A Canadian think tank urged governments and utilities to embrace the “generational undertaking” of massively ramping up clean electricity production, on the same day the International Energy Agency (IEA) called for global renewable energy growth to double to meet a net-zero emissions target by mid-century.
In a report issued Wednesday, Clean Energy Canada laid out four reasons for the country to “go big” on clean electricity: to mount an effective fight against climate change, diversity and strengthen the economy, expand Indigenous clean energy ownership, and boost energy security and affordability.
Hours earlier, the IEA reported that renewable energy developers world-wide installed 290 gigawatts of new capacity last year, mostly in wind and solar, despite a pandemic year and supply chain disruptions. “On current trends, renewable energy generating capacity will exceed that of fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined by 2026,” The Guardian writes, with renewables accounting for 95% of new power generation installations over the next five years.
But while climate and energy policies in many countries are driving that growth, “we need a gear change to meet net zero,” said IEA senior analyst Heymi Bahar, the report’s lead author. “We have already seen a very important gear change in recent years but we need to move up another gear now. It is possible, we have the tools. Governments need to show more ambition, not just on targets but on policy measures and plans.”
The IEA analysis show China on track to hit 1,200 GW of installed renewables by 2026, four years ahead of schedule, with both China and India reporting major capacity increases last year. “The growth of renewables in India is outstanding, supporting the government’s newly-announced goal of reaching 500 GW of renewable power