170: Recommendations for a Sustainable Home (with special guests Energy vs. Climate)

Today we have a very special episode talking to the crew from the Energy vs. Climate podcast about a bunch of things you can do in your life to help with the energy transition. Check out the Energy vs. Climate podcast here: https://www.energyvsclimate.com/

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Hi everybody and welcome to Still To Be Determined. Our regular listeners are of course, accustomed to this being the follow-up podcast to undecided with Matt Ferrell, where the aforementioned Matt Ferrell. Yes. That Matt Ferrell talks about sustainability and its impact on our lives, and he does that with his co-host, his older brother Sean.


That’s me. What’s up,

sup? But this week we’re doing something a little different. We did it last week and we’re doing it, and this week, this week we’re gonna be sharing Matt’s conversation with some other podcasters regarding energy and climate and. They’re gonna be discussing that shortly and then next week we will be returning to conversations around Matt’s most recent video, why he went geothermal with his new home.

Well, usually we share comments and discuss Matt’s most recent video. Today we’re gonna be sharing Matt’s conversation with the hosts of Energy versus Climate. The Energy Versus Climate Podcast is hosted by David Keith Sara Hastings-Simon and Ed Wittingham, and they talk about details of climate and energy policy.

Matt’s conversation with them covered a wide range of topics, but it tended to focus on what can individuals do to be more sustainable in their home. Before we get into that though, I wanted to share a comment from our most recent episode, which caught my eye. Matt, I wanted to get your thoughts on this.

As I mentioned last week, there was a lot of conversation in the comments around topics that people would be interested in us discussing and interested in you doing videos on.

Top of the list

was ai, and I wanna share this comment from Barbara. Who wrote AI is very interesting. I can see a use for my personal research, but finding basic use info, not the hype and infomercial stuff, which I’m not interested in, is not that simple.

For me. Google is like a huge library with no card catalog and no easy way to find a focus for my information gathering on a subject that I’m interested in pursuing. I wouldn’t be outputting a video just getting better understandings. G P T four is what I’m aiming at. But it’s only up to November, 2021.

Mm-hmm. It took me a while to just understand the difference between G P T four and G P T chat as I was waiting through the makeup pile of money videos that have hit the internet, but what angle Matt could take? I’m not sure. I would think Matt and Sean would probably find it useful in shortening hours of research on any area that we normally research.

And creating images and graphs, et cetera. I know what I think about this. Yeah. Like general thread.

What are your thoughts about it? It’s funny that Barbara brought, brought up shortening research. I’m already using AI to do exactly that and it’s been, I. A game changer and just to kind of call out chat, g p t four actually just release a new feature that if you’re a paid subscriber, you can actually access Google search as part of it now, so it’s no longer limited to 2021 or 2022 before you can get up to the minute.

Information and ask for citations to double check, to make sure what it’s giving you is accurate. But I’ve been using it a lot to help find research around different topics for like, I’m, I’m starting to dive into like, let’s say a fusion research video and it’s like I need to figure out what’s going on with last confinement fusion, and I can ask it.

Questions for, can you kind of break this part of life’s confinement down for me to a simpler way, or can you help find me, uh, recent breakthroughs or research around a certain aspect of this? And it will find it. It’s like having a little mini librarian that’s doing all the research for you. And because it’s natural language, it works way better than Google search like, Way better.

It’s finding me things that would’ve taken me hours to find, and it’s finding it in little, like 60 seconds, 90 seconds. So it’s really shortened how much time it takes to research. And then the other way I’m using it is to also help me simplify the. My own writing. So you can take a write a paragraph and it’s like, hmm, that’s not quite feeling right, it’s feeling a little too complicated.

You can take that paragraph, put it in a chat, G p t, and say, can you help me simplify this paragraph and write it at a ninth grade reading level, and it will rewrite your writing. And so it acts like a little mini editor for you. You can say, could you help get rid of some of the passive voice and it will remove passive voice.

It’s really kind of incredible as a tool for a writer. And I’m curious, Sean, if you’ve ever thought about using it. To like look at your own writing, cause you are a writer. You write novels. It’s like, have you thought about using AI to help you? Here’s where it

gets, here’s the other side of the coin. In the writing community, in the fiction community, there’s a lot of fear around what AI could do to the profession of trying to be a writer.

And I am a writer. I have written and sold. Now I’m on the verge of my third novel coming out, um, in just a few days. As a matter of fact. In fact, by the time this video will release, the, my newest book will be on the Market and Plug, plug Vets, the Sinister Secrets of Singh, which is a middle grade adventure book, a written adult novels.

I’ve written picture books I’ve written now this middle grade book, which is the first in a series and. There is concern in the fiction writing community that if publishers could use an AI to generate stories, novels, picture, book, text, whatever, maybe even picture, picture book illustrations, without actually having to have an artist or a writer involved, publishers would do that.

So our fear is what happens when and if the market is willing to consume stuff that does not, in fact actually involve a human creating it. And our ability to sell our work disappears. So there’s a lot of fear in that, and that’s on the generation side. But I do see the use case of research being a really remarkable tool.

I have a book that I’ve been working on, which is set in the early 20th century during World War I, and I did. Tons and tons of of reading and research around life and warfare at that time, and did hundreds of hours of reading and research that was fruitless. It was. Pouring over books and finding, you know, reading things that were of general interest to me.

And it was an interesting ex experience in consuming some of that. But a lot of it is treading water instead of moving forward. Yeah. And so the research aspect of this for me, I do see. A use case. Yep. Where I’m like, okay, for me to be able to say like, can you describe these aspects of what it was like for a British soldier in World War I?

And to be able to have that brought to me as opposed to having to wade through the. All the different layers that I went through. And then using that as a jumping off point to then go into those books that I did read and finding, you know, going deeper into already published information from, from those book sources and magazine sources, I think would be tremendous and would be a time saver.

