Quite a number of years ago I had a couple of hours between meetings in downtown Winnipeg and found myself driving past the Provincial Legislature. I realized that by the time I got back to my office I would only have 20 minutes before I'd have to return downtown for my next meeting...maybe I could stop in and see the newly elected energy minister and talk to him about ground coupled heat pumps. So I went into the Legislature, knocked on his door to see if he had a few minutes to talk...
I didn't get to see Mr. Selinger, who was the Energy Minister at that time, but did get to see his gatekeeper, his executive assistant, and managed to keep him interested for long enough to convince him that I wasn't a total idiot for suggesting we could heat a home with 45°F (7°C) ground.
Several months later, long after I thought the meeting had been a waste of time, I received a call asking if I would meet with the Energy Minister and a few others. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I ended up having the ear of the Energy Minister, the Chairman of the Board and the CEO of Manitoba Hydro, and several others, and got to tell them my views on how GCHP systems would benefit the Provincial economy, the utility, the people who have systems installed in their homes and businesses, and the people who work to install the systems...mechanical contractors, excavation contractors, drilling contractors, pipe manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, etc., and lastly, how the systems would benefit the environment.
What I talked about obviously resonated with my audience. Six months later Manitoba Hydro announced the Earth Power Program, a financing program that allowed residential customers to install a system with financing from the utility. They could borrow up to $20,000 for up to a 15 year term and pay it back on their monthly electricity bill. The long term of the loan was crucial because the payments were low enough that energy cost savings would cover the cost of the loan.
That loan program is still available. Earlier this year the utility announced the "Pay as you save" (PAYS) program. This program finances the cost of a geothermal system, similar to the Earth Power Program. The key difference is that it the financing is attached to the electricity meter rather than the homeowner. When the home is sold, the new owner takes over the loan payments on the utility bill. The only criteria is that the amount of the loan is limited by the savings the customer will realize...the energy cost savings have to be large enough to cover the cost of the loan amortized over a maximum of 20 years.
Just this week Manitoba Hydro extended the PAYS Program to commercial buildings.
What I've learned from this process over 20 years is that it's absolutely worthwhile taking the time to talk to the people who have the power to change the rules. Go to them with a solid case for the technology and why they should support it.
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In my blog I'll be expressing my opinions about what I've the learned about ground coupled heat pump (GCHP) systems over the last 30 years. I've been very fortunate to work with many interesting people who are passionate about this technology...engineers, geologists, mechanical contractors, drillers, excavation contractors...in different parts of the world. I've learned a lot from them and will be using this forum to pass on some of the things I've learned and feel are important. Please feel free to use this information if you feel it's worthwhile...hopefully you can avoid some of the same mistakes I've learned from.
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