Tag Archives: PEI

Time for a heat with wood strategy

PEI’s schools are very vulnerable to any increase in the price of oil. (Here is a link to the risk for schools) So of course is PEI itself.

How can we reduce this risk? How can be get ahead of the risk and create a whole new economy that regular Islanders can participate in?

Stop heating with oil!

One of the smartest things we did on PEI was to kick start wind energy by deliberately creating enough scale at the outset by the Provincial & Federal Governments taking their share of the power from wind. This guarantee of use, built the foundation.

We can do this with wood heat as well. All Public Buildings could shift from oil to wood.
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This chart shows PEI’s Energy use and costs in the ramp up in 2008. Nearly $200 million, A THIRD OF PEI’S INCOME TAX REVENUES – is spent on heating oil. While prices are lower today (71 cents vs 1.09) we can be sure that in the future even $1.09 will look like a bargain.

What if we started to use this same model with PEI’s Public Buildings? What if we converted from oil to Wood?

This is easier than you might think. Here is Dick Arsenault taking us around the test of a new Pellet/Chip furnace at the Ecole Evangeline in Western PEI.

You will see that such a furnace

  • Can be easily installed
  • Can be fed easily
  • Has NO emissions
  • Is easy to clean
  • Can save a school about $100,000 a year

There are 2 new schools that will be built in the next year. There is federal money.

If we went full tilt in the public sector and went wood (pellet and Chip) we would create the support systems and the local businesses that we could then lever to help with the rest of PEI’s oil heating.

Lots of real jobs that are not going to go away will be created.

If we can pull this off, we would have to do a lot of work on conservation as well that also leads to many new jobs, then $200,000,000 at least will stay in the hands of Islanders.

The biggest tax break ever.
Energytaxcostspei2008002

PEI will also be on track to start to reduce its dependency on oil and the outside.

Oh but Rob there is not enough wood for that!

Yes there is. Here is a snip from Roy MacMullin’s great piece on this question:

Looking at a wood alternative, we would have to cut 2.8 million cords of wood to replace this volume of oil. (For all of Atlantic Canada) To compare, the existing residential usage of hardwood in New Brunswick is roughly 500,000 cords each year.

Using wood as a solution requires an additional 332 thousand cords to be harvested annually to displace the New Brunswick fuel oil requirement. (Roy lives in NB) This shouldn’t be a problem with mills shutting down. Pellets and briquettes can use softwood that is compressed to provide the same heat density of hardwood, with less moisture content.

Wood heat could very quickly meet the requirements of a conversion program. The reduction of oil purchases of 943,000 barrels would retain $137 million a year in the New Brunswick economy as opposed to sending it offshore. Over the years, this would be the equivalent of investing over a billion dollars in the local economy.

If Efficiency NB extended their offer of $2,250 to oil heat customers converting to wood, it would go a long way toward alleviating the problems of oil prices. The cost of the providing stoves would be $135 million (60,000 x $2,250), probably spent over a number of years.

The use of EPA rated stoves ensures an efficiency of 70% and emissions that are less than 10% of previous generation stoves. In urban areas, the use of pellet or briquettes may have to be mandatory with round wood as a rural option.

We are at the beginning of an emergency, perhaps a low intensity war. This change from low cost energy to high cost energy will sap our resources, leave us poor and eventually cold. If we fail to adapt to the heating oil challenge as well as the other aspects of peak oil, we lose.

This is surely the easiest political choice before us? There is no downside.

The best guide to heating with Wood

I called my cousin Johnny who is one of the top chimney men on PEI and asked him if he knew of a really good place on the web where we could go to find information about heating with wood.

He said that THE site is called Woodheat.org

I have put the link on the blogroll along with other good resources

Geothermal – Resources on PEI

Just go this in from a reader, Gord Pierce, on Geothermal on PEI

We had also been looking at “adopting” an older farmhouse, until we realized that any mortgage payment during the years before we actually moved in would be matched (or surpassed) by the cost of “keeping the heat on” during the winter months. Empty houses also want to be warm.