But there is the creative aspect that is a little unnerving and a little, yeah, there’s a little bit of, which side of the sword are we getting? It’s, it seems like it’s going to cut both ways, so I think there’s plenty of material in AI for recurring videos. I mean, this is something. Mm-hmm. I feel like Matt, you and I are gonna revisit in conversation.

Multiple times for the foreseeable future potentially, yes. Yeah, until eventually somebody generates an ai, that will replace still to be determined.


you so much, Barbara, for your comment. It really is thought provoking and it is, as you point out, it is a tool. And it’s a question of what do people use that tool for?

And so I do think it’ll be an interesting topic for us to visit again and again. Now onto today’s video, which of course, as I mentioned before, is Matt’s discussion with the hosts of Energy versus Climate. And as we mentioned before, energy versus Climate has three hosts. David, Keith Sara, Hastings-Simon, and Ed Wittingham.

And they go into the details of climate and energy policy. Unfortunately, David wasn’t able to join the conversation, but Matt had a conversation with Sara and Ed. Sara is a physicist and a professor at the University of Calgary and Director of the Master of Science and Sustainable Energy Development.

Ed is the head of the Pambina Institute helping to develop and finance clean energy projects, and a co-founder of the Academy for Sustainable Innovation in Canada. They’re basically experts in energy transition, and the conversation was a fun one, so please enjoy.

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special joint episode of The Energy Versus Climate and The Still To Be Determined podcast.

My name is Ed Wittingham and I’m joined by two amazing people. One is my energy versus climate co-host Sara Hasting Simon, and the other is Matt Ferrell of both Undecided with Matt Ferrell. And the Still To Be Determined podcast. Matt and Sara, how are you both doing today? I’m doing great.

How about you Sara?

Yeah. Doing good. Well,

why this joint episode? Dear viewer listener, you might ask. Well, Holly Brown with Matt’s team reached out to us and said, Hey, would you like to plug each other’s podcasts? Um, and given that Matt and his brother Sean Ferrell discuss. Everything from electric vehicles to renewable energy to smart technologies and how they impact our lives on still to be determined topics that, of course, we, uh, here at Energy versus Climate, all like we thought, why not get Matt on the line and jointly record something?

And that’s exactly what we’re doing today and how we’re going to do it is first. Chatting with Matt about his undecided, still T B D projects, after which we’ll pass the interviewer, Mike to Matt. We’ll do the same about energy versus climate. And after that, the three of us we’re just gonna chit chat about homes, mobility, climate, tech, and anything else that springs to mind.

That’s, that’s about it for a game plan. So, I don’t know, Matt Sara, should we just jump right into it? Let’s jump in. Let’s do it. Awesome. Okay, so Matt, we put you on the interviewee couch first. So give us your backstory and tell us like how did you get interested in clean energy and technology and this whole topic of how you know technology affects our lives.

Yeah, my background’s kind of weird and kind of checkered, but like I worked for a couple decades in the technology space as a user experience and user interface designer. And after doing that for 20 years, I was looking for a change and I was like, I could get a new job and just be doing the same thing at a different place.

And I’ve been very passionate about sustainability and climate. I’m concerned about climate change. And so I wanted to make a change and do something different that I thought could potentially kind of like help others that are out there. And I thought, I know how to edit videos. I know how to, I have a degree in communications.

Why am I not doing something on YouTube? So I decided to kind of jump into YouTube and start telling stories around what I was learning, what I was doing in my own life, getting to talk to people that work in different industries and like batteries, energy storage, uh, solar panels, all that kind of stuff.

And started sharing what I was learning on undecided. And it’s just kind of, He kind took on a life of its own and did not expect it to turn into what it is today, but it’s been a really fun journey. Kind of like taking my different passions around technology and climate change and kind of combining those two things into topics I talk about on undecided.

And then also, of course, of course still to be determined with my brother, which is like a follow up conversation based on what happens on the YouTube channel. Because I have a really cool community that con constantly is reaching out to me and giving me feedback and telling me, why don’t you look into this topic?

Look into that topic. What about this? And so we kind of follow up on those conversations on the podcast.

Yeah, I love and, and I was notionally aware of follow up podcasts, but it really hit home when I did listen to Still To Be Determined and I realized that it was riffing off what you’d done on Undecided.

Yeah. And I love the fact that you came to edit, you know, sort of simple premise. I know how to vi edit videos and I’ve got a communications degree. Two things by the way that Sara and I do not have and cannot do. We need like total hand holding with our wonderful producer. I have a, I have like an

communications degree, ed, I think that’s, you have a degree in physics.

Yeah. Because you have not to communicate with people.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We joke like, hey, you know, we do something, you know, it’s an acquired taste. Just don’t have us try to communicate with real people, you know, we could never do that. Um, so undecided first, what specifically are you undecided about? And, uh, you know, how has, how has undecided evolved over time?

Well, there’s a kind of a joke behind the name undecided, which was, I was trying to come up with a name for the channel and my wife just said, oh, just call it undecided You came out. Keep your mind what you’re gonna call it. So that’s kind of where it spray from, but the actual meaning behind it for me was, uh, I’m very curious.

I’m a very curious person. I like to learn and see new things, and it’s like when I went into college my freshman year, I hadn’t picked a major. And when you hadn’t picked a major, it was like you were undeclared. But like all the freshmen would say, what’s your, what’s your major? And people would just say, oh, I’m undecided.

So for me, that’s kind of the meaning behind it of me just having curiosity, wanting to learn. Keep an open mind, see what’s out there. So that’s kind of the meaning behind the channel. And the channel’s kind of evolved over time based on where my interests are taking me and where the viewer’s interests are kind of leading me cuz it’s a conversation between me and the viewers.

So that’s kind of like how it’s evolved over time.

Nice. And, and given you cover like a huge range of topics. Yeah. What’s that like from EVs renewables? Uh, tell us like a little bit on the, on the content selection process. How do you decide what to cover? And then what kind of research are you doing in advance to then sort of unpack that for your audience and then do a follow on on that, uh, on undecided with still to be determined?

