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This Alberta family wants to make their 1980s home net-zero

Samantha Shannon said when her nine-year-old son asked what the family was doing about climate change — she didn’t know what to say.

She said her son was learning about the impacts of climate change in school and, most importantly to him, its effects on polar bears. 

“Beyond the rhetoric that we learned as kids in the ’90s of reduce, reuse, recycle, I didn’t have much of an answer for him,” said Shannon, who lives in Airdrie, Alta.

Wrestling with that question, she began reflecting on how the family was living and impacting the world around them. It’s also inspired changes the family hopes to demonstrate as part of a Live Net Zero Challenge run by Canadian Geographic

The Homestretch9:22Airdrie family strives for net-zero

Featured VideoThe Homestretch’s Kim Johnston introduces us to an Airdrie family taking on a unique net-zero challenge.

Her household is one of eight across Canada competing in a weeks-long challenge to reduce carbon emissions in their lifestyles and homes. 

She’s swapped out the single pane windows in her 1980s house for triple pane, added insulation, uses her car less and, most recently, ripped up the front yard to have a geothermal heat pump installed, which heats and cools her home. 

“And the best part is just last month I got a wonderful bill from our natural gas provider which stated ‘final bill,'” she said during The Homestretch‘s series on actions people can take to save energy. 

Going head to head with families across Canada in the Live Net Zero Challenge

2 months ago

Duration 1:59

Featured VideoThe Shannon family from Airdrie is one of eight households from across Canada that have been selected to participate in a 14-week carbon footprint reduction challenge and enhance their sustainability practices. The winners will receive a $50,000 cash prize.

The family was given funding from Telus Storyhive, while they’re financing the rest of the costs themselves. 

“I wanted to future-proof my own house, and essentially this is us buying ourselves resiliency,” she said.  

“And by buy, I mean we’re borrowing against our mortgage because we’re not Rockefellers.” 

If the family wins the challenge, they will receive a $50,000 prize from Canadian Geographic

The Shannons aren’t alone in their search for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Scientists, policymakers, researchers and entrepreneurs of all kinds are also trying to find new and efficient ways to reduce carbon emissions in the lives of Canadians.

The Calgary Eyeopener explored some of these themes this week during a program dedicated to how Albertans power their lives. This included a close look at Alberta’s power grid, the country’s net-zero goals and the politics that surround that discussion. 

Speaking on that show, Jason Wang, senior electricity analyst with the Pembina Institute, said decarbonizing Alberta’s grid by 2035 could save Albertans money on their power bill in the long run. 

Wang said they looked at six scenarios and technology rollouts — some optimistic, others pessimistic, but ultimately, he said, if the transition started now, by 2035 Albertans could expect to pay $600 less on electricity costs annually. 

Calgary Eyeopener5:18Electricity prices

Featured VideoWhat a net-zero grid would look like on your power bill.

“I’d say that was quite shocking to us. We looked at this many times.” 

The modelling was performed by University of Alberta researchers using the energy modelling software Aurora from Energy Exemplar. The model includes representations of each power plant’s operations in Alberta, uses input demand forecast, technology-specific capital costs, natural gas prices and carbon constraints, the report said. 

However, the model does not predict the viability of future projects. 

The federal government is looking at restricting access to billions of dollars in tax credits and grants for electricity projects to only the provinces that commit to the 2035 target for an emissions-free electricity grid. 

But the timing of the transition has been the subject of political back and forth. 

Speaking on the Calgary Eyeopener, Premier Danielle Smith said a net-zero grid by 2035 is realistic for other provinces, but not Alberta. 

A conversation with Premier Danielle Smith about the future of Alberta’s grid, and her vision for a path to net-zero

3 days ago

Duration 14:40

Featured VideoThe future of Alberta’s power grid is now a political fight between the federal and provincial governments. An Alberta media campaign, “Tell the Feds,” warns of blackouts and skyrocketing bills, if the federal plan for a net-zero grid by 2035 comes to fruition. The Calgary Eyeopener’s Loren McGinnis spoke with Premier Danielle Smith.

“We’re working on trying to get the federal government aligned with us on achieving emissions neutrality by 2050.” 

The province recently launched its $8-million “Tell the Feds” campaign, which warns of blackouts and skyrocketing bills if the federal plan for a net-zero grid by 2035 comes to fruition. 

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said there’s a lot of flexibility built into the regulations. 

“Those regulations won’t come into force for another 12 years. So we’re giving 12 years to electricity company investors, regulators, provinces to get ready for the implementation of these regulations,” he said. 

Calgary Eyeopener9:04Canada’s Environment Minister on Alberta’s grid

Featured VideoCanada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault on the plan to achieve a net-zero grid, and the pushback from Alberta.

“This idea that there’s a cliff somehow in 2035 and that the lights will go off across the country is simply a fabrication. It’s fear mongering. It has nothing to do with reality.” 

As politicians go back and forth on timelines, Shannon is looking at next steps for her own family. 

“I’m not selling anybody anything. I’m not motivated by anything else other than, ‘hey, look isn’t this neat,’ in hopes that I reach the person that was like me two years ago that had no idea but was interested.” 

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