Want to shave $800 off your monthly bills? Ditch fossil fuels

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Inflation. Extreme weather. The cost of living and climate change are top of mind for Canadians as they grapple with rising prices amid a summer defined by wildfire smoke and heat waves.

Fortunately, there is a common solution: clean energy. From electric vehicles to heat pumps, clean technologies have the power to fight climate change all while protecting your pocketbook.

A Toronto family living in a house in the suburbs that adopts a few common clean energy solutions could knock $800 off their monthly energy bills, compared to one that is largely reliant on fossil fuels, according to a new report from Clean Energy Canada, A Clean Bill. That’s even taking into account the costs of buying and installing the technology. Over a year, that adds up to almost $10,000 that can be saved, invested, or spent on literally anything else.

A condo owner who was able to make similar changes could pocket an extra $5,000 a year. Not to mention the value added to their property in a market that is increasingly demanding fossil-fuel-free living or the health benefits of breathing cleaner air.

It’s worth noting that the Toronto Star’s own clean energy calculator produces similar results, while both Canadian and international studies have reached the same conclusion: the transition to clean energy will result in smaller energy bills.

By far, the single biggest money saver is an electric vehicle. Choosing a Chevrolet Bolt instead of a Toyota Corolla hatchback, for example, would save a typical Canadian $33,600 over a 10-year ownership period (or about $29,000 in Ontario given the province offers no provincial rebates).

When it comes to heating and cooling, fossil-fuel-free options also pack the best cost savings. Specifically, air source heat pumps — which can cool as well as heat — are the cheapest option for many Canadian households, even when the costs of installation are included. Installing a heat pump instead of a new natural gas furnace and central air conditioning can cut around $50 (including upfront costs) off the monthly bill of a detached family home in Ontario.

And lest you think heat pumps aren’t suited to Ontarian winters, heat pumps are most popular in some of the coldest countries: Finland, Norway, and Sweden, with new technologies comfortably working at temperatures as low at -30 C.

What’s more, switching to clean energy insulates households from certain price shocks. The cost of clean electricity is generally controlled by local market forces, while spiking oil and gas prices are forever at the whim of global geopolitics. With gas prices nearing $1.70 in the province, EV drivers have the luxury of driving right by the pump.

A continued reliance on fossil fuels is costing Canadians, but there are ways in which governments can make it easier for residents to make the shift.

For starters, they can help reduce the often higher upfront costs of the technologies — something many are already doing. The federal government offers $5,000 off the sticker price of the most popular electric vehicles. And while the Ontario government does not have its own rebates for electric vehicles, seven provinces and territories, representing 43 per cent of Canada’s population, have additional rebates that can be stacked.

The federal government also offers grants and zero-interest loans for home upgrades, including energy efficiency improvements or rooftop solar installation. And many provinces, municipalities, and utilities have their own grants or loan programs, including for heat pumps.

The next steps are to improve accessibility so that all Canadians can benefit, regardless of their income or housing situation. That could include extending purchase incentives to cover used EVs, funding EV-ready retrofits in multi-family buildings or requiring minimum energy efficiency standards for rental housing.

Put simply, clean energy is a win-win for climate and cost. It’s time to bring the benefits home.

This post is co-authored by Keri McNamara and originally appeared in the Toronto Star.



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