Yeah, it’s, it’s

kinda the vinn diagram of like where my interests are falling and where the viewer’s interests are falling and like where those overlap is. What I tend to focus on the research side varies cuz there are some topics I. I’m very comfortable with and can just dive in pretty quickly. Other times I’ve, I have a team of, of researchers that help me, like, so when we dive deep on a topic, like I’m not a physicist, like somebody else who’s here.

So it’s like diving into something like fusion energy, which I’ve, I’m fascinated by. I have people I can re out, reach out to and help me dive into that. Like, there’s people that work in the industry that act as like, People I can bounce ideas off, ask questions to. I kind have a science, a little science advisory board that I’ve kind of like worked with me now so I can, I have mechanical engineers and physicists that help me with the show.

So like when we put together a script, start pulling things together, we can bounce ideas off of each other and see what’s the best way to communicate this, what are we missing? Kind of fill in those gaps. So that’s kind of like how the, the, the topics come together and trying to make sure that I’m not stepping into a kind of a quagmire of like stating something the wrong way.

But of course, sometimes things happen and I’ve, it’s been a learning process, which is a part of the reason why I started the podcast, which was kind of a follow up because sometimes. People that watch the videos are way smarter than I am on these topics. And so I get feedback from people. That is wonderful.

So it’s like, I like being able to share what I’m learning along the way in that follow-up

podcast. Nice. Nice. By the way, when you reach out to those experts on Fusion, do they all tell you to a person that, uh, no matter where you are in history, fusion is just 10 years away? Yeah. Really Going big?


It’s always 10 years away.

Yeah. Nice. Uh, and, and Matt, is this. Uh, is this a full-time thing for you? Are you now? Yes, yes. That, that’s, that’s fantastic. When did you cross that threshold? Was that right from the start, or was that, uh oh, no. Along, along the way,

it was maybe halfway into the journey, maybe like two and a half years ago or so, I was able to kind of like make this my full-time thing.

Yeah. Yeah.

Congrats. That is awesome. That is not the case for Sara and me, but, but partly by design. We’ll, we’ll, you know, when, when we hit it as big as you do with undecided, then maybe we’ll make it a cool kick. Sara, what, what am I, what should I be asking of Matt that I’m not asking?

Oh, I don’t know that I can come up with anything that you’re leaving out.

Uh, well, how about, how about one that’s like, what’s maybe. Either, you know, what, what do you wish you had known at the beginning when you started? Or just what’s, you know, what’s an interesting lesson that you’ve learned through throughout this?

Oh man. Man, that’s a good, hard question. I don’t know how to answer that one.

It’s like there’s so much I’ve learned over this process. Uh, what I wish I had known beforehand, like when I started this, was I didn’t know I was gonna go so deep into like the engineering and science behind these topics, but I realized, You kind of have to, to give things context. Otherwise it’s this kind of meaningless information you’re sharing.

And so that’s where it’s like, I don’t have a background. I don’t have a degree in science, so it’s like I’m, I wish I had known that earlier, to kind of loop in more people into the process, to helping me to communicate this. Earlier in the process than I did today.

I like that. That’s a great answer. I mean, it really speaks to something that I think is interesting to me about, you know, that need for kind of people on the technical and scientific side to work more with people that can communicate to people and, and that there’s really something there.

And it’s not something that we do at the end of all of this, but something that we need to do

from the start.

Exactly. Yeah. Well, before we, you know, switch chairs, Matt, is there something like an elevator pitch for undecided or still to be determined that, you know, for the, the energy versus climate listeners that you want to get them to migrate over to your, your channel and your pod?

What’s your pitch?

Well, my pitch would be is like, if you’re interested in sustainability and climate change and what you personally can do, For your life. I’m covering a lot of what I’m doing in my life to try to make my home more energy efficient, more sustainable things I can do. So it’s like if you’re interested in that journey, you should come on over because I’m talking about a lot of the stuff I’m doing in my life right now to try to try


achieve that goal.

Nice, nice. And we really want to get into that and what you’re doing in your life, and then Sara and I, what we’ve done personally in our lives as well. But first, yeah, so we’re now sitting in the interviewee together, Sara and I, in the interviewee couch. It’s like the Joni Carson days. I, I’ll be the, uh, what was it?

Ed McMahon, and I’ll just sort of laugh a lot and, you know, not say anything of substance. So, uh, over to you, Matt.

All right. So you guys are in the hot seat now. I, I, I’d love to start with Sara. I have a couple questions for you. You’re a physicist, and I’m curious how you had probably a lot of options in front of you being a physicist, like what career choices you could do, what drew you towards energy industry and that kind of area of science.


that’s a great question. I mean, I, part of it, you know, something that I’ve been interested in all along, I can’t remember if I shared this before, I need to go grab a copy of it. But I have this book, like from my childhood, that clearly left a great impression on me called What Makes Everything Go.

And it’s this like basically kid’s book about energy and it is all about this concepts of like, you know, energy is not really, you know, can’t be sort of created out of nothing. And it just, so, so there’s some sort of. Piece of that that I guess was there from a very, very early age. And it was always kind of there as I was going through my studies and, and I ended up going down a totally different route cuz I got interested in the weirdness of quantum mechanics.

But, uh, but after that and deciding that I wanted to do something, uh, totally different, I found my way back to the energy industry and just got fascinated by all of the, you know, hard questions and challenges and, and the. Kind of really systems perspective where I thought, Hey, there’s something that I can bring here from what I know.

And so I’ve been working in this space for, yeah, going on, I guess. Bit over 15, somewhere between 15 and 20 years now, so,

wow. Yeah. So you’ve been a, you’ve been a professor researcher and you’ve been a consultant. What does a day in the life look like for, for you?

Yeah, it’s d I guess, different in each of those, right?

Yeah. I mean, now, now as a professor, even that every day, you know, is different, right? Cuz we. Do different things. We teach classes. So I just got finished actually, uh, with a, a class that I taught on the principles of solar power at the University of Calgary, which was really fun, a chance to kind of dive into that topic in a, in a lot of depth.

