now I think we’re staring to reach a critical mass.”

Sixteen companies are using the solar wall technology along a 150-kilometer corridor between Montreal and Sherbrooke, said to be the densest region of industrial solar panel installations in the country.

According to government figures, the renewable energy industry produced about US$600 billion worth of goods and services last year, mostly in sales of hydro-electric power, which may not fit every environmentalist’s definition of a renewable resource.

Still, with more than 200 companies nationwide and a workforce estimated at 4,000, members of Canada’s renewable and alternative energy sector say clean power is an economic dynamo just waiting for someone to throw the switch. The difficulty is politics.

“It’s now an accepted concept in environmental areas, but it is not yet an accepted concept in the energy department, that if you use filthy energy that pollutes the world, you should pay more than me,” says Bill Eggertson, president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association.

Eggertson and others from the renewable energy industry complain that competing with conventional energy is made more difficult because of Canada’s tax regime, which he says favors fossil fuel exploration, big hydro development and nuclear energy for political reasons.

He’d like to see a special carbon tax or some other fiscal measure that would help “level the playing field,” but acknowledges that there’s a very strong counterlobby to it — oil-rich Alberta.

Not to mention leagues of angry truck drivers and ordinary citizens who are already clamoring for cheaper fuel as Canadians head into another winter of rising oil prices.

So, businesses are expected to take the lead toward low-emission, efficient energy systems.

Compared with conventional fossil fuels and hydro-electric power, alternative energy systems can be very expensive to install, and the payback in future savings comes much sooner to large-scale consumers than to private homeowners.

“As a country we’re blessed with low energy costs,” says Deirdre Heatherington, an energy analyst with Natural Resources Canada. “So the average consumer doesn’t have the monetary incentive to switch.”

A case in point is solar water heaters. Few homeowners are willing to shell out thousands of dollars upfront for a water heater that could save them US$240 a year in electric bills at current energy prices.

When it comes to solar generating capacity, the difference in cost is even more dramatic. It is estimated that a kilowatt of electric-generating capacity using solar electric panels, called photovoltaic or PV energy, currently costs about US$7. A kilowatt of hydro-electric generating capacity, by comparison, costs about US$1.

PV sales, though growing, are limited to niche markets, at least for now. Nonetheless, the solar electric industry shows a growth rate of 30 percent for the past six years, primarily in off-grid gas, telecommunications and remote residential markets.

A society blessed with cheap energy can be a curse, especially if you happen to be peddling a pricey substitute without comparable brand recognition or distribution channels.

“Most Canadians don’t understand an energy source that doesn’t have a flame attached to it,” Eggertson says.

No wonder the greatest share of energy consumed in Canada — 88 per cent of it — still comes from burning non-renewable oil and natural gas. While hydro-dams churn out nearly two-thirds of all electricity in the country, the second most important source of electric power in Canada is carbon-based fuel.

Coal-fired plants provide the lion’s share of electricty in Alberta and Saskatchewan and not insignificant amounts in Ontario and the Maritime provinces.

Alternative energy sources other than hydro, on the other hand, account for just 2 percent of all electric power generation in the country.

Analysts say one large factor that continues to hobble the development of the renewable energy industry is its fragmentation. A slew of competing and often complementary technologies exist, but none enjoy a very high profile in the marketplace.

According to the Earth Energy Society of Canada, for instance, there are 30,000 ground-source heat pumps in operation across the country, one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of year-round heat, hot water and air conditioning available. But installation costs hover between $10,000 and $15,000 for an average home, “which is a sticker shock that blows most Canadians away,” admits Eggerston.

Still, Eggertson believes the renewable energy sector is primed for growth, especially in light of rising conventional fuel prices and the fact that Canada is running out of time to meet her own modest goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “This is the best time of our life,” he says.


Updated: 2016/06/30

If you speak another language fluently and you liked this page, make a contribution by translating it! For additional translations check out (Voor vertaling van Engels tot Nederlands) (For oversettelse fra Engelsk til Norsk)
(Для дополнительных переводов проверяют )