There is a big push to move toward an energy alternative, though the issues and challenges continue to outweigh the positives when it comes to regular Albertans adopting it.
That’s the consensus reached in a research study conducted by Paul McLauchlin, who just happens to be the reeve for Ponoka County. McLauchlin’s study was part of his thesis as he works to finish his Masters of Business Administration specializing in finance from the University of Leicester. He presented his thesis during a Ponoka County council meeting on Oct. 11.
McLauchlin is well versed in the world of alternative energy, having invested in wind and solar technology for his Rimbey area farm.
The study focused mostly on how rural portions of the province could add favourably to the provincial government’s shift to renewable energy sources. However, McLauchlin found that despite a raft of possibilities, good knowledge and interest in investing in a household program, the fact it is presently too expensive and a hassle to operate, make it difficult to get good information plus its unreliability make it an option very few have explored.
The study — made up of a questionnaire, both paper and online — showed that respondents were mostly interested in the financial benefits of alternate energy and relatively unconcerned with how it might affect the environment.
About 69 per cent of respondents (164 in total) were agreed the climate is changing, however, that figure flipped the other way when asked if climate change was a concern with 64 per cent stating no or do not agree. The statistics were even more dramatic with 43 per cent stating it was only slightly important or not at all important to act now on climate change, with 18 per cent answering that climate change is not happening.
“People do it or want to because they are trying to offset the high price of power and they hate the big power companies,” McLauchlin said, adding that the business case for wind or solar for people’s homes will be there if the price of power doubles.
“The majority of rural Albertans are 50/50 about going green. They’re not interested in the environment, but about what’s the effect on their pocketbook.”
He explained there are about 1,200 ‘micro-generators’ like himself in Alberta and there is a huge investment potential in rural areas because of the combination of available land base, high energy usage, favourable regulations and the attitudes and behaviours of rural residents.
“It’s been tough getting it going as people are still scared and not so sure about it all,” he said.
His study bears that out, with more than 82 per cent of respondents with an average or above level of awareness of renewable generation technology while only 13 per cent stated they would spend money on installing it. The rest would pay for home improvements or maintaining their home. Several factors were answers as to what is preventing them from doing so, including affordability (38 per cent), inconvenience (21 per cent) and distrust of the technology (16 per cent).
Considering the issues surrounding the storage of household power generation, McLauchlin can see why those answers popped up.
“Much of the power generated at home is done when people aren’t there to use it and storing it can be a huge problem,” he said.
McLauchlin added the new carbon levy coming also hasn’t done much in the way of pushing the alternative energy agenda as people believe they have done enough.
“There is a need to become more efficient for sure, but we need to be talking about how (micro-generation) will benefit people’s pocketbooks,” he said.