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Canada Must Electrify to Catch the Next Economic Wave: CEC

tookapic / Pixabay
tookapic / Pixabay

Plenty of resources, location, and top technology give Canadian electricity several strategic advantages in a world tipping decisively away from fossil fuels, three B.C. analysts argue, but the country needs clear, coordinated leadership to capitalize on those advantages.

Writing in iPolitics, Dan Woynillowicz, Merran Smith, and Clare Demerse of Clean Energy Canada place electricity from renewable resources, particularly hydro, at the centre of their vision for a national economic policy based on clean energy.

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Future markets, technologies, and energy systems will be low-carbon, they assert. They cite a comment from Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environmental Program, that “whether you build the next pipeline or not, the economy of Canada will not be centred around a fossil-fuel based extractive economy.”

Global markets, they say, offer little support for either high-cost, high-carbon tar sands/oil sands crude, or expensively-transported liquefied natural gas. Rather, markets are eagerly adopting renewable energy technologies—putting more money into clean solar and wind energy last year than oil and gas.

The analysts recall several reports that have argued recently for an economic strategy built on zero-emission electricity. The Council of Canadian Academies recently noted that “low-emission electricity is the foundation for economy-wide emission reductions in transportation, buildings, and industry.” The North American Electric Reliability Council foresaw a tripling of Canadian clean power exports to the U.S. by 2030. And the Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity (a project of Clean Energy Canada) made the case that plentiful renewable resources offer a global competitive advantage for Canadian goods and energy-related technologies.

“Countries leading the way on clean energy and climate action—developing new technologies and services, deploying them at home and exporting them abroad—stand to benefit economically and environmentally, and will emerge as the energy leaders and economic winners of the 21st century,” the three write.

The government’s March budget committed $7 billion for a variety of clean energy initiatives, but did not single out electricity as a strategic focus.

Nonetheless, “if we’re going to realize a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change,” the trio stress, “we need a unified climate and energy plan,” and electricity must be “central to such a plan.”