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News & resources / Media / Is propane the missing link in energy transition?
Conversion from heating oil to propane reduces costs and GHGs
By Shannon Watt
Meeting climate targets is demanding work. In the pursuit of wholesale change, sometimes we overlook the incremental successes that, when taken together, can make a huge impact. As Canadians work hard to navigate the energy transition, achievements within their own homes can go a long way to help address climate change.
What too often gets missed in the national dialogue around energy needs and climate change are the solutions offered by propane. That could partly be due to the limited view some people may have of propane such as for the barbeque or use at the cottage. It’s so much more. And it can make a big difference in reducing GHGs and saving money.
Propane is a low-emission source of energy used for heating homes and businesses, for agriculture and transportation, among other uses. And propane is not a greenhouse gas prior to combustion. If it spills it does not cause harm to air, land or water. And when it is burned to provide energy, its GHG emission levels are 38 per cent lower than those of heating oil.
A low-carbon program dedicated to changing home heating from oil to propane would see an immediate reduction in GHGs. Not only that, but insurance rates would also go down and households would save between 30 and 40 per cent in energy fuel costs.
In October, at a conference hosted by the Canadian Climate Institute, Prime Minister Trudeau guaranteed that Canada will meet its most recent target of getting emissions to 55 to 60 per cent of what they were in 2005.
At the same time, the Canadian Press reported that since 1988, Canada has set its sights on eight different greenhouse gas emission targets and that, “six of them have come and gone and Canada never came anywhere close to meeting them.”
It will be closer to 2030 before we will know if the current targets can be met. In the meantime, real action can be taken to immediately provide cleaner and more affordable energy to Canadians, no matter where they live. Like their friends and neighbours who live in urban Canada, rural communities deserve a real energy choice that is more affordable and cleaner than heating oil.
This is especially true for most who live in Atlantic Canada, as well as many Indigenous communities across the country. They live beyond the natural gas line and are forced to choose between electricity, which is often expensive, and heating oil, which is both expensive and very carbon intensive.
Propane also provides critical energy for emergency response. As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona on the East Coast and will continue to see as extreme weather events happen at an increasing rate, propane is essential. It has been called, “Energy’s First Responder” because of its capacity to provide energy when other forms such as electricity are not available.
Propane is still more than that. In addition to replacing heating oil, low-emission propane can replace diesel often used to back up wind and solar facilities, for mobile power generation for the family farm or the fishery, for transporting kids to school, and even to provide power in challenging climates across Canada.
Is propane the missing link between the realities of energy today and the hope for the energy of tomorrow? In many cases, the answer is yes. Propane can play an important role as a low-emission energy source that is affordable and accessible for all Canadians. It’s time for governments to support conversion to propane as part of their cleaner-energy initiatives.
That would help ensure a fair and just energy transition.
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We are quickly heading into winter, but propane heaters can help take the bite out of the cold. Follow the CPA’s safety tips to help ensure comfort and safety in the open air.