Federal

Can Canada get to 90 per cent non-emitting by 2030?

Photo by: Florian Fuchs

Energy: it’s a topic Canadian politicians can’t stop talking about.

But the energy conversation is often framed around what we need to cut in the decades ahead—oil production, carbon pollution. Which is important, but what is missing is the equally important conversation around what we need to build.

And build we must. The federal government has committed to have 90 per cent of Canada’s electricity coming from non-emitting sources by 2030, up from 80 per cent now.

While electricity is largely a provincial responsibility, there is a role for the federal government to play as we look to hit our 90 per cent target. Here are three proven ways to help us get there.

Be neighbourly

Forget pipelines—let’s talk about power lines. More specifically, interprovincial power lines that could optimize our electricity system, both economically and environmentally.

Consider the seven-year deal Ontario and Quebec signed in 2016 to buy hydroelectricity. Under the agreement, Ontario will also store some of its surplus electricity—much of which comes from wind power—at Hydro Quebec facilities. Quebec’s hydro reservoirs will essentially serve as big batteries.

The Ontario-Quebec agreement will see the provinces swap 500 megawatts of power annually, taking advantage of differences in seasonal demand (Quebecers consume more power in the winter while Ontario peaks in the summer).

There’s a word for this: optimization, and it will save Canadians money while cutting carbon pollution. Talk about a match made in federation.

Lead by example

The federal government is, of course, a major buyer of energy itself. Accordingly, the federal government had said that 100 per cent of the electricity used in its buildings and operations will be from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defence along with Public Services and Procurement Canada have both purchased Renewable Energy Credits in the province of Alberta to offset carbon pollution associated with each department’s energy use. When a federal department purchases such credits, it’s helping support provincially-led efforts to build new renewable projects, an important opportunity to consider with provinces such as Saskatchewan announcing a target of 50 per cent power generation from renewable sources by 2030.

Put your money where your mouth is

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energy will represent almost three-quarters of the $10.2-trillion the world will invest in new power over the next two decades.

Already, more money is being invested year after year in clean energy than in new power from fossil fuels. And this is despite the fact that renewables keep getting cheaper—way cheaper. Since 2010, the cost of onshore wind power has fallen more than 50 per cent in the U.S., while solar power has dropped by more than 70 per cent globally.

Perhaps recognizing the need to stay competitive in this global marketplace, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr earlier this year announced a $200-million expression of interest to expand renewable energy sources available to provinces. The program supports commercially-viable, investment-ready clean energy technologies, such as tidal, geothermal and offshore wind power.

These and other technologies, such as energy storage, will not only help Canada increase the percentage of renewables on the grid, but ensure that they are operating together in a way that is optimal.

Optimal—as is often the case, when Canada works together.

This article originally appeared in The Hill Times.