Kate and Michael called me urgently to get a budget to install solar panels in their house in Miami as soon as possible. Michael was mad about the insane cost of his electricity bill, and Kate had very serious environmental concerns for the present and future of her kids
As a couple they are beautiful and complement each other perfectly. Michael is impatient and does things on a whim, while Kate is sweet, relaxed, and always thinks before acting. Due to their opposing characters they could only love or hate each other. Fortunately, in their case, it is the former! The result is a fantastic marriage with two kids, lots of laughs, a messy living room, several joint expenses, and some shared concerns about their financial stability.
I had barely stepped foot in their house before both told me, simultaneously, “Cesar, we want to install solar panels in our home.”
“That's fantastic!” I responded. “But why do you want to buy solar panels?”.
Usually it is the homeowner who asks the question “why?” but in this instance their minds were already made up. I was curious to know why they were so sure about buying solar panels. Here are the answers.
Kate is very worried about climate change in Florida. Her company, a supplier to many hotels in Miami, Weston, and Fort Lauderdale, is heavily reliant upon tourism. As a local entrepreneur she is concerned about the thousands of jobs Florida could lose if the ocean continues to rise and the heat keeps increasing. Fearing a massive slump in tourism, and an unbearably hot and humid climate, Kate, as a mother and entrepreneur, is greatly concerned about the future for her kids and her business.
Michael, for his part, is focused on the insane cost they are currently paying for electricity. With two kids, a few years shy of college age, and with tuition fees increasing year-on-year, he is working on ways to save money which could then be invested into the children's futures. He knows from experience that a bachelor's degree will more than double a young adult's income during the first five years of employment post graduation (and could, potentially, bring in an income of as much as four-fold that of adults without degrees).
Michael is part of the first generation of college graduates in his family. He is much more successful financially than his siblings who were not able to go to college. “They are fine,”, Michael says, “but they had to work really hard to achieve what they have. I have been very fortunate and have been able to do it faster and easier than them. They are happy for me. Still, it serves as a constant reminder, to Kate and I, of how important education is for the kids. But, I admit, the cost of that education is a permanent concern.”
To the many people who call me asking for information about solar energy I always tell them the same: California has a lot of solar energy, enough to produce around 23% of its electricity needs. In comparison, Florida produces less than 1% of its energy needs through solar. In California many people are aware of solar panels and how cost effective they are – it’s part of the daily life.
There are 6000 million people on the planet. 1200 million people don’t have electricity. In a decade there will be 7000 million – an even greater demand for energy. In addition, although extreme poverty continues, this tends to decrease. In real terms that means more and more families demanding more freezers, more stoves, more food, more assets. All this requires energy. Currently, we have a fast, but dangerous, way to obtain energy which can then be transformed into electricity.
To get energy we burn fossil fuels. Whenever coal, oil or gas is burned it produces CO2 and methane. These particles are released into the air and they heat the atmosphere. Over the last 50 years we have burned so much fossil fuel that the average temperature of the Earth has increased so fast that the Planet's fragile balance has been jeopardized. The risk is so high, that alongside an increase in earthquakes, hurricanes and heavy rain, we could also face famine from lost crops, droughts, extreme and dangerous summers, and a shortage of fresh water.
As the burning of fossil fuels is the principal cause of the climate crisis, so the price of oil, coal and oil continue rising. With more demand for energy, and more people demanding that energy to supply their lifestyles, the cost of fossil fuels will soon go through the roof.
70% of electricity produced by FPL in Florida comes from gas. 23% comes from dangerous and expensive nuclear power. Gas produces a lot of methane, which in turn produces between 34 to 81 times more CO2. The gas used to produce electricity in Florida is a super contaminant that will also become more and more expensive.
The result is clear: utility companies in Florida use a highly contaminating and expensive source to produce electricity.
Michael saw one of the variables; Kate the other. What a great team they are! Electricity is expensive. You must pay for it each month for the rest of your life. The current way this electricity is obtained puts lives at risk in Florida and the rest of the world.
When I initially asked Michael and Kate, “Why do you want to buy solar panels for your home in Miami?” they responded with the same reasons that I tell the many people who contact me every day: “To save money and avoid contaminating this beautiful planet for our kids and future generations.”
Out of interest, let's take a look at the cost of electricity coming from a utility company:
Michael and Kate make up a four-person family living in a medium-sized, two-storey house. They pay $250 per month for electricity. They have a medium pool and a single air conditioning system that they use to keep the house at around 73 °F. They have a big freezer and they cook each morning and each evening. They have a dog named Zeus, “but the dog doesn’t consume too much electricity,” jokes Michael.
Now, let's Imagine that the $250 FPL bill you paid in 2016 increases by $32. $32 over 3 years is more than 12%. There are 2 main reasons for this 12% rise:• fossil fuels are non-renewable sources and become harder to find and mine• the demand for energy increases with the more people living on the planet.
Moreover, in future, governments will heavily tax fossil fuels as a way to discourage using these highly contaminating energy sources. The end result is that alternative energies will become ever more popular and ever cheaper. That is the case with solar energy today - cheaper and cleaner.
Now, taking into consideration the above figures, why are Michael and Kate so sure about buying solar panels?
Well, let's imagine that they pay $250 per month for electricity. Now, let's say that the utility company only increases this by 6% annually. In 25 years they will have paid $174,000 in electricity. Michael realized this early on. He saw that if they remained with the utility company then, they would, in effect, be renters of electricity for the rest of their lives. $174,000 over 25 years is a fortune! That amount of money could buy half a house, or act as a complete retirement pension. In fact, 25 years is around the amount of time that they would need to save in order to put the kids through college.
In contrast to the elevating cost of electricity from the utility company, Michael and Kate learned that the government, in 2019, would grant them 30% off the cost of the total installation of their solar panels. This deduction is known as the ITC. It equates to almost a third of the total cost of their solar panels. For every $100 that the family pays for their panels, the government reimburses them $30 dollars. Now, that's pretty good!
When Kate learned of the above figures she was astonished. It’s way too much money. Taking into account the uncertainty of rising ocean levels around Florida, and the states total dependence on tourism, it became an easy decision for Kate and Michael to have solar panels installed in their house in Miami.
As the couple say, “After realizing the savings, and knowing that solar energy is a zero emission source of energy, it was one of the easiest and smartest decisions we've ever made!” And I couldn't agree more. Now, it’s so great to watch this beautiful family in Florida get the energy they need free from the sun.
And, just in case you're wondering, Zeus, the dog, continues to be an amazing, four-legged, energy-saving, member of the family.