Um, so, you know, I’m do have classes. I’m working with PhD students and research assistants on, uh, research questions. And then, you know, I spent a lot of my time also finding ways to try to communicate with policy makers and, you know, with the media and others. To, because I, I’m really passionate about, you know, making sure then and helping to kind of increase the amount of information within academia and within the research sphere that actually gets out into, you know, the hands of policy makers and decision makers in a way that they can, you know, use it to make decisions.

And I think that’s really, You know, it’s not a, to me it’s not better or worse, right? Like basic research is also really important and there’s professors that do that and that’s great. But where I, I definitely focus a lot of my time is that connection piece, cuz it’s something that I think, you know, historically hasn’t been as important or hasn’t been as valued, I should say.

It’s always been important, hasn’t been as valued within academia. And I think the good news is that that’s starting to change. Um, and so I think there is a lot more. Kind of pathways for people like myself and others to, to kind of do that work, which I think is quite important. As we wrestle with these, you know, kind of global

challenges actually raises a question like in academia, like what’s your biggest challenge you’re finding between communicating within academia and communicating with the public or the media?

Like where do you think the biggest tension is there? What’s the biggest challenge? So

there’s sort of two ways. I think if you, if you look within the academic sphere, you know, it’s sort of really. To, to have metrics that capture the work and, you know, the measure of success of doing that work is, is maybe the biggest challenge.

Those are not, you know, we have a sort of set of traditional metrics we use in academia, like, you know, number of papers published and citations and, and that doesn’t really translate very well to work that you do, you know, kind of communication-wise. On the direct communication piece there. You know, I definitely had a lot to learn and I think I’m still continuing to learn, but I had a lot to learn after my degree and I think that’s where, you know, having been a consultant and worked in the policy space, you know, I feel like I went to school a number of times and learned different things around how to, you know, communicate both even just as a structure completely differently.

Right. And, and scientists. You know, it’s very common that you would start and sort of start with the basic facts and build up the, the story and sort of bring people along. And, you know, obviously that’s very different when you’re trying to communicate a point to, you know, kind of maybe the broader public, where you start with the, the answer and then explain, you know, kind of where and how you got there.

Um, so there was a lot of learning for me, uh, in order to yeah, become a better communicator.

Ed, on for you, I know you’ve got. A long history being a energy policy consultant as well. Kinda go through a little bit of your background, like how you ended up there, cuz it’s just like with Sara it’s like, how did you decide to go into energy?

Sure. I could say, you know, ditto what Sara said, minus the physics.

That’s a short answer. That’s a

short answer. Well, no, my, my path has been a little different perhaps. Um, I dunno, slightly more circuitous, but Sarah’s is as well. And, you know, I can touch upon how Sara and I came to work together years ago.

Uh, but I, I’m a public policy guy and I was working in, uh, conservation of wild spaces after I finished my undergrad. So did a lot of, uh, activism in, uh, my undergrad days around human rights. Got into, moved out west, lived in the Canadian Rockies, worked in parks and protected areas, uh, in the Rockies here, and living in Banff National Park, which is Canada’s oldest national park and one of our largest.

It’s a beautiful spot and realized along the way that. A had kind of hit a wall in terms of my career trajectory. So I decided to go out and I had a ba, I jokingly call a bugger all, and then I got an mba, a master’s of bugger all. But within that mba, I was able to focus both in international business, but then corporate sustainability and then really sort of, Dove into clean tech and renewable energy.

And when I came out, instead of going back to conservation, I realized that a lot of the issues that I was working on in protection of wild spaces, protection of uh, of uh, biodiversity was really. Directly impacted by the energy choices that we made, both the those who produce our energy and those who consume our energy.

And then I got a chance to work for this outfit called the Permanent Stew, which is a national clean energy think tank in Canada. Sara joined me there sort of 10 years after. I started, uh, she came outta McKinsey and took the steepest salary cut in the history, I think, of the PEM Institute going from a McKinsey salary on the partner track to working for this national environmental ngo.

But that was really my. Master’s degree, you could say. After my master’s degree, I came in, you know, wet behind the ears, not knowing a lot, but just being thrown into the business and starting first in consulting and then becoming executive director of the organization. Not only did I develop a deep passion for clean, sustainable energy, but I got enough knowledge just to be, I think, dangerous to myself and dangerous to others, and then step into the lucrative world of podcasting.

I’m gonna ask you the same question I asked Sara. What’s a day in the life look like for a consultant doing what you do?

Well, it’s, it’s very exciting and actually I, I, I will say a day in the life when it used to be, there’s actually a video kicking round. YouTube not called a Day in the Life, but two days in the life of Ed Wittingham.

And if you’re ever having trouble sleeping, go search for that. Click on it. And not only will the action on screen put you to sleep, but you might find the, the soundtrack very soothing. That’s what it used to be like these days. It’s, it’s doing a lot of this. Frankly, I wish I were actually getting out there and putting up solar panels on people’s roofs, but when you work on public policy, you’re sitting behind a laptop.

And you are interacting with decision makers and you’re writing briefs, and you’re doing research, and you’re communicating, in my case, usually communicating very poorly to try to create that compelling case to put in place the policy and regulatory frameworks that we need to really drive us to net zero.

So looking at me, you’re seeing me in front of a laptop talking, that’s about a day in the life of Ed Wittingham these days. It’s about as exciting as that.

Oh man, this is, obviously you guys are in Canada, so it’s gonna be very different than what I am. I assume talking to policymakers here in the United States would be kind of disheartening at times.

What’s it been like for you guys in Canada? It’s, what’s the receptiveness of the policymakers you’re talking to? Like are, are they, are they getting it? Is it clicking with them?

Well, we’re really trying to be as disheartening as the United States. It’s kind of like a race, you know, that we’re trying to win.

So yeah, don’t think we’re up here in this utopian socialist, uh, climate conscious, uh, northern neighbor country. We’ve got our own challenges, but Matt, I mean, it’s. A little less, I think, than in the United States do we actually have to these days say that climate change is a thing or make a case for it.

