Sun literally shines on Brampton couple’s green energy decisions

January 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Brampton Guardian

BRAMPTON — A Brampton couple’s decision to embrace green energy has been a good one for both their conscience as well as their wallet.

Three years ago, Rodger, 63, and Dianna Knight, 56, opted to have a geothermal energy system installed in their 60-year-old home. Heartened by the experience, early this year, the couple went ahead and installed a photo-voltaic or solar system.

Their decision appears to be a prudent one considering the fact hydro consumers in Ontario are staring at a 33 per cent hike in their electricity bills over the next three years.

“Our thoughts when we decided on the geothermal system was that we will be doing our bit to get away from our dependency on fossil fuels,” said Rodger Knight, a retired math and phys-ed teacher. “Sustainable technology has become so reliable that if you have the money, it makes both environmental and financial sense to invest in them. Also, the return-on-investment is significant. We had money sitting in investments that were actually losing money. We took some of that and put together a package to pay for both our systems (geothermal and solar). So far, we have been thrilled.”

The geothermal system cost the Knights some $30,000 and they invested approximately the same amount for a 5.7 kW solar energy system. At 13 per cent a year rate-of-return, the heat from the earth—which takes care of the home’s heating and cooling needs — been a low-risk, high-yielding gambit. The 23-panel solar system, with an equally attractive 15 per cent return-on-investment has proven to be just as savvy.

Since installing the solar panels last spring, the couple continue to receive monthly cheques of $400 from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) for sending electricity back into the grid. As long as they continue to generate and sell approximately 800kWh of electricity each month, the homeowners are guaranteed payment for the next 20 years.

“Our decision to go in for the solar panel system (in addition to the geothermal system) was the marriage we were hoping we would go to eventually,” said Rodger Knight. “This is not so much about going off the grid as it’s about living in a new grid. Our grid at home is currently augmenting what’s already there. In just the first seven months, we have been able to pay-off all our yearly energy needs from the solar system. Everything we earned from there on has been gravy…”

Their commitment to the environment has been healthy for their savings too. Case in point: In October 2008 (before the geothermal system was installed), the Knights’ monthly gas bill from Enbridge was $189. This past October, they paid $27.

Parker Gallant, a retired bank executive and a former director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and a vocal critic of Liberal government’ MicroFIT and FIT programs believes encouraging Ontario consumers to embrace environmentally sustainable habits should not come at the expense of heavily subsidizing green energy.

“The government (Liberal) messed-up the pricing offered as part of the MicroFIT program in the first place,” Gallant said adding the revised rate for MicroFIT consumers which was rolled out in 2012 is not nearly as attractive as it once was. “We don’t know how much is embedded into the system. You cannot measure it, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) doesn’t tell you how many kilowatts (of energy) is generated by the solar panels that have popped-up all over the place. A lot of those people are paid 0.80 cents kilowatt-hour (kWh). Others are being paid 0.54 cents kWh. It’s ridiculous. It was a bad idea in the first place.”

Also, average homeowners cannot afford the exorbitant cost of installing a solar or geothermal system. The idea that throwing-up solar panels on the roof will reduce demand for electricity and keep prices down is foolhardy, he noted.

For Rodger and Dianna, reducing their home’s carbon footprint drastically and making money on their green energy has been a win-win.

“People are reticent to put out $25,000 for a system that’s not well-known,” Rodger Knight said. “I remember having to swallow a little bit when it came to investing in geothermal. We were little nervous, but I did my homework. It’s a strong investment. What’s more, installing sustainable energy systems has automatically increased the value of our home…”

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