OTTAWA – Highlighting the need for a massive expansion of clean electricity over the next 28 years, a new report urges the federal government to quickly establish new rules to eliminate fossil fuels from Canada’s electricity grids and channel more money towards energy sources that don’t cause climate change.
According to the report released Wednesday by think tank Clean Energy Canada, the country needs to roughly double the amount of clean electricity it produces to meet the government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero. “Before 2050.
This means adding electricity from clean sources equivalent to nearly 12 times the output of the Bruce nuclear power plant in Ontario, or 113 times the output of the Site C dam on the Peace River in northeastern Ontario. British Columbia.
The report does not put a price on the cost, but says it will require “significant” spending from governments and electricity providers, as well as prompt action from Ottawa on the “electricity standard. clean ”promised.
The ruling Liberals made the standard a key climate change commitment in this year’s federal election, promising to pass regulations to keep Canada’s electricity grids running entirely on non-emitting energy sources here. 2035.
Mark Zacharias, a Special advisor to Clean Energy Canada, said it was “critical” for Ottawa to establish these regulations before the end of 2023. This would send a clear signal to utilities and provincial governments on what is needed on the track. to achieve 100 percent non-emitting electricity, he said.
It would also indicate that the era of powering grids by burning fossil fuels is drawing to a close.
“There’s no point in establishing or maintaining new power generation from fossil fuels because you won’t be able to use it in 15 years, so it’s pretty critical right now,” Zacharias said. by phone this week.
In a recent interview with the Star, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the government would launch consultations on the new electricity rules “in the coming months” and work to implement them “as quickly as possible. “.
The Clean Energy Canada report also presents the change brought about by this promised regulation as a “generational opportunity” for jobs and climate action. To achieve 100% non-emitting electricity, it will be necessary to develop clean energy to meet the country’s energy needs over the coming decades, which in turn will create jobs in the wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energies sectors, according to the report.
Clean Energy Canada predicts that more than 200,000 jobs can be created in the clean energy sector by 2030.
The report highlights other potential economic benefits of cleaning Canada’s electricity grids.
The European Union is already considering tariffs on products associated with higher greenhouse gases, so if Canada’s heavy industry can use cleaner electricity to make products like steel and cement, it could take priority over dirtier alternatives from other countries, according to the report.
The US is also pushing for an emission-free grid by 2035. Since the majority of US electricity still comes from emitting sources like coal and natural gas, the report says this opens the door to Canada to sell more clean electricity south of the border.
On top of that, cleaning the grid could eliminate emissions that account for eight percent of Canada’s annual total – a significant part of the goal of reducing them by at least 40 percent by 2030 – and facilitate the reduction. emissions from transportation, home heating and heavy industry, according to the report.
To fuel change, the report calls on Ottawa to prioritize federal funding for projects that accelerate clean energy adoption rather than “perpetuating the use and development of fossil fuels.” The federal government should also include promised tax credits for renewable energy and electricity storage in its 2022 budget, and order agencies like the Canada Infrastructure Bank to funnel money to a “National clean electricity system”.
“Canada has a tremendous economic opportunity, not just a climate opportunity, to leverage our ability to create clean electricity,” Zacharias said. “We have to get hold of it.
Eighty-three percent of Canada’s electricity grid is already supplied by non-emitting sources. Sixty percent comes from hydropower projects like dams, while 17 percent comes from nuclear power and six percent comes from wind, the report notes, citing Statistics Canada data for 2020.
The government is already calling on provinces to phase out coal-fired electricity – which accounts for eight percent of Canada’s electricity supply – by 2030, leaving natural gas as the main source of electricity emissions.
But this national average shows significant regional differences. Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, for example, are already almost entirely supplied with non-emitting electricity, while the majority of the electricity supply in Alberta and Saskatchewan comes from coal and natural gas. .
For Zacharias, this makes collaboration between governments vital for the success of change, including building power lines to share clean electricity across provincial borders.
“The clean electricity standard is really going to spur these discussions and start a fire under everyone to start talking,” he said.
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