But unfortunately, it still falls very much along partisan lines. And although we thought we’d turned a corner just a few years ago with. The equivalent of our Republican Party, the Conservative Party of Canada, which has now taken several steps back on being open and receptive to, to progressive climate policy.

We’re kind of felt like we, we took a few steps back and stepped back in time about 10 years. So it still, unfortunately, splits very much long partisan lines. Okay,

so you’re following the American path. I’m sorry about that.

Yeah. Well, following the American path, I guess just without the same sort of, you know, game of chicken when it comes to, you know, spending limits and budgets and, you know.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, uh, our, our Prime Minister is a little younger than your president. Maybe that’s the other difference. Yeah,

just, just a little bit. Yeah. Do you wanna jump into the, the main topics that we wanna talk about? Yeah,

yeah, let’s do that. So we want to talk about, we thought we’d just chunk it out between homes and then getting around mobility.

So maybe Matt, you know, tell us about your experience in developing a net Zero home. Like, you know, when did you start, where are you at right now? And one or two things you told us about, you know, undecided and still to be determined, but what are sort of, Big things that you’ve learned along the way from energy efficiency to appliances, to windows, insulation?

Just, you know, I, I’m, I’m really narrowing the topic and the focus, narrowing it down, making it


easy to focus. Yeah, it’s, you can come up with a yes or no answer, that’s fine.

For me, it started with my current house that I’m in right now. Having an energy audit on my house, figuring out what I had to do to try to make it better because it’s an older house and by old.

By American standards. It was built in the 1950s. Very leaky, not great insulation. So getting that kind of upgraded and kinda learning what I had to do, that led to me, you know, getting solar panels in my house, which led to me wanting to get a home battery, which led to me wanting to be more energy efficient.

It was kind of like a snowball, like rolling downhill. It was just, Like a slippery slope of, okay, well what’s next? Oh, this, oh, I, if I could monitor my energy, I’d know where it’s going at my house. So let me get a smart home energy monitor. I can put my electric panel. It just started leading into one thing after another.

So it’s just, it’s been like pulling a yard, a little bit of string out of my shirt, and it’s just slowly coming, unraveling of finding all the things I can do, which then led to me making a whole bunch of videos about all those different topics, which got me super excited about kind of like walking the walk, talking the talk.

What if I built a brand new house that was as energy efficient as I could possibly make it? And that’s what my wife and I have been working on for the past two years. The house should be done this summer. But it’s going to be a passive house level, quality home, really high like R values for all the installation, triple pane windows.

We’re getting a geothermal heating and cooling system put in, solar panels, home battery, the whole smart panels. We’re kind of putting everything into it that I’ve been talking about on my channel for the past five years. So it’s kind of like our dream home that we’re building for our long term, forever home.

So that’s kind of been my journey going into this, but it’s, it’s, it’s honestly that slippery slope of once you start with one of these things, it always seems to lead to one other thing. And the one thing I got that started this whole part was my Tesla model three. I got an EV and it was like, I. I don’t have to get gas anymore, but man, it takes a lot of electricity.

What can I do to solve that problem? Well, I’ll put solar panels on my roof. Oh, well that’s great, but I’m putting all this energy into the grid and I’m not able to take advantage of it. Oh, I need a home battery. So it was just like one of these things just kept unfolding in the next, so it’s kinda like, why?

What I’ve learned over time and what I’m doing with my house, that’s why

I’m doing it all. So Matt, you’re a cautionary tale to all the people contemplating the Tesla purchase. You get a Tesla purchase and the slippery stove, be careful building a whole net zero home. Yes.

I hear the same story from people that watch my videos and comment and I’ve had conversations with them and it’s the, it’s the same thing every time I got an ev, now I wanna get solar panels and I wanna get a home battery.

It’s like, it’s the same exact pattern I see other people going down. So it’s seems to be pretty

common. Yeah. And Sara, I know you,

that was actually, uh, that, that was Tesla’s pitch right around why they should, when they, to their investors when they were buying the solar company. I’m gonna get which one it was wrong, which sort of didn’t really happen, right.

But they were basically saying like, we could sell people solar in the showroom when we’re selling them. The ev, I guess. They sounds like they could have done a better job of it, but I don’t think that they

have. Yeah. Basically being able to charge your own car off of sunshine is a really compelling sales pitch.

It’s like you don’t have to buy electricity from the grid, you don’t have to use gasoline anymore. You can just charge your car from your own roof. It’s. A pretty compelling

argument. Yeah. I feel like I’ve approached it the opposite way. My, my gateway drug was frankly, uh, rooftop solar. Well, I should, I should take a step back.

My gateway drug was that, as you say, getting a, an energy efficiency audit of a house done, and then you get the itemized list of all the things that you can do, and I started checking them off. And this was, this is much longer ago. And so checking it off and geothermal was around, but it really wasn’t commercialized and I don’t think they’d figured out the cold weather performance.

So Moya was like, okay, well you’ve got an 80% A F U E or annualized fuel, uh, utilization efficiency furnace go up to 96%. But it’s still gas based. There’s a bunch of air tightness improvements to do, and just getting around with the caulking gun and, and the spray foam changing out a hot water tank. For me, the biggest, uh, bang for the buck was attic insulation.

Like just putting attic insulation up to R 40 was incredible. You know, changing out windows and, you know, up here in Canadian dollars. At the time, this is going back, I wanna say 13 years and putting in, uh, new windows. That was like a six $6,500 Canadian, uh, dollar venture. Putting in spraying attic insulation up to R 40, I think was 400 bucks, and by far the biggest bang for the puck.

And what we found, and then I started tracking our household emissions that I had, emissions, my household submissions, including our travel and flights and whatnot, was uh, about 14 tons per year and then dropped it down to 10 tons and then after that, dropped it down to just north of eight tons, which is great.

So it was nice to the best. To, to the best that I could calculate it using the permanent suits, plug and chug household emissions calculator. Then I should say the gateway drug was putting in rooftop solar. I haven’t done an EV yet, but I’ve got a four kilowatt system up on my house and it is creating, you know, basically it’s reduced my, uh, electricity consumption.

