Connect with us

Real Estate

Nuclear fusion, a disruptive power source for crowded cities: Don Pittis




The battle to replace fossil fuels with low-carbon power is bumping up against a new practical reality.

As people crowd into cities, the world’s need for concentrated power sources is growing just as low-carbon green power is heading in the opposite direction. While the world needs high-density energy — the amount of power used or produced in a given space — low-carbon power sources such as solar, wind and hydro sprawl out over the distant hinterland.

Energy economist Christina Hoicka says the world needs “a new geography of energy” to satisfy soaring power requirements in densely populated urban clusters.

Sun power

Just as that problem looms, there are growing hints that a long-promised energy solution, nuclear fusion — the low-carbon, high-density, power of the sun — may arrive in time to solve the geographic challenge.

In some ways, the tantalizing prospect of safe and unlimited fusion energy adds to the confusion as the world struggles to move away from high-carbon fossil fuels. Long-term planning would be much easier if we knew how soon the technology would arrive.

Canadian experts say a burst of new technology and new private sector investment mean the commercialization of fusion could be ten or 15 years away. Other estimates have been even more optimistic.

At the Canadian company General Fusion, a precision titanium component made using 3D printing is an example of how new technology is accelerating the fusion energy timeline. (General Fusion)

Nuclear fusion — making energy by forcing hydrogen atoms to merge —  is quite different from the nuclear power we use now at generating stations in Canada and beyond. Current nuclear plants are powered by fission, releasing energy by smashing heavy atoms apart, with a resulting shower of dangerous radiation that must be contained.

In places like Ontario, and countries like France, Hungary and Belgium, nuclear power plants are the backbone of electricity production, delivering vast quantities of reliable, low-carbon energy.

While fission power plants offer a high-density low-carbon alternative to coal and natural gas, their costs are rising to the point where they are no longer practical.

The cost of Fukushima

Following devastating and costly accidents such those at Chernobyl and Fukushima, now estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, the expense of constructing safe new nuclear fission plants has become prohibitive.

Just last week, the Japanese company Hitachi walked away from a plant under construction in Britain, writing off their investment of nearly $3 billion US.

“I was not prepared to ask the taxpayer to take on a larger share of the equity, as that would have meant taxpayers taking on the majority of construction risk,” said British Energy Secretary Greg Clark.

Giant batteries in the centre of Toronto now plugged into the grid are an example of how low-density power could be accumulated in high density areas of demand. (Don Pittis/CBC) 

One difficulty for governments and utilities is that the complete cost of building, upgrading and waste storage for conventional nuclear plants continues to soar. Meanwhile, the cost of green power, especially wind, has plunged well below the price of even conventional fossil fuel power plants.

The problem, says Hoicka, who is currently writing a contribution on energy infrastructure for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Energy Politics, is one of energy density.

“Cities are becoming much more dense so the demand centres are becoming much more dense,” says Hoicka, pointing to such things as high rise buildings and high power server farms to run our ubiquitous phones and computers.

“If we do a shift toward renewables and away from thermal technologies … the density of supply would reduce.”

Industrialized rural landscapes

As well as industrializing rural landscapes that many people object to, Hoicka says converting to an all-renewable energy supply will require a rebuilding of our energy network. Such plans could include giant batteries to store power close to where it is needed or pricing systems to encourage urban roof-top solar.

But Hoicka says such a rebuilding is path-dependent, a technical term that means future plans depend on what we have built in the past.

That is why the sudden and unexpected arrival of nuclear fusion would be disruptive, not only for fossil fuels, but also for the systems we are building to replace them.

Wind power has become a cheap source of electricity, but it’s mostly produced far from where power is needed. (Jorge Luis/Reuters)

Mike Delage, chief technology officer at General Fusion, a privately held company based in Burnaby, B.C., and a global star in private sector fusion, thinks commercial fusion could be as little as a decade away.

And one of the reasons is the number of private sector start-ups getting into a sector once reserved — like space exploration —  for governments with deep pockets.

“Fifteen years ago, General Fusion and one or two others existed,” says Delage. “Now, we’re tracking more than two dozen companies.”

Accelerated development

Such young start-ups include Commonwealth Fusion Systems at MIT, founded last spring with $50 million US in startup money from the Italian energy giant ENI. 

Delage says start-ups are using innovative ideas based on science accumulated by government research projects and brand new technologies such as 3D printing and massive computing power, to accelerate development of an affordable power source he is convinced is inevitable.

“If you have the knowledge to build a power plant, you can build it anywhere,” says Delage. “You can put it closer to the centres of demand.”

Once it arrives, fusion power sounds like a perfect plan to solve the problem Christina Hoicka has identified.

General Fusion’s giant plasma injector is used to shoot super-heated gas into a compression chamber for ignition. The Canadian company has an even newer version of the injector that’s ten times more powerful. (General Fusion)

That said, other experts, while agreeing that commercial fusion is coming, have pushed the year out to 2050 — a date 30 years away or the perpetually-offered timeline for a technology that never seems to arrive. 

Whether fusion arrives in five, 10 or 30 years, inevitably it will disrupt the fossil fuels industry, conventional nuclear and even renewable power, says Allan Offenberger, an Alberta-based physicist who has advised governments around the world.

In any case, he says, that’s too long to wait. The switch to renewables must go ahead. Fossil fuels, while much reduced, will still be needed, and nuclear fission power is still essential as an interim energy source.

“We can’t get fusion plants up fast enough to phase out greenhouse gases overnight,” says Offenberger.

“We’ve got to go through that phase-in to where fusion will become the main energy source, and it will in the long run, in this century.”

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Real Estate

5 ways to reduce your mortgage amortization





Since the pandemic hit, a lot of Canadians have been affected financially and if you’re on a mortgage, reducing your amortization period can be of great help.

A mortgage amortization period is the amount of time it would take a homeowner to completely pay off their mortgage. The amortization is typically an estimate based on what the interest rate for your current term is. Calculating your amortization is done easily using a loan amortization calculator which shows you the different payment schedules within your amortization period.

 In Canada, if you made a down payment that is less than the recommended 20 per cent of the total cost of your home, then the longest amortization period you’re allowed to have is 25 years. The mortgage amortization period not only affects the length of time it would take to completely repay the loan, but also the amount of interest paid over the lifecycle of the mortgage.

Typically, longer amortization periods involve making smaller monthly payments and having a much higher total interest cost over the duration of the mortgage. While on the other hand, shorter amortization periods entails making larger monthly payments and having lower total interest costs.

It’s the dream of every homeowner to become mortgage-free. A general rule of thumb would be to try and keep your monthly mortgage costs as low as possible—preferably below 30 per cent of your monthly income. Over time, you may become more financially stable by either getting a tax return, a bonus or an additional source of income and want to channel that towards your principal.

There are several ways to keep your monthly mortgage payments low and reduce your amortization. Here are a few ways to achieve that goal:

1. Make a larger down payment

Once you’ve decided to buy a home, always consider putting asides some significant amount of money that would act as a down payment to reduce your monthly mortgage. While the recommended amount to put aside as a down payment is 20 per cent,  if you aren’t in a hurry to purchase the property or are more financial buoyant, you can even pay more.

Essentially, the larger your down payment, the lower your mortgage would be as it means you’re borrowing less money from your lender. However, if you pay at least 20 per cent upfront, there would be no need for you to cover the additional cost of private mortgage insurance which would save you some money.

2. Make bi-weekly payments

Most homeowners make monthly payments which amount to 12 payments every year. But if your bank or lender offers the option of accelerated bi-weekly payment, you will be making an equivalent of one more payment annually. Doing this will further reduce your amortization period by allowing you to pay off your mortgage much faster.

3. Have a fixed renewal payment

It is normal for lenders to offer discounts on interest rate during your amortization period. However, as you continuously renew your mortgage at a lower rate, always keep a fixed repayment sum.

Rather than just making lower payments, you can keep your payments static, since the more money applied to your principal, the faster you can clear your mortgage.

4. Increase your payment amount

Many mortgages give homeowners the option to increase their payment amount at least once a year. Now, this is very ideal for those who have the financial capacity to do so because the extra money would be added to your principal.

Irrespective of how small the increase might be, in the long run, it would make a huge difference. For example, if your monthly mortgage payment is about $2,752 per month. It would be in your best interest to round it up to $2,800 every month. That way, you are much closer to reducing your mortgage amortization period.

5. Leverage on prepayment privileges

The ability for homeowners to make any form of prepayment solely depends on what mortgage features are provided by their lender.

With an open mortgage, you can easily make additional payments at any given time. However, if you have a closed mortgage—which makes up the larger percentage of existing mortgages—you will need to check if you have the option of prepayments which would allow you to make extra lump sum payments.

Additionally, there may also be the option to make extra lump sum payments at the end of your existing mortgage term before its time for renewal.

Continue Reading

Real Estate

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: What you need to know





Your home is likely the biggest asset you’ll ever own. So how can you protect it in case something were to happen to you? To start, homeowners have a few options to choose from. You can either:

  • ensure you have mortgage protection with a life insurance policy from an insurance company or
  • get mortgage insurance from a bank or mortgage lender.

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: How do they each work?  

The first thing to know is that life insurance can be a great way to make sure you and your family have mortgage protection.

The money from a life insurance policy usually goes right into the hands of your beneficiaries – not the bank or mortgage lender. Your beneficiaries are whoever you choose to receive the benefit or money from your policy after you die.

Life insurance policies, like term life insurance, come with a death benefit. A death benefit is the amount of money given to your beneficiaries after you die. The exact amount they’ll receive depends on the policy you buy.

With term life insurance, you’re covered for a set period, such as 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. The premium – that’s the monthly or annual fee you pay for insurance – is usually low for the first term.

If you die while you’re coved by your life insurance policy, your beneficiaries will receive a tax-free death benefit. They can then use this money to help pay off the mortgage or for any other reason. So not only is your mortgage protected, but your family will also have funds to cover other expenses that they relied on you to pay.

Mortgage insurance works by paying off the outstanding principal balance of your mortgage, up to a certain amount, if you die.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes directly to the bank or lender to pay off the mortgage – and that’s it. There’s no extra money to cover other expenses, and you don’t get to leave any cash behind to your beneficiaries.

What’s the difference between mortgage insurance and life insurance?

The main difference is that mortgage insurance covers only your outstanding mortgage balance. And, that money goes directly to the bank or mortgage lender, not your beneficiary. This means that there’s no cash, payout or benefit given to your beneficiary. 

With life insurance, however, you get mortgage protection and more. Here’s how it works: every life insurance policy provides a tax-free amount of money (the death benefit) to the beneficiary. The payment can cover more than just the mortgage. The beneficiary may then use the money for any purpose. For example, apart from paying off the mortgage, they can also use the funds from the death benefit to cover:

  • any of your remaining debts,
  • the cost of child care,
  • funeral costs,
  • the cost of child care, and
  • any other living expenses. 

But before you decide between life insurance and mortgage insurance, here are some other important differences to keep in mind:

Who gets the money?

With life insurance, the money goes to whomever you name as your beneficiary.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes entirely to the bank.

Can you move your policy?

With life insurance, your policy stays with you even if you transfer your mortgage to another company. There’s no need to re-apply or prove your health is good enough to be insured.

With mortgage insurance, however, your policy doesn’t automatically move with you if you change mortgage providers. If you move your mortgage to another bank, you’ll have to prove that your health is still good.

Which offers more flexibility, life insurance or mortgage insurance?

With life insurance, your beneficiaries have the flexibility to cover the mortgage balance and more after you die. As the policy owner, you can choose how much insurance coverage you want and how long you need it. And, the coverage doesn’t decline unless you want it to.

