Budget 2017 should accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition: statement

Every year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance travels across Canada to hear from Canadians on their priorities for the federal budget. Clean Energy Canada was invited to present to the committee in Ottawa on October 27, 2016. Our opening statement makes the case that Budget 2017 needs to accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition and help implement a national climate plan.

Opening Statement: House of Commons Finance Committee Pre-Budget Consultations

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your committee. I’m honoured to be here today.

I am the federal policy advisor for a climate and energy think tank called Clean Energy Canada. We are a project of Simon Fraser University’s Center for Dialogue.

I would like to make two main points with my time here today:

  • First, the federal government needs to invest in measures that speed up the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and
  • Second, the 2017 budget needs to help implement Canada’s national climate plan.


Transition to Clean Power

Expert assessments in Canada and around the world tell the same story: to tackle climate change, we need clean electricity to power far more of our daily activities than it does today.

Over time, we need to shift from fuelling our personal vehicles with gasoline to driving electric cars. Electric pumps will draw heat from the air or the ground to keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer. Innovative industrial processes will produce the goods and materials we need using clean power.

This transition from fossil fuels to clean electricity—which is sometimes called “electrification”—is needed here in Canada, but also around the world. As a result, the global market for renewable electricity is growing quickly. So is demand for the technologies and services that underpin this transition, from smart grids to software for charging electric cars.

All of this is excellent news for Canada: our country already has one of the cleanest electricity sectors in the world. Today, over 80 per cent of our power comes from non-emitting sources, and that share is poised to grow.

This head start means that clean power is a comparative advantage for Canada. With the right policy signals as a foundation, our country can reap the benefits of growth fuelled by clean electricity. We’ll see those benefits in new jobs, innovation, business development, and export opportunities, while reducing our carbon pollution.


Realizing a Canadian Opportunity

Our organization worked with expert stakeholders to put together a package of recommendations to accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition. Some of those recommendations would be regulatory changes, but others are funding proposals.

For example, we would like to see Budget 2017 support:

  • Ongoing investments in the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and incentives for drivers to purchase electric cars
  • Retrofits to cut energy waste in homes and other buildings, and
  • The creation of a national action plan for electrification.

I would also like to note that the very first recommendation our expert group made was for a price on carbon across Canada that grows over time. We congratulate the federal government for taking that step earlier this fall.


Supporting clean growth under a pan-Canadian climate plan

My second main point is that the 2017 budget needs to help implement Canada’s national climate plan.

Earlier this year, federal, provincial and territorial governments launched an effort to negotiate a pan-Canadian plan capable of achieving Canada’s 2030 climate target. First Ministers will meet in December to negotiate key policies under that plan, and they have committed to having a framework ready to implement “by early 2017.”

Last year’s budget introduced two significant future spending commitments related to climate change:

  • The second phase of federal infrastructure funding, particularly the Green Infrastructure Fund, and
  • The $2 billion Low-Carbon Economy Fund, which is due to start in 2017.

This year’s budget can ensure that these funds are used effectively to help kick-start clean growth under a national climate plan.

We have recommended a number of potential categories for clean energy infrastructure investments, including:

  • Energy storage, meaning technologies that store power so we can use it when it’s needed
  • Community energy efficiency and electrification initiatives
  • Electricity system upgrades to make the system smarter and more efficient, and
  • Transmission investment to better connect clean energy jurisdictions to those still burning fossil fuels for power.

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your questions.

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