Well, it produces 113% of our. Average annual consumption, and then it’s reduced our electricity by about 43% over average levels, and that’s so 43% pure savings on the electricity charges. But Sara, I know coming to you, I think your gateway drug was, I’m sure you did some things on your house, ev, and then you put panels up on your roof.

Is that right?

I’m trying to remember the order here. So we, we did first the home insulation and windows. So that was the first step. And then the ev. Came slightly before the solar, but they were at a similar time. But actually before that was the e-bikes and ecar bikes. For me, that is like the big, I think, place around which I’m most, uh, of a evangelist or something.

Uh, both a, both a cargo biking with the electric assist and then actually like cargo trike for the Canadian winters. Like I still think that trikes are a much underappreciated tool for biking when it’s. Uh, icy out and in the snow. Uh, you know, probably they’re just not cool, but luckily I’m not worried about that, so, so that’s okay.

Yeah, so that, that’s been a big thing for me. Then we went down to, you know, just having one car in the family, which has been nice in a lot of ways. Also from a, from a cost savings perspective. Uh, I did also get a, I have a sense energy monitor, um, that I got put in. Pretty early on as well too. And that was kind of fun, interesting to see.

I mean, I think some of these things are good examples of stuff that’s like fun at parties. If, I guess if you go to the right kind of parties, then you hang around and compare your energy monitor usage. Um, but I’m not sure if it makes a big difference in terms of, you know, actual like home performance.

That one is really more just like, oh, I’m curious. And it’s fun to be able to see that. Um, I think more generally, like all the things that we’re talking about, you know, it’s, it’s fun to be part of the early adopter crowd and to look for ways to do all of this. Um, but it’s really, you know, gonna have a, and I think there’s an important role for that, but I think then it has the biggest impact when it kind of just becomes a standard thing, right?

That people do. Um, And that’s arguably maybe a little bit easier when it comes to something like an ev than, than some of the home stuff. Um, the home retrofit stuff, there’s, there’s some interesting signs of some of the new home builds, right? There’s a big company, uh, in Calgary, I know that I’ve seen the signs advertising.

Now solar comes kind of standard with their home. So some of those changes I think are starting to happen. And to me, those are where we see, you know, the biggest kind of change.

Yeah, I, I had a sense in my house too for a long time, and I was like super, super nerdy. It’s like, this is great knowledge, but what do I do with this?

And it’s like I was having to be very proactive on my, by myself to take action on certain things, which is when I upgraded to the SPAN Electric Smart panel, which is like sense on steroids, it’s, it’s no longer just information, it’s, it can actually take action on things. So it’s like, If the grid goes out, it, it automatically will create kind of virtual subpanels, so it’ll automatically start dropping certain things, turning them off to extend the battery life automatically.

I don’t have to think about it. I’ve also tied it into my smart home, so it’s like I’m able to even get more granular than that. Like if there’s. I can plug my Tesla in today, and if there’s no solar power being generated, it doesn’t charge. But when solar starts coming into the house, it could charge. So it’s like, it allows you to kind of unlock these systems and automations based on how you’re interacting with things where sense.

It’s just information and it’s got those cool little blobs showing you how much energy’s being used. And you can look at historical usage. It, it did help me find things like I had a rogue dehumidifier in my basement that was just like running. I thought, I thought it was on a smart plug and I thought it was only running like a couple hours a day, but it turned out it was like running basically 24 hours a day and it was using way too much energy.

And so a sense alerted me to this of like, there’s a high energy use in your basement. I was like, what is this? And I figured out what it was. So it’s it, it is helpful, but it’s not like it could have just turned it off on its own.

Where, yeah, it’s more like a one time, like finding something that’s going on wrong than necessarily long term, although I got my kids like into it and at least I feel like, oh, they’re learning about energy, so that’s kind of fun.


Yeah, we did that. I mean it, so my gauge app sounds very clunky by comparison, which will show realtime solar production and then real-time electricity consumption. And I remember using it and for, uh, when I was at Pemina for a work thing, I was in the Persian Gulf. I’m like, 12 hours away and I was cyberstalking my family using e gauge.

And you can see right away, and especially anything, hey, deer, homeowner, anything that’s got a heating element in it, like a kettle or if you’re running a dryer, anything that has to heat up and use electricity, heat up, you can just see it spikes your consumption. So I would cyber snoop and I would say, Hey, you know, I think someone left a bedroom light on and you know, I was having a Skype chat in my family and, uh, Then suddenly I’m watching it in real time.

I see our consumption go up to unprecedented levels, so what’s going on? And of course, they decided to play a prank on me and they turned everything on in the house that they possibly could that drew electricity. And that was a clear message to dad to stop cyber, cyber snooping from halfway around the house, halfway around the world.

And, uh, so I struggle as well, like it’s great information and it’s been a, a useful thing. I will say I’ve actually, my e gauge, I’d use that with policymakers. When I’ve had meetings in, uh, provincial capital like Edmonton or gone to Ottawa and talking about solar, I’ll say, Hey, you wanna see something neat?

Pull up the app right there and just show them. And it’s essentially a show and tell piece. But then that gives me a hook to talk about some of the incentives, whether they be provincial or federal or or municipal. That allowed a homeowner like me to look at a solar system that took out some of the cost risk.

And sort of, you know, took down the payback on it by, you know, whatever it was, five or 10 years. Matt, on solar in particular, are you tapping into some sort of state level or municipal level incentive program? Or is that this not, yes. That’s not, not, has that not figured into your decision?

Oh, it, I am taking advantage of it.

It didn’t impact my decision of wanting to get solar. I wanted to get solar, whatever incentive was available. But here in Massachusetts there’s a program called Connected Solutions that. It’s really kind of cool. Um, not only is there like net metering and different kinds of systems in place like that, but my home battery can participate is a virtual power plant.

