August 15, 2022
Climate change is one of the most pressing concerns Canadians are facing today, and it falls on all of us to take whatever steps we can — as soon as we can — to achieve net-zero emissions. If your business uses fuels such as oil, coal, diesel, gasoline or wood to heat your buildings, operate equipment or run vehicles, you can significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions simply by switching to cleaner fuels. As a low-carbon fuel that’s reliable, affordable and flexible, propane plays an important role in decarbonization.
Seeking Decarbonization Solutions
Some municipalities and regions are working to hasten decarbonization by phasing out highly polluting fuels for heating and, in some cases, prime power. In Montréal, for example, industrial and commercial buildings must stop using oil-burning heat sources by 2025. Similar regulations regarding residential heating have been introduced in Vancouver and across Quebec.
Electricity and solar power are often held up as the ideal alternatives. But are these the best near-term options for businesses and commercial operations? Let’s look at some of the concerns — and consider when and why propane could be a better choice as a low-emission alternative for communities and commercial operations.
Electrification — More Than Meets the Eye
If you’re considering switching to electric power, there are two areas of concern: cost and infrastructure.
Businesses that are located outside of large urban areas have reported prohibitively expensive fees to connect to the grid. Businesses also face high electricity rates in many parts of the country — and some are concerned that these rates will rise even higher.
An even bigger question is, can the infrastructure support full electrification? Our current capacity to generate and store electricity could not support the power demand if widespread conversion to electric heat and electric-powered vehicles were to occur quickly. Additional power generation facilities will need to be built to handle the added load.
We also need to consider the cost, both financial and environmental, of the full-fuel-cycle of electric power. The full fuel cycle is the energy required for discovery, production, transportation, storage, use and disposal of a fuel. Fabricating a one-pound battery, for example, involves the mining, transporting and processing of at least a hundred pounds of materials — which requires the use of significant amounts of fossil fuels.
Another concern is that relying on electricity to heat or power any enterprise can be unstable, especially in winter months. Power lines are often damaged by ice and fallen trees, and these disruptions can be lengthy. At the very least, a backup power source is essential to avoid interruptions to your business due to inclement weather.
How Feasible Is Solar Power?
You may have considered solar power as a clean, quiet, sustainable energy source that also helps you reduce energy costs or avoid ongoing energy bills completely by “getting off the grid.”
However, the capital investment required to set up a solar energy system capable of heating and powering a business can be substantial. Solar power systems also require a large amount of space for both the collection panels and the lithium battery banks that store the energy, as well as ongoing monitoring and maintenance.
An even greater concern for businesses is reliability. Parts of the country that are often overcast, are heavily forested, or have shorter days, for example, may not receive enough direct sunlight to reliably generate enough power year-round. Solar-powered systems for commercial operations often use a supplemental energy source to provide backup energy when the solar reserves are depleted, to run machinery requiring more power and to provide space heating in winter.
Propane — the Other Alternative Fuel
Getting to net zero is not something that can happen overnight. Reducing carbon emissions is a process, and propane can be one of the solutions that takes us there. If you’re planning a switch to electricity or solar, propane makes an ideal backup to ensure business continuity. But why not simply switch to propane?
Using a fuel with a lower carbon content is acknowledged as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Greenhouse gas and particulate emissions for propane are 38% lower than heating oil. Propane emits 98% less particulate matter than diesel and eliminates the risk of diesel spills, which harm the environment and can cost thousands – even millions – to clean up. And unlike natural gas, propane is methane-free.
Propane is reasonably priced and incredibly convenient. It’s flexible enough to be used for a range of jobs, including heating, powering equipment, and running vehicles. It can be transported even to remote areas, in all kinds of weather conditions. And it provides a reliable, consistent source of heat and power, in virtually any working condition.
Unlike a solar power system, setting up your business for propane is very cost-effective. Unlike electricity, there’s no need to tap into or build a grid extension, with the associated expenses.
Because the propane infrastructure is already in place and production is ongoing, wide scale adoption of propane could happen immediately. This would rapidly accelerate our journey towards a net zero world.
Propane: A Good Choice for Business and the Environment
As climate change becomes an increasingly urgent problem, it’s important to be mindful of the environmental impact of the fuels we choose. When you switch to propane, you’re choosing a fuel with a lower carbon footprint than oil, gasoline, diesel, coal or wood, and a fuel that doesn’t harm the environment in the event of a spill or leak. It’s also convenient, economical and reliable — no matter where you’re located.
Choosing a fuel with a lower carbon footprint, such as propane, can also be good for business because many consumers now make a conscious choice to invest in and buy from companies that demonstrate a commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters.