Can Canada really produce sufficient clear electrical energy to energy a net-zero grid by 2050?

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Canada is an electrical energy heavyweight. Along with being the world’s sixth-largest electrical energy producer and third-largest electrical energy exporter, Canada can boast an electrical energy grid that’s now 83 per cent emission-free, to not point out residential electrical energy charges which are the least expensive within the Group of Seven nations.

Certainly, on the face of it, the nation’s clear electrical energy system seems poised for achievement. With an abundance of sunshine and blustery plains, Alberta and Saskatchewan have wind- and solar-power potential that rivals the most effective on the continent. In the meantime, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have lengthy excelled at producing low-cost hydro energy.

So it might solely be pure to imagine that Canada, with this strong head begin and its beneficiant geography, is already positioned to offer sufficient inexpensive clear electrical energy to energy our much-touted net-zero and financial ambitions.

However the actuality is that Canada, like most nations, will not be but ready for a world more and more dedicated to carbon neutrality.

The federal authorities’s forthcoming Clear Electrical energy Commonplace – a coverage promised by the governing Liberals throughout the latest election marketing campaign and restated for a global viewers by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the United Nations’ COP26 local weather summit – would require all electrical energy within the nation to be web zero by 2035. However whereas that’s an encouraging begin, it’s on no account the top purpose. Electrification – that’s, hooking up our autos, heating programs and business to a clear electrical energy grid – would require Canada to provide roughly twice as a lot non-emitting electrical energy because it does at the moment in slightly below three many years.

This large ramp-up in clear electrical energy would require vital funding from governments and utilities, together with their co-operation on measures and tasks akin to interprovincial energy traces. It’s going to require power storage options, good grids to steadiness provide and demand, and energy-efficient buildings and home equipment to chop power waste.

Whereas Canada has largely relied on large-scale hydroelectric and nuclear energy prior to now, newer sources of electrical energy akin to photo voltaic, wind, geothermal, and biomass with carbon seize and storage will, in lots of instances, be the superior possibility going ahead, because of the quickly falling prices of such know-how and shorter development instances. And but Canada added much less photo voltaic and wind era prior to now 5 years than all however three G20 nations – Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia. That might want to change, shortly.

As well as, Canada’s Structure locations electrical energy coverage underneath provincial jurisdiction, which has produced a patchwork of electrical energy programs throughout the nation that use totally different power sources, regulatory fashions, and approaches to commerce and collaboration. Whereas this mannequin has labored thus far, given our low shopper charges and excessive energy reliability, collaborative motion and a cohesive imaginative and prescient will likely be wanted – not only for a 100-per-cent clear grid by 2035, however for a net-zero-enabling one by 2050.

Proper now, it takes too lengthy to maneuver a clear energy undertaking from the proposal stage to operation – and much too lengthy if we hope to achieve a clear grid by 2035 and a net-zero-enabling one by 2050. Which means that federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments should work with rural communities and business stakeholders to speed up the approvals, financing and development of fresh power tasks and supply investor certainty.


In doing so, Canada can set a course to carbon neutrality whereas driving job creation and financial competitiveness. Our closest buying and selling companions and lots of the world’s largest corporations and buyers are demanding cleaner items. A clear grid underpins clear manufacturing, simply because it underpins our local weather objectives.

The Worldwide Vitality Company estimates that, for the world to achieve web zero by 2050, clear electrical energy era worldwide should improve by greater than 2.5 instances between at the moment and 2050. International locations are already plotting their power pathways, and there may be a lot to be taught from one another.

Contemplate South Australia. The state at the moment will get 62 per cent of its electrical energy from wind and photo voltaic and, mixed with grid-scale battery storage, has not misplaced a single hour of electrical energy prior to now 5 years. South Australia expects 100 per cent of its electrical energy to return from renewable sources earlier than 2030. An added bonus given at the moment’s excessive power costs: Annual family electrical energy prices have declined there by 303 Australian {dollars} ($276) since 2018.

The transition to scrub power will not be about sacrificing our lifestyle – it’s about bettering it. However we’ll want the facility to make it occur. That work wants to start out now.

This submit was co-authored by Merran Smith and Mark Zacharias and initially appeared in The Globe and Mail.


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