There needs to be more discussion of the ground-based heat pumps that are now available. On the Island, where digging a well is a little easier (no granite to interfere with the digging), putting in either an closed-loop vertical system OR an open (2 well system) will provide unlimited heat in the 42 degree F range.

If a house has either water-based radiators, or a forced-air system, the cost of heating is reduced dramatically.

The only Island-based information site I’ve found so far (although there will be more) is from someone up in Fortune, PEI at http://www.promptplumbing.ca/heat.html

The price of heating oil is going to continue to rise (I’m betting my retirement on that one), so we need to look at alternatives now.

Prompt Plumbing is a leader in design and installation of geothermal heating systems on PEI. We began installing these systems in 1995 and since then our business and expertise in this area has grown extensively. We are an accredited IGSHPA installer and a distributor for the NORDIC® brand of heat pump.

If you are considering an alternative to traditional energy systems in your home or business consider geothermal heating. It is competitive to any heating system and will result in savings over other methods of heating and cooling your premises.

click on the image below
Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHPs) are electrically powered heating/cooling devices which transfer heat to and from the earth via a refrigeration process. Heat pumps have been in operation for over 50 years and operate on the same principle as a refrigerator or air conditioner. During winter operation heat energy is absorbed from the ground via underground tubing or by pumping well water to the heat pump. The heat pump mechanism concentrates this energy and delivers it to the home/business structure in the form of warm air or hotwater. During summer operation the process is reversed. Warm air is collected from the home/business structure and rejected to the cooler earth. On most models, domestic hot water is produced any time the heat pump operates. Geothermal heat pumps are available for both forced air and infloor heating systems in a variety of output capacities which can accommodate any building design. .

What can you expect from a geothermal heat pump?
SAVINGS:
Compared to electric heat, a GHP will save 66% or more on your heating costs.
COMFORT:
The GHP is completely automatic in operation providing heating, cooling and hot water with a centrally located heat/cool thermostat.
CLEANLINESS:
There is no combustion, therefore the system is exceptionally clean.
DURABILITY
GHPs have a good track record for long life and can be further protected by a 10 year extended warranty offered on the NORDIC ® brand of heat pump.
RELIABILITY:
A geothermal heat system is housed indoors and underground, protected from the harsh elements. With few moving parts the system is virtually maintenance free.
GREEN ENERGY:
Heating and cooling a structure with a renewable energy resource is one more step toward minimizing the environmental threats we face.

Wood and Solar Energy Resources that I know on PEI

So if you are interested in making improvements – who are you going to call?

The Office for Energy Efficiency is a great place to start – here is the number – 1-877-734-6336

Here are people that I have worked with – this is by no means an exhaustive list but they are folks that I know. If you have people that you think shoud be added – please ad them in the commenst – I will start a Wiki Directory soon.

So if you live on PEI and you want to get off oil – Who are you going to call?

For an overview and strategy

For Chimney work and Stove installation

For Solar Panel and Water Systems installation

  • Aqua Tech – Rick Long and James Howlett – Chtown 902 367 7511 or Montague 902 838 3625

For Wood Furnace Installation

Here is John Rousseau and the Redclay boys

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Here is Rick Long of Aqua Tech

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Here is James Howlett of Aqua Tech

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Here is Kevin Jeffrey

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Moving to PEI – What should I know about energy?

A reader sent me this email today. As his questions are so broad and useful I am posting them and offering up my reply.

“I stumbled across your Island Energy site and look forward to clicking through it in detail.  Like yourself, my wife and I are from away and have fallen in love with PEI.  We have been regular visitors for the past 19 years or so frequently staying with an old lobster fishing family  my wife met many years ago.  As my retirement from the Air Force nears we are seriously hoping we can relocate to PEI.  As you can imagine, I have a long list of things to research before making the leap and I thought you might be able to point me in the direction of some good resources regarding energy efficient construction.  I have no doubt we will be looking for an old island house to revive – possibly even the old family farm house of our friends who have moved into town (Kensington) as they get up in years.  As I was looking at the old house I was silently ticking off all the things we would need to do to make it work – what a list.  With energy costs in PEI as they are I know that has to be my primary focus before we start even thinking about fancy schmancy faucets and doorknobs.  Luckily my Montana born wife eschews fancy schmancy to some degree so I’m safe in that regard.

