Reducing Emissions is Slow and Costly

The Province of Prince Edward Island announced a solar energy incentive program last week, one that will cover up to 40% of the cost of solar panel installation, to a maximum of $10,000, for farms, homes and businesses.

It is hard to begrudge any program that seeks to migrate our energy generation to renewable sources; but it’s hard not to despair at what a drop in the bucket this ambitious program, with $2 million of funding, will make in helping us meet our 2030 target of a 600,000 tonne annual reduction in our provincial emissions:

Solar incentives will add to our energy mix, creating more made-in-PEI electricity,” said Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers.  “Islanders want to help tackle climate change and they want to save money on electricity. Solar energy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 500 tonnes annually while helping people become more energy independent.”

To save you the math, 500 is 0.08% of 600,000.

That’s not nothing, but it seems a lot closer to nothing than it does to something, given that 2030 is now only 11 years away.

Of course a solar incentive program, like an electric vehicle incentive program, may not be intended to actually solve the problem, but rather to stimulate the solution of the problem by the market. I’m sure the thinking goes something like “we need to build expertise and capacity in renewable energy, and to solve the chicken and egg problem of cost and market stability, we’ll kick things off with some cash.”

And solar energy is only one part of our emissions reduction strategy related to energy (in fact the word “solar” doesn’t even appear in our Climate Action Plan).

But chipping off this 600,000 tonne emissions mountain 500 tonnes at a time is going to make for a long, slow slog.