With mortgage insurance through a bank, you don’t have the flexibility to change your coverage. In this case, you’re only protecting the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

Do you need a medical exam to qualify? 

With a term life insurance policy from Sun Life, you may have to answer some medical questions or take a medical exam before you’re approved for coverage. Once you’re approved, Sun Life won’t ask for any additional medical information later on.

With mortgage insurance, a bank or mortgage lender may ask some medical questions when you apply. However, if you make a claim after you’re approved, your bank may ask for additional medical information.* At that point, they may discover some conditions that disqualify you from receiving payment on a claim.

Continue Reading

Real Estate

5 common mistakes Canadians make with their mortgages





This article was created by MoneyWise. Postmedia and MoneyWise may earn an affiliate commission through links on this page.

Since COVID-19 dragged interest rates to historic lows last year, Canadians have been diving into the real estate market with unprecedented verve.

During a time of extraordinary financial disruption, more than 551,000 properties sold last year — a new annual record, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Those sales provided a desperately needed dose of oxygen for the country’s gasping economy.

Given the slew of new mortgages taken out in 2020, there were bound to be slip-ups. So, MoneyWise asked four of the country’s sharpest mortgage minds to share what they feel are the mistakes Canadians most frequently make when securing a home loan.

Mistake 1: Not having your documents ready

One of your mortgage broker’s primary functions is to provide lenders with paperwork confirming your income, assets, source of down payment and overall reliability as a borrower. Without complete and accurate documentation, no reputable lender will be able to process your loan.

But “borrowers often don’t have these documents on hand,” says John Vo of Spicer Vo Mortgages in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “And even when they do provide these documents, they may not be the correct documentation required.”

Some of the most frequent mistakes Vo sees when borrowers send in their paperwork include:

  • Not including a name or other relevant details on key pieces of information.
  • Providing old bank or pay statements instead of those dated within the last 30 days.
  • Sending only a partial document package. If a lender asks for six pages to support your loan, don’t send two. If you’re asked for four months’ worth of bank statements, don’t provide only one.
  • Thinking low-quality or blurry files sent by email or text will be good enough. Lenders need to be able to read what you send them.

If you send your broker an incomplete documents package, the result is inevitable: Your mortgage application will be delayed as long as it takes for you to find the required materials, and your house shopping could be sidetracked for months.

Mistake 2: Blinded by the rate

Ask any mortgage broker and they’ll tell you that the question they’re asked most frequently is: “What’s your lowest rate?”

The interest rate you’ll pay on your mortgage is a massive consideration, so comparing the rates lenders are offering is a good habit once you’ve slipped on your house-hunter hat.

Rates have been on the rise lately given government actions to stimulate the Canadian economy. You may want to lock a low rate now, so you can hold onto it for up to 120 days.

But Chris Kolinski, broker at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based iSask Mortgages, says too many borrowers get obsessed with finding the lowest rate and ignore the other aspects of a mortgage that can greatly impact its overall cost.

“I always ask my clients ‘Do you want to get the best rate, or do you want to save the most money?’ because those two things are not always synonymous,” Kolinski says. “That opens a conversation about needs and wants.”

Many of the rock-bottom interest rates on offer from Canadian lenders can be hard to qualify for, come with limited features, or cost borrowers “a ton” of money if they break their terms, Kolinski points out.

Mistake 3: Not reading the fine print

Dalia Barsoum of Streetwise Mortgages in Woodbridge, Ontario, shares a universal message: “Read the fine print. Understand what you’re signing up for.”

Most borrowers don’t expect they’ll ever break their mortgages, but data collected by TD Bank shows that 7 in 10 homeowners move on from their properties earlier than they expect.

It’s critical to understand your loan’s prepayment privileges and the rules around an early departure. “If you exit the mortgage, how much are you going to pay? It’s really, really important,” Barsoum says.

She has seen too borrowers come to her hoping to refinance a mortgage they received from a private or specialty lender, only to find that what they were attempting was impossible.

Continue Reading