I look forward to hearing from you, at your convenience, and will start perusing through all the good stuff on your blog and associated sites.”
This is my reply:
Good luck in your search. The best person that I have spoken to about the subject is Stephen Howard. Here is a link

What I have also learned though is the key is conservation – insulation is the best way to start. Older homes will likely benefit a lot by this – you can expect to save about 40% by cutting out leakage. Over time you will find a lot of detail on the blog about what is best.

There are few to no builders though who know a lot yet here. I think that the best thing is to get a handle on the “flows” of energy. Such as:

  • Passive Solar - The position of the house re the sun – can you improve the solar loading etc – shade in summer – barrier on the north side – more glass on the south
  • Leaks – insulation – your best opportunity
  • Conservation – cut waste – no matter what new sources you install – there is no point unless you have idenitfied and cut back on waste
  • Location – are you miles from anywhere that will force you to drive all the time? As an immigrant, I too lived in the country for the first few years – it was a romantic choice. But I found that we were very isolated – country folk are very tight and it is likely that you will not break in. We later moved into town for several years which is still very small but a lot more open and much cheaper to live in as we did not have to drive anywhere. We now live about 8 mins out of town – the best of both worlds
  • Alternatives – Solar water heat and solar additional heat are good value and give an immediate return. High efficiency wood stoves are also great – but wood is a lot of work. Pellet stoves are coming along but you are vulnerable to loss of electrical power

The Squeeze – How Energy Costs are hurting us

In 2004, we spent about $312 million on energy on PEI. This included Gas ($150 million), Diesel ($69 Million) Heating Oil (87 Million) and Electricity ($6.6 Million). The Tax estimate for the province for the 2004 year was $524 million.

Energy costs were 60% of the Island Tax base.

In 2008 – We will spend about $570 million on Energy. 109% of the Tax base in 2004 and an 83% increase in total costs for us Islanders. This is now about 91% of the 2008 estimated tax base.

In effect we spend as much now on energy as on income taxes. The estimate of the total amount of Federal Funding for PEI for 2008 is $556 Million. So we pay more in energy than we get from the Feds!

At least with our taxes, most of the money spent remains on PEI. But with our spending on energy most of this money leaves the province. We are being impoverished by this process.

This is why our first step has to be to reduce our individual spending on energy.

Here is the current breakdown of what we have to deal with:

What the figures show me is that the easiest area to work on right now and the best area to reduce the pain in all our pocket books is heating. Heating of our homes and heating of all public buildings. Working here also gives those who are the most vulnerable the most immediate relief.

The average home on PEI uses 3,500 litres of heating oil a year. That is $3,815 a house at current prices.

With work we can hope to reduce this systemically and permantly by abut 40% – That’s $1,526 back in your pocket.

If we could save 40% on all heating oil (include Schools, Manors etc) that would bring $72,000,000 back into circulation and keep this money on PEI. For remember, all but a fraction of our dollars that we spend on heating oil leaves PEI.

In this context then, the money that you and I spend on insulation etc is not like buying a TV. It is like buying a tax free Bond. It is like you buying an RRSP – it pays you back tax free.As oil prices rise, so does your return.

Of course the opposite is true. If we do nothing, we will soon be paying more in energy costs than in taxes. This money will leave the Island and we will be soon unable to pay for what we need to live.

At first many will have to choose between eating, heating and working. Then we will have to cut all spending – our schools are very vulnerable, healthcare, roads – all will have to be cut back.

As I looked at the numbers for even 2008, it is clear to me that even if oil prices stay the same, that we are on the slippery slope. With the reality of Peak Oil – we have to act now.

Heating first for both homes and government itself. Then we have to look at our driving habits.

I will post shortly on how others are making large reductions here.

Then we have to look at alternative sources that we can control on PEI

Jobs and Taxes – How going Local will get you more Jobs and Less Taxes

So now we have elections on both sides of the border. All parties in both countries will be making promises about jobs, gas prices, taxes, security, families, health care and education.

In short the deal will be I will get you more for less.

I think you can get more for less but not in the conventional way. Let’s see how a more energy and food independent PEI or your place can deliver on the idea of “More for less”.

Taxes – One of the biggest taxes we all pay are our energy bills – our oil bills. More than $300 million leaves PEI in our payments to non Island providers. What stays here are the wages of a few tanker drivers and gas station workers. This “tax” affects the poor more than the rich and buys us NOTHING. It is just a drain.

As the price of oil rises, so will this tax. Look at the heating bill of the Eastern School Board – up a million dollars in the 2008 season. I wonder what the heating bill for the Hospitals and Manors are? The money we pay as individuals and as a province on oil takes away from every thing we do. It will reduce our ability to have an education and health system, it will reduce our ability to feed our families and it will reduce our ability to go to work.

So reducing every litre of oil we use as individuals or as a province, puts more money back into our pockets.

Jobs – We are in the last stages of a work design model of centralization and bigger and bigger. With the Maple Leaf crisis we have found that ONE plant in Canada that makes most of the processed meat. With the pet food crisis, we found that one plant makes all the pet food in North America! We have said good bye to our bottler – soon there will be only one bottling plant for Canada! Will there be a Canadian car making plant left soon? How long will we have 5 banks

PEI and other places that are on the edge lose out in two ways. First of all, we are not at the centre. None of these jobs will be coming here. They can’t. Secondly, these jobs are going to disappear anyway. So long as we operate in a global market, wages will have to settle to meet the reality of a 6 billion person world. All factory wages will move to a global price.

The traditional jobs that working people had are going away and being replaced with minimum wage jobs. The few entry jobs that used to take the well educated up the ladder now take you to a dead end in a call centre.

There are no traditional good jobs coming here. They can’t so long as we stay inside the old model.

So where will be the new GOOD JOBS? The new good jobs will be local and they will be in doing things that are valuable locally not Globally. What might these be?

  • Growing local food. We grow almost none of our food locally. Like for Oil, we pay companies like National grocers and Sobey’s to supply our food. Like for oil, most of our food dollar is a “tax” that leaves the Island – only the minimum wages of the local staff remain here. Most of the income of our traditional farmers goes to their suppliers in oil and chemicals. They get left with the scraps. The interest and fees that they pay go to a financial system that sucks the money from our region. What might growing our food locally look like? It would be lots of small high intensive mini farms with large regional local farmers market where nearly all the money we spend would stay on PEI
  • Building and operating a local energy system – pellets, wind, hydro, hydrogen – and conservation will all supply jobs that have to stay here and will be paid in connection with local realities

I am sure that out of these will come another host of good local jobs. For as we ourselves become more local on PEI, work of all sorts will return to our local communities. The village store, the village school, workshops …

Health care – With a more local world, there will be less alienation and hence better health anyway. It is not access to drugs and doctors that keep us well. The more control you have in your life is the most important factor in health. With better food, the healthier we will be.

Education – With a more local world there will be less stress in family life. The single most important determinant of a child’s potential is the stability of its family life. The village that we will need to raise our kids can come back in a more local world.

Of course none of this is on any official agenda yet. I am sure that we will be offered to take it on trust that governments will lower our taxes and yet put more money into jobs etc.

What’s your take?

The Farm of the Future

When you think of “farm” – what is the picture you have in your mind? When you think of the future of farming do you see this – ever larger ever more industrial systems?

I did. I could not get out of the idea that farms have lots of acres, lots of equipment and need lots of capital. I could not get my mind around that they also came with a price.

This was the “price” that we have been asked to pay to keep the farms on PEI going.

For years many people have struggled to find another way. Many of us have protested against the current view but few or none of us had a real alternative. What I mean by “real” is one that would feed a lot of people, at a price that they can afford, make money for the farmer and also keep our natural resources in good shape.

For shouldn’t a real alternative do all those things?

Many thought that the answer was simply in going organic. But then the issue of distribution and power came back into play. If you are organic and you sell to a large supermarket, unless you have scale – they don’t want you. In the end the distributor makes all the calls and all the money.

So the answer was not all about organic either.

