Marshall Homes was the first in Ontario to offer, back in 2006, solar thermal and geothermal as an option on homes in a new subdivision. President Craig Marshall now wants to build an 88-home community in which all homes are heated and cooled by a district geothermal energy system. It’s a great idea, but Marshall isn’t an energy service provider — he needs a strong partner to take on that side of the business, and his ideal partner is regional natural gas distributor Enbridge Gas Distribution. Problem is, Enbridge isn’t permitted by law to do anything but store and distribute natural gas. It can set up a separate, non-regulated entity, but in doing so it can’t leverage the power of its brand and the capital it can command.
Solution simple: Let the company broaden its energy offerings so it can pursue geothermal, solar thermal and other green energy offerings beyond just pilot projects. Yes, Enbridge’s current restrictions were created to ensure fair competition, but if others could do what Marshall Homes envisions, why aren’t they stepping up? (I should say, however, that local electric distribution company Veridian Connections is interested in working with Marshall, but the problem with working with LDCs is that you’re limited to a smaller service territory. Go outside that territory and you have to start all over again with a new LDC). Unleashing Enbridge could make a difference. Few companies have the scope, reach, engineering know-how and clout to take the district heating concept, so popular in Europe, and make it an attractive offering to builders of new subdivisions throughout the province.
See my column here discussing the Marshall Homes project and the role that Enbridge could play, if permitted.