Canada Is A Potential Clean Energy Superpower

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Originally published on the ECOreport

The clean energy sector employs more people than the oil sands, and the workforce grew another 14% last year. According to Clean Energy Canada’s latest Tracking the Energy Revolution, this sector attracted almost twice the number of investors than the fishing, forestry and agriculture sectors combined. It did not mention the sources of this money, but last year’s report showed 4 of the top 5 investment firms were German or Japanese. Foreign nations recognize the potential that the Harper administration has failed to perceive. Canada is a potential clean energy superpower.


Round Out The Canadian Economy

Under the Harper administration, Canada has become so closely identified with fossil fuels that the value of our currency fluctuates according to oil prices. This helped us when oil prices were high during the 2008 recession, but looks disastrous now that the bottom is dropping out of the market.

“Canadians are concerned that we’ve put too many eggs in the oil and gas basket, and the clean energy sector can help round out the Canadian economy. Clean energy should be considered one of the planks of our economic make-up. Investment is pouring in, and employers are hiring.  This is good news, but with federal leadership it could be terrific,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.


She added, “The federal government’s neglect of renewables is in stark contrast to what is happening to the south of us. Obama has made clean energy a priority. He has the vision of the United States being a clean energy leader. He has put in place policies like the Clean Power Plan and the federal loan reserve has taken action to make the United States become an energy leader. These policies are why the United States was #1 in terms of investment dollars last year,” said Smith.


“Canada’s actually falling in our clean tech ranking. We are sixth in terms of our attractiveness for clean energy investments. (We were #5 last year). Canada really needs to make it a priority and get in the game, or we are going to lose out on a significant economic opportunity. We need a government in Ottawa that has a vision of being a clean energy leader.”


What The Government Could Do

“Every single major industry in Canada has received targeted federal government support, from the oil sands to the aerospace industry. We’re suggesting the clean energy sector get treated like every other industrial sector in Canada.”

The Muskrat dam project affords an excellent example of how the government can support renewables without needing to put up money. They guaranteed the loan needed to finance this project, enabling developers to obtain a lower rate.

“We also need support for exporting our clean energy products, like they’ve given to the pipelines and oil and gas sector,” said Smith.

She added that 75% of Canadians are already paying some kind of price on carbon, and the federal government needs to step in and make this a cohesive policy.

Thanks to an abundance of hydro, Canada already possesses close to 90 GW of clean electricity and Smith suggests  setting a goal of obtaining 100% of our electricity from renewable sources.

“We need a national clean transportation plan, that ensures there is good transit systems to reduce our carbon pollution.”

This would require infrastructure support, so that Alberta can pair up with the hydro battery from BC, Manitoba can provide power for Saskatchewan etc.


Opportunities For Provinces

This would open a tremendous opportunity for provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which rely on fossil fuels, to clean up their electricity.

“It is an economic opportunity and, in addition, they are going to be reducing their carbon pollution,” said Smith.

Other provinces have already been encouraging renewable energy. Ontario has led the nation, drawing $12.7 billion in renewable investments between 2010 and 2014. More than half the money was spent on wind and solar energy projects. The province has also formed more than 501 aboriginal partnerships (814 MW capacity) and 292 community participation projects (170 MW capacity). During this same period, Quebec received $8.6 billion in investment dollars, B.C. $5.2 billion and Alberta $2.3 billion.


Competing With Nations That Set Policies

These provincial advances are good, but Canada is competing with nations that set substantial policies on a national level. Thus while our clean tech sector grew 17% in 2013, other nations are growing faster and Canada’s slice of the global renewable pie shrunk. As Tracking The Energy Revolution explains:

“Each year, consulting giant Ernst & Young ranks 40 economies on how attractive they are to renewable-energy investors—based on a wide range of considerations, such as political support and stability of power grids. On this front, this past year, Canada’s rank remained unchanged at seven, behind China, the United States, Germany, India, and Japan.

When it comes to fostering a business climate of clean-tech innovation, Canada is punching above its weight. Despite a lack of strong supportive federal policies, the Global Cleantech Group and the WWF also ranked Canada seventh out of 40 economies—ahead of established cleantech leaders Germany and Japan. There’s general innovation support and that pulls up Canada’s ranking, but we’re not keeping pace on cleantech-specific drivers, and that shows in a lower ranking on commercialization.”

All images taken from Clean Energy Canada’s latest report Tracking the Energy Revolution.

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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

Roy L Hales has 441 posts and counting. See all posts by Roy L Hales

18 thoughts on “Canada Is A Potential Clean Energy Superpower

  • I bet a lot of that positive change was driven by my Province, Ontario.

    We shut down ALL of our Coal plants and brought a lot of Wind capacity online.

    IIRC our grid is now under 15% fossil fuels.

    A lot people complain about the previous premier, but cleaner air has be a lasting legacy I am grateful for. About a decade ago it seemed like half the summer was smog alert days. I think we had TWO smog days this year.

    • Might be useful to pull that annual smog day data together and post it in the local websites/papers when people start questioning renewable energy.

      There’s good data on the health costs and annual deaths attributable to fossil fuels in the US and Europe. Anything for Canada?

      • I never actually looked for data before, it was just my observation that I decade ago we had had smog days on almost every hot day in the summer and in the last couple of years it has been more like 1 or 2 days all summer.

        This backs that up (interactive graph)

        Indoor/outdoor air quality has improved so much in the last decade here.

        We started a emission testing cars on registration, so every two years minimum. Coal was phased out in 2013, and while there is some variation cause by weather cycles, since coal shut down in 2013, I don’t think there has been more than 2 days in 2014 or 2015, when the average was more like 20-30

        Quality of life is just so much more enjoyable in the summer and can only imagine how much better for people with respiratory issues, how much better for kids to grow up with cleaner air.

        • Your message is hard to interpret without knowing what part of the planet you live at?

          • Ontario, Canada.

  • I’m not sure how Manitoba has $0 invested into clean power in 2014. The Keyask hydro dam construction started in 2014.

  • Now just image how much investment there would been in Canada if the federal government would have supported clan energy!
    And with that investment, that would have meant jobs across the country!

    • Tartan Power !!!

      • Me bad, that should have read: clean power not clan power!
        But I do not know how to change a post. 🙁
        Nor do I know how o do spell check on this site.

        • We knew…

          If you ‘register’ with Disqus then you have the option to edit.

          I’m not sure why you aren’t getting spell check. That may be a browser function? Perhaps you just need to turn it on.

          I’m using Google Chrome and it does my spell checking. It’s even going past spell checking and doing some basic editing (suggestions).

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  • As a Canadian living in Southern California, and driving an all electric car and renovating our 45 yr old house into something worthy of the 21st century I will say that Canada and the people living there, are the same as they’ve been all my 60+ years. About 8 to 10 years behind. Recently I traveled to (Ottawa) Canada and everyone sounded the same: Photo Voltaic doesn’t work in the North, the grid is fine, electric cars only work in California, modern energy policy is a great, big hole of mis-information. The smartest politicians bank on Canadian’s apathy and complacency. Too many Canadians are too comfortable to notice growing problems.

    • I live in Ottawa. The views you mention are indeed common, but by no means universal. I agree the change is happening too slowly.

    • Bring it on.
      I have yet to understand one fellow Canadian.
      Or as Tony Robbins would ask, “What motivates you?”

  • This writer is typically Canadian. He points out what we have to do soon, but not anything what so ever about how. He lives on one of those islands in the Gulf of water between Vancouver Island and the mainland. I’ll say it: Any opinions from that area will not reflect the concerns of average Canadians, the region is too exclusive. Capitalism has been squeezed out completely so it’s not represented. That sounds odd coming from me because generally I relate to the ‘huggers’ more than the petro greedests but to find workable solutions you have to focus your efforts on the other guy’s priorities, not your own. We understand our own problems, it’s someone else’ that eludes us so why does this author think he knows anything about our ‘distributed’ energy use, that is pending everywhere?

  • I wrote to one of the authors of this study and they did not respond.

    As you can see from the graphs most of Canada electrical energy comes from hydro. In Canada we like to forget that building large dams produces a lot of CO2. Operating, removing or rebuilding large dams also produces a lot of CO2 but in Canada our politicians never look at those carbon sources. Most of the areas flooded by dams in Canada are never cleared of plants and all that carbon eventually end up in the atmosphere.

    Almost all of the solar in Canada is produced in Ontario because of provincial government policies. The Canadian federal government, Conservatives, recent oversaw the introduction of a 286.1% duty on most Chinese solar modules thereby eliminating them from Canada.

    Meanwhile Canadians continue to drive large trucks on roads where speed limits have been increased to 120, build large inefficient homes for small families and take lots of vacations to distant lands.

    • Building anything produces co2, what is your point? Ontario produces most of its power with nuclear but that is too taboo to talk about, that is the only real clean energy source.

      • Nuclear has a larger cradle to grave CO2 footprint than does wind and solar.
        That said, nuclear’s lifetime carbon footprint is so much smaller than fossil fuels nuclear is still an excellent technology for making clean electricity.

        Nuclear fails due to its very high cost, time to build and the unique dangers it brings into our lives.

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