So, All the hundreds of other homes that are participating in this act as one gigantic battery for the grid. And so during the summertime there’s a period of like four months where my utility can take advantage of that virtual power plant to do peak shaving, which is just so cool. I love the fact I’m participating in this thing that’s helping the community, but it saves the utility a lot of money.

Cause they don’t just spin up peaker plants for those times in the afternoon where everybody comes home from work and has turned on the air conditioning and cooking their dinners. So my. I’m putting in, I can’t remember how many kilowatts I put in last season, but then they cut you a small check at the end of the season based on how many kilowatts on average that you put into the program.

They’ll pay it back, and so batteries are very expensive. It’s like, you know, $15,000 to get a single power wall installed. So if you’re over the course of a five years of this program, if you’re earning back five, six, $7,000, that’s a nice chunk taken right off of the top of that battery cost to make it a little more worth your while.

It’s like, I, I want programs like this to be everywhere, but unfortunately they’re not. Not

yet. Yeah. And that, I mean, I, I don’t know your take Sara, but it seems that any kind of incentive around battery storage or even at the utility scale energy storage, that’s kind of the next frontier. That’s, you know, now we’ve got some federal funding for it in Canada through a large federal program that just got massively recapitalized in our last budget and our last budget, Matt, it was like the Canadian response to ira.

You know, like how do we keep clean tech, clean energy capital in Canada, not drift down to the United States because of hell lucrative, ludicrously lucrative. The incentives are Then we tried to keep pace and now there’s some money for energy storage, but still, You know, at the utilities commission level or the electricity system operator level on the utility scale, people are still trying to wrap their heads around it.

How we have these non wire solutions. You don’t have to just put in more transmission. And that’s actually just on a broader scale, one of the things getting in the way of, you know, increased deployment or penetration of renewable electricity in a place like where Sara and I live is this, oh, well, if we do that, we have to put in more transmission.

Well, battery storage is literally a non wire solution, but we’re still trying to educate and change hearts and minds. Around that

o o one question came up, like we all talked about getting energy audits on our homes, which I thought was really cool. What would you guys think for where a homeowner should start where, because there’s so much we can do, like where should somebody start that’s just getting into this.

Two. So two,

two things I’d offer. So I think one is, you know, the insulation one is a big one, and I know it’s not so exciting, right? You don’t get to point to like your shiny ev or the, you know, solar panels on your roof. But as Ed was saying, it’s often the biggest bang for the buck. So, you know, looking at what options do you have to, to just increase the amount of insulation, uh, around your home.

And, and that can be with an energy audit and often there are programs that help actually support the cost of that too. The other one, I’ll come back to my, you know, what I like to evangelize about around transportation and, and thinking about, you know, are there ways that you can start to replace car trips with something else?

Right. And obviously that depends a lot on where you are, whether that’s public transit or walking or cycling. But when I, you know, when I really started to replace a lot more of my car trips with a bike, I really just had, it was sort of like a week, I set myself a challenge and I was like, okay, I’m gonna, you know, Unless I really, you know, it’s over an hour or something like that, I’m just gonna take the bike instead of the car and like, just gonna do it.

And I found that there were actually a lot of things that I could do that, you know, I could replace with a, with biking and, and that can be easier, you know, if you’re in a place where you can, I. Rent, get a short-term rental of a cargo bike if you’re, you know, someone that’s carrying kids or, um, you know, big grocery, uh, halls home often you, you know, you can use trailers or things like that.

But really just kind of trying it out and seeing if it fits into your, into your life, I think is a big step towards then finding out that, hey, maybe this does actually, not only does it, you know, Good from an energy perspective, but I found I’m a lot happier when I get outside and I get to spend, you know, my commuting time, even if it’s a little bit longer on a bike versus stuck in


Yeah, I’d say plus one for an e-bike, and our story is in 2005 and we’re on the cusp of having our second kid. We got where I was when I was living in Banff, Alberta, and Canada. We got as far as we can tell, the first e-bike that anyone owned. In, in Banff amongst, uh, any resident. And we did that. And at the time we had to retrofit my wife’s bike, her towny bike.

We put an extend bike on the back. We put like this massive lead acid battery on the back with a brushless motor on the front, and then a throttle and a controller. And next thing you know, we managed to get the torque right so that she could boot up the hill. We lived up a hill. With her cargo bike and with two kids sitting on the back on the xtend bike as well.

Uh, and, and that just changed things for us. And for a long time we had one car kids got a little older, we had two cars. We were shuttling them around and now we’re back to a one car household. And very happy with that one sort of comment on the one car household. We’re we’re able to do that because of the behavioral changes that we’ve made.

So post covid. Frankly, it’s been wonderful. We’re sitting here and we’re, you’re in Massachusetts. Sarah’s in Calgary. I’m here in Canmore. Uh, we’re talking to each other through video conferencing. As I say, you know, a very unexciting day in my life is doing a lot of this. Talking from home and working out of a home office, which, because I’m able to do that, cuts down on our need to get around through any kind of vehicle, whether it’s EV or internal combustion engine, and I can go an entire week as it’s, it’s a regular thing without getting behind the wheel of the the Soval remaining vehicle that we have.

I will say on your question around energy audits, Matt, I think it’s a good starting point. But I, I do caution people, when you get your report back, it’ll have like 10 things that you can do, and the first five things will be really expensive and they’ll seem like big capital projects. And don’t be intimidated by that.

To Sarah’s point, there are little things that you can knock off on that list that cost a lot less. And just because your energy auditor ranked at number seven or eight on your list, like just pick one and then just get into it. And then you’ll find that the others will come much more easily. Kind of like you.

You’re, you’re a slippery St. Slope story, man. Yeah,

yeah. That’s great advice. It’s, it’s kinda what happened to me. I got this list of like, oh my God, there’s so much on here to do. And it was like, okay, let’s start with the ones that are kind of the cheapest, easiest to do. And then in our, my Massachusetts, there’s something called Mass Save, uh, here, which is a program that actually helps you cover the cost of the energy audit that even helped cover the cost of getting reinstallation.

