Clean Energy Canada | Questions and Answers: Tracking the Energy Revolution
September 22, 2014

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What is it?

  • Tracking the Energy Revolution is the first of a pair of annual graphic publications that will highlight where and how the shift to cleaner energy sources and electrified transportation is unfolding both inside Canada and around the world.
  • This, the first edition, focuses on the global policy and investment landscape.
  • The second edition, which is focused on Canada, will be out in November.

What did you learn?

  • We found that across the globe, scores of countries, economies, and leading companies are working to dramatically reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for transportation, heat, and electricity.
  • Those companies and countries are replacing those fuels with clean and renewable sources of energy such as the wind, the sun, and water.

Where did you source your research?

  • We combed through government, business, and civil-society reports, bulletins, and databases, conducted interviews.
  • We also turned to Bloomberg New Energy Finance—a leading source of information on clean-energy investment flows.

What were some of your more notable findings?

  1. China: The world’s largest polluter is also the world’s biggest investor in clean energy by a wide margin. The country is putting up a new wind turbine every hour. Last year for the first time China invested more in new clean energy power plants than it did in new coal power plants. Its insatiable appetite for solar panels has driven down the price of the equipment a stunning 83 percent in five years, which has in turn spurred a business and rooftop installation boom in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere.
  1. The Clean Energy Internet: Google has invested more than $1 billion to date in 15 different clean energy projects, and the technology giant now powers 34 percent of its data centers with renewable energy. Last year Apple said it would work to a goal of 100 percent renewables for all of its data centers—its iCloud is already 100 percent clean energy. Facebook recently located a new data center in Iowa because the utility promised to build a wind farm there to power it.
  1. Our Neighbor, the Leader: The United States is a far more active player in this global shift than Canada. The U.S. is an active member of international meetings and summits, President Obama is going to the Climate Summit. The United States is second (behind China) in the world in clean energy investment (Canada is #7). Last year, solar panels provided about a quarter of new U.S. power generation, second only to natural gas. Since President Obama took office, the United States has boosted its solar generation more than 10X and tripled wind power.

What are some key numbers about the energy revolution?

  • Last year, investors directed $207 billion into clean-energy projects worldwide, a drop over previous years. (Fossil fuel electricity generation saw $270 billion in investment.)
  • Worldwide, 6.5 million people now work in the renewable energy industry, and increase of 14 percent increase since 2012. 144 countries now have goals to increase renewable-energy production.
  • 60 percent of Fortune 100 firms have goals for boosting renewable energy use.
  • 131+ jurisdictions have implemented policies to increase renewable energy capacity.
  • 25+ jurisdictions around the world price carbon pollution.

Why did you produce the report?

  • We produced Tracking the Energy Revolution in an effort to inform and inspire Canadian business and government leadership on the global clean-energy opportunity.

How is Canada performing in the global clean-energy revolution?

  • Thanks largely to provincial leadership in Quebec and Ontario, Canada is gaining ground in the global market for clean energy products and services.
  • In 2013, Canada saw an investment of over $6 billion into clean energy—ranking us seventh among G20 nations. We were also the second-fastest growing clean-energy market in the G20, again due to provincial leadership.

What role can clean energy play in addressing the global climate crisis?

  • Clean energy is at the very top of the list of climate solutions we need.
  • An United Nations report released in April and supported by almost 200 world governments  stated that clean energy production will have to at least triple today’s levels and dominate world energy supplies by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.
  • We know that we need to burn a lot fewer fossil fuels to avoid climate disruption. So that means we’re going to need to replace a lot of things we do with coal, oil and gas today—like driving our cars or heating our homes—with clean power.

What do you expect to see from Canada at the UN Climate Summit tomorrow?

  • Unfortunately, we know that our Prime Minister won’t be participating in the summit itself, so that means we’re not expecting any groundbreaking announcements from Canada in New York.
  • We all know that Canada has faced a lot of criticism for its climate record internationally in recent years, and we suspect we’ll see some of that again tomorrow.
  • What our research tells us is that Canada could be leading in adopting clean energy, an essential solution to climate change — and our international reputation would be a lot brighter if we were taking those steps.

Is the UN process even relevant anymore, if all this clean energy investment is happening anyway?

  • All the business activity in clean energy is amazing, but it requires government action to drive it.
  • We need governments to put in place climate-friendly policies that level the playing field, so that clean energy can compete fairly with fossil energy. So governments do have a really important role to play.
  • The UN process helps governments makes climate action and clean energy a priority — partly by setting targets, partly by shining a spotlight on the leaders and the laggards, and party by reassuring governments that do take bold steps that their competitors are acting too. But the UN can’t magically make laggards into leaders.
  • Year after year, we see that the countries that succeed on the world stage are the ones who already have a track record of success at home.

Want More? See our release and perspectives on Tracking the Energy Revolution – Global 2014.