By Sebastien Rioux
When it comes to who owns or who wants solar or green energy, we tend to think in terms of stereotypes. We assume it’s people who work certain jobs, are a certain age, or fit into a specific part of our demographic landscape who are interested in and own greenenergy products.
As a newcomer to the solar and green industry, I came in with an outsider’s perspective that was influenced by these stereotypes. However, what I’ve come to realize, after sitting down with the Hays, is that being open to green energy isn’t necessarily determined by your career or age. It is instead more closely related to a person’s mindset on the world and their place within it. It is a mindset that fosters future prosperity over short-term gains. It is a realization that change will not come all at once but will instead be a slow evolution resulting from many small positive steps forward.
The Hays are great exemplars of this forward-thinking mindset. Glenn and Brenda live on a farm just on the outskirts of Wetaskiwin. They did not fit the stereotype of what I had in mind for a typical solar owner. They are middle-aged, live in rural Alberta, and work in parts of the oil sector. However, as the old adage goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Within minutes of sitting down with them, it was clear that my preconceived notions should be forgotten. They were taken aback when I said that they were not the stereotypical solar buyer. Not because they thought they fit into that niche, but because they questioned what exactly it was. As I tried to defend my stereotype, I quickly realized it had no basis in reality and I became open to the motives that influenced the Hays to go solar.
They started out with small steps, such as switching to LED lights throughout their house and property. They were surprised to see what a change it made to their power consumption and monthly bill. With this realization, they began to look at other ways to reduce their power bill and their footprint. This lead to solar and wind as viable options for their property. Ultimately they chose solar. However, this wasn’t a simple decision, it was an amalgamation of several different factors.
Solar had been floating around as an idea between the Hays for many years. They knew it was a strong option in Alberta, with our high solar energy potential, but they needed more motivation and guidance. First, they started with a solar panel on their fifth wheel trailer to power their electronics, and were quite impressed with what even one little panel could do. Then, on a trip through Germany, they saw how the Germans had embraced solar, with installations everywhere, and this got them even more interested.
Around this time, they also inherited some money from Glenn’s mother that they wanted to invest for the future rather than spend on a toy. So, with a curiosity about solar and a desire to invest this inheritance, they attended a solar workshop at the local ag society. At this workshop, they became intrigued by the durability and efficiency of solar panels, and realized the benefits they could receive through the government’s carbon tax incentive. Here they also came into contact with John Maude, a local financial adviser and passionate solar advocate. John showed them that not only was solar a smart investment, it was also a big step toward removing their carbon footprint. So with the desire to invest the inheritance towards the future, plus John Maude’s advice and an education in solar, they made their decision.
Ultimately, the Hays’ decision may have been influenced by outside factors such as Germany’s example, John Maude, and the solar workshop. However, it was their mindset of valuing future prosperity over short-term gains that allowed them to get to the point where renewable energy was an option. In the future, the Hays may add even more solar as regulations change. They hope that, as solar becomes more popular, solar producers will have a stronger voice and be able to influence the government. They also pointed out that even people in their seventies and older are beginning to pay attention to renewable energy. This is a huge step towards revolutionizing our collective mindset around energy as a society.
So, if we can throw away our stereotypes, then perhaps we can begin to foster the mentality that the Hays and others are so greatly exemplifying. Perhaps we are at the precipice of an evolution in mindset as Albertans, where we no longer value costly short-term gains for a profit, but instead look ahead to the future with hopes that it will be better than today. But that is just one small step to a brighter future.