But I think I saw the future the other day as I chatted with my old friend Raymond Loo – a leading light in both organic farming and in selling direct in the farmers market on PEI.

Raymond has a 250 acre organic farm called Springwillow Farms. You can get a sense of it here.

He has also been a leading light selling direct at the various markets on PEI.

As we were chatting he made the following revelation. “You know Rob – I have 250 acres but I make all my money on 6!”

I asked him why this was so. “Because what I have to do I can only do on a small scale. I can’t get the quality if I go any larger. I can’t get the control I need”

6 acres sold direct provides Raymond with a good living. He is also largely immune from weather and disease threats that any large commodity operation is exposed to. This summer we have been drenched with rain. Not only are the grain and potato crops in trouble – we can’t get the large equipment that is needed to harvest onto the land because it is too soggy. In a micro farm – you have all sorts of moves.

So what may be next?

What do you think of this idea that is percolating around Raymond’s mind?

That he offer a “Micro farm package” You rent 1-6 acres from him on his land. It is already certified organic. He provides:

  • Advice
  • Equipment and Tools
  • Community
  • Access to direct markets

What might you get? A good living based on a very high ROI. For the capital required is nominal unlike other farming. The risk is much less as well.

What does PEI get? An emerging local food system based on a very low entry and risk threshold.

We get a “Real” answer. A system that would feed a lot of people, at a price that they can afford, make money for the farmer and also keep our natural resources in good shape.

We get a farm system that also consumes way less energy. Needs very litle equipment and is very close to the market.

Energy Costs – Maybe the biggest threat to our schools?

This slide shows the energy costs of the Eastern School Board since 2003. The big spike in the middle is the jump in heating oil costs – up nearly a million dollars in 2007/8!

The ESB also spends just under a million in diesel fuel. All the school boards have energy costs and energy cost risks like this.

It is very helpful to see these numbers – I have done the same for my own house. What I used to take for granted is now a major problem. For if we don’t have a plan both for our homes and for our schools and other government buildings – we will get into a financial jam.

Of course it’s not just schools but Manors and Hospitals and even government offices that are exposed to increases in energy costs.

So we can say “the sky is falling” or we can create an opportunity. In the school system there is the beginning of an opportunity:

Beginning in the fall of 2008, École Évangéline in Abram-Village will be using a pellet-fuel furnace as its primary heat source, with an oil-heat system used only to supplement the pellet-fuel system. The school now spends approximately $100,000 per year on heating oil, but expects that the addition of the system which burns pelletized wood will dramatically cut its annual bill.

“By adding a new fuel source to our building, we are looking to promote green energy, reduce our energy costs and reduce our exposure to volatile heating oil prices. We hope this move will ensure more of our budget goes to where that money is best spent – on the education of the students,” said Brad Samson, director of business operations for La Commission scolaire.

The heating system being installed is an Austrian-built 300 kilowatt Kob Pyrot pellet furnace, supplied by Atlantic Cool Air of Wellington. The unit arrives in a ready-for-installation container designed to be placed outside the school building and integrated into the heating system through two pipes that connect to a heat exchanger inside the building. The system will burn pellets made from wood but can also burn pellet fuel made from other agricultural plant material such as straw.

“This burner uses fuel that can be supplied from forest resources or from plant sources grown specifically as fuel, with a carbon emission level much lower than that resulting from the consumption of heating oil,” said Minister Webster.

“The fact that this system can be installed with very little renovation to an existing building suggests that, if this burner performs as we hope, renewable fuel heating systems could be an option for similar institutions hoping to save money while reducing their environmental footprint.”

I will be visiting the school and hope to bring back more details of this experiment.

But there is I think more.

When PEI started it now successful wind power project, the Province and the Federal Governments kick started the project by agreeing to take a major block of power. My hope is that we can use the government buildings to do the same for a more local heating strategy.

A great start would be to decide on an energy conservation target and a local energy supply target for government buildings. This is what Israel has just done.

The government will also be serving as an example to the public: each government ministry must present an energy efficiency plan with savings to be reinvested in that ministry. All new government buildings from now on must be built according to green building standards.

