Canadian-Based Enbridge Embarks on Geothermal Plan

According to Malini Girdhar, vice president, market development, public & government affairs at Enbridge Gas Distribution, her company is interested in developing geothermal heating and cooling solutions in Ontario and offering those solutions to homeowners. There are two key drivers for the company’s interest. First, Ontario has aggressive carbon-reduction goals and second, there is a significant heating load in the region.

Ontario is already using a good chunk of renewables, and the province shut down the last of its coal plants in 2014. However, the heating load is still met mostly with gas, propane and oil.

“Moving to all-electric heating does not make sense across the board because of the cost implications but geothermal is very attractive to us in meeting the energy needs of the region,” said Girdhar in an interview.

The company plans to target the new construction market first.

Because it is a regulated company, Girdhar explained that Enbridge could “rate-base” the up-front cost of installing the geothermal loops underground, spreading that cost over a much longer period than homeowners could do on their own.

“If we can put it in our rate base, we can spread that over 40 years so that brings the cost down significantly,” she said, adding “because natural gas is so much cheaper you’ve got to use every means at your disposal today to bring that cost [of geothermal] down.”

Girdhar estimates that there are approximately 40,000-50,000 new housing units constructed in Ontario annually.

“So getting a small portion of them initially just to demonstrate the technology, the market, and get user acceptance and then grow from there, we think over the next 10 years it should become quite viable,” she said. 

Lead image credit: Brendan C | Flickr

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Jennifer Runyon
Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. You can reach her at Today, in addition to managing content on Renewable Energy World and POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference and expo for the transmission and distribution industry. In her role, she works in close cooperation with a large team of committed industry executives to shape the educational content for the event. She also helps assemble the renewable energy content for POWERGEN and helped launch the first Grid-Scale Storage Summit, a co-located event at HYDROVISION International. She has traveled to Germany to see onshore and offshore wind installations; Iceland to see geothermal energy in action; and France to see cutting-edge smart grids. In the U.S. she has visited and reported about bioenergy power plants in Florida, both large-scale and small-scale hydropower; and multiple wind farms, solar PV, and CSP installations. Formerly, she was the managing editor of Innovate Forum, an online publication that focused on innovation in manufacturing. Prior to that she was the managing editor at Desktop Engineering magazine. In 2008, she won an "Eddy Award" for her editing work on an article about solar trees in Vienna. In 2010, was awarded an American Business Media Neal Award for its eNewsletters, which were created under her direction. She holds a Master's Degree in English Education from Boston University and a BA in English from the University of Virginia.

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