So we upgraded our insulation or attic. Through the program to help cover some of that cost. So it’s like, it may not be as expensive as you might think, depending on where you live and what programs are available. And, and I wanted to do a plus one to the E-bike. I’ve got one too. I’ve, I love that thing.

It’s so much fun. And I’ve been talking to my wife about trying to get down to a one car household, cuz we both work from home now. Mm-hmm. It’s like we have two cars sitting in our driveway. It’s like, I barely drive, she barely drives. We don’t need two cars. So I’m trying to get down to that point where we’re maybe.

A couple bikes, one car for those, those trips where we need a car. It’s, it seems, that seems like a kind of a no-brainer for a lot of people if you work a job where you can do more kind of remote work, which a lot of people seem to be able to do today. Yep,

yep. Hey Matt, I’ve got a question for you and, and maybe we could almost wrap with this topic, Sara and I.

And David Keith, our other co-host, we had Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis on right at the beginning of season four of our podcast, energy Versus Climate, energy versus climate.com. We will do a proper plug before we ring off. And they talked about the difference between being like a green consumer versus a green citizen.

And what they said is, yeah, you know, the things that we talked about that’s all important and, and we should do that. But let’s not forget being a green citizen, and that might involve showing up. In front of your local electricity utility board, or it might mean going to your town council next time that they’re doing a review of building codes.

Maybe just give us your thought or experiences with how you allocate your time and your energy and your passion between the. You know, what you’re doing in your house, but then kind of these, these, these, these broader, you know, citizen action type things that we could do.

Yeah, it’s a, that’s a good example of like, right now I’m starting to get more active in my local policy stuff.

I haven’t done that historically, but I’m starting to do that more now. Once again, walking the walk, talking the talk where I’m building my new house, I’ve actually been attending virtually the town meetings. Um, they’re talking about community solar projects. I’m starting trying to get involved in that kind of thing myself.

So it’s like I wanna try to help steer what’s happening in my community. And that’s something super easy to do that everybody that cares about this stuff should do. It’s, it’s, it’s beyond simple to find out where your local town meetings are being held. Most of them do it virtually now, so it’s really easy to attend.

That’s one thing I’m doing right now. It, it kind of like, based on what I’m doing on the channel, I also look at what I’m doing on the channel as kind of advocacy. It’s like I’m talking about my experience with solar panels. I’m talking about my experience with geothermal in the new house. It’s like, I’m trying to also kind of just kind of advocate to the public about this stuff isn’t as scary as you think.

It’s not as hard as you think and look at the benefits you can get from it. So I kind of look at that as another arm of what I’m trying to do.

And I think you do that very well. And based on the, the followers you have, I mean, the downloads you get with the pod and the followers, you’re what? Uh, if I get the number right, it’s 1.9 million, like some staggering number like that of people who are subscribing your YouTube


It’s 1.2 million right

now. 1.2 million. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, just one. It’s a waste to go. Only 1.2 million. Oh. I don’t know Sara, why we’re even talking to Matt Ferrell on it. Yeah. Yeah. Well, hey, why don’t we, we’re our own energy gangs just about say, Hey gang, we’re kinda like the Energy gang today. Why don’t we, why don’t we leave it at that, Matt?

Maybe. Where can people find you? Find, uh, the Still To Be Determined podcast and undecided. If you

wanna listen to Still Be Determined, go to still tbd.fm and you can find the links to all the places online. We’re in pretty much every podcast player you can imagine, so just look us up as still T B D podcast.

You can find us pretty much everywhere and on YouTube as well.

Awesome Sara. Where can people find energy versus climate?

You can find energy versus climate@energyversusclimate.com, or also in all the places you find podcasts. And if you’re looking for a group of people, you know, going pretty deep into the weeds on specific topics within the energy and climate space, down into the, yeah, weedy, weedy policy and uh, technology area, then I think you’ll enjoy it.

We also try, you know, to really confront some of the cha. Challenges that arise and the difficulties and, and just the, I think we, we like to say the reality of the challenges that come from when energy and climate collide and being here in, you know, what is the oil capital of, uh, of Canada doing so, you know, grounded in the, the real challenges and, and the real impact that it has on people’s lives.

So, we may be up in Canada, but we like to think that, uh, you know, it’s, it’s very relevant for people all across, uh, north America and all across the world.

Yes, I’m channeling my inner Dan Carlin and I’m saying, Frank, no BS conversation about the hard truths and trade-offs of energy transition, energy versus Klein.

Hey, this was a lot of fun. Thanks so much, Matt. We’re Sara and I thank you. Uh, if I can speak for you, Sara, I think we’re really grateful that, uh, you joined us today.

This was a lot of fun. I’m so glad we connected and got to do this. Cool. Let’s do it

again. All right. Thanks everyone. Definitely.

Our thanks to Sara and Ed for taking the time to talk to Matt and share their insights, and it’s too bad that David wasn’t available for the call as well.

Perhaps you’ll get an opportunity to talk to him in the future, I hope so. If you’d like to learn more about them and their podcast on energy policy, go to http://www.energy versus Climate. That’s energy vs climate.com. As usual, I’d like to invite everybody who’s listening to jump into the comments, let us know what you thought about the conversation, and put in any comments that you think that would invite future conversations between Matt and his guests.

If he’s able to revisit, it’d be interesting for you to share your comments and insights that he might take with him for that second conversation. As always, we appreciate you taking the time to listen or watch us on YouTube. Please, if you have the time and the wherewithal to support us, go back to wherever it was you listened to us, go back to where it was you found us.

Leave a review. Don’t forget to subscribe and tell your friends. All of those are great ways to support us, and if you’d like to more directly support us, you can click the join button on YouTube. You can also go to still tbd fm. Click the Become a Supporter Button. It allows you to throw quarters at our heads.

We appreciate the indentations. I’ve got a George Washington right about here. Those wounds heal and the podcast gets made and we are appreciative. Thank you so much for everybody. For listening or watching. We’ll talk to you next time.

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