The breakthrough in wind came from a commitment to use Wind Power by the Government – let’s go for an Energy Plan now as well.

Mowing or Meadows?

My regular readers know that I am always mowing in the summer. I have just over 3 acres and I also my neighbour’s track. So what to do?

I am not the only one. I was talking with Diane Griffin last week about Stratford and Cotton Park – masses of mowing there. There are parks all over PEI and Mowing seems to be the “National Sport” for most Islanders.

What I have tried this year is to set apart a large block of my normal mow as a “Meadow”

Here is the boundary with the normally mowed part – very long right now because of the rain – I will be mowing up to the Island standard tonight when it is dryer.

Every week, the flowers shift as a rotation of plants do their thing. It looks much nicer than this in the reality – I am a terrible photographer.

Through the meadow I have cut a rambling path that connects the oak trees that we have planted there. This rambling path creates a loose structure in the meadow and I think makes it more attractive.

It’s a bit like getting used to grass fed beef or real chickens that have been allowed to run around. Over the summer my taste and texture expectations for “real” meat have been adjusting towards a rougher, tougher but more interesting taste. So has my eye with the meadow. It’s a rougher view but much more interesting. I am asking how much more I get allow return to meadow next year?

The challenge is of course that I have been brought up having neat lawns. In England they are even neater than here. All my habits are invested in neat and tidy. I think I am not alone in this passion for neat lawns. I bet that most Islanders can imagine no other alternative.

But the money is compelling.

I am spending about $60 a month on gas for the mower – $360 for the season at current prices. My mower is a high end Deere and I use a LawnBoy Push mow for detail. $10,000 in capital expenditure. That’s a lot to keep the place looking “Tidy”. If gas prices double – then my direct costs approach $800 – that’s a lot of money.

What are we all going to do with all our lawns?

Here is the help you can get from the Government of PEI

The main thrust of PEI’s approach at this moment is to reduce demand and consumption. This is something that we can all do and that has an immediate impact on us as individuals and as a province with no oil of our own.

The Government of PEI offers a number of ways to help you reduce your energy use.

Prince Edward Island EcoEnergy Audit Assistance Program and the Prince Edward Island Energy Efficiency Loan and Grant Program were announced in March of this year. Under these programs the province pays half the cost of a home energy audit for households earning more than $30,000 and the full cost of audits for households earning less than $30,000.

Beginning August 1, four new or amended programs for existing homes will be available through the Office of Energy Efficiency. The programs are budgeted at $1 million, with money coming from the Trust Fund for Clean Air and Climate Change. An energy audit will be required to be eligible for all of the programs.The number of auditors has been increased from 5-10 recently as there had been a long backlog – hopefully the wait will be much less now.

The new programs include:

  • Low Income Loan Relief – Low income clients who wish to take advantage of the Prince Edward Island Energy Efficiency Loans Program, will now be eligible for up to 50 per cent loan relief. Up to $15,000 in income – 50 per cent of loan will be written off; between $15,000 and $30,000 in income – 25 per cent of loan will be written off. The program provides loans for home improvement measures recommended in an ecoEnergy Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report.
  • Renewable Heating – Renewable heating systems (wood, wood-pellet, solar, etc.) will be eligible under the Prince Edward Island Energy Efficiency Loan Program, to a maximum of $10,000, as long as the client makes efficiency improvements to the home as well.
  • High-Efficiency Oil-fired Heating Systems – An additional subsidy of $300 will be available for Energy Star Certified oil fired heating systems installed in combination with an indirect water heater or an outdoor temperature reset control. This will be supplemented by an additional $1,200 already available in other incentives and grants.

A successful program from last year will be returning:

  • Home Energy Low-income Program (HELP) – Reinstatement of this program will provide low-income homeowners with free assistance in completing comprehensive air-sealing, installation of energy saving devices and free furnace cleaning. Homeowners who have previously utilized this program will be eligible for the enhanced HELP program. The 2008-09 program is particularly focused on controlling air leakages – the major cause of home energy loss.

Information on these programs is available on the Office of Energy Efficiency web page at www.gov.pe.ca/oee.

Or Call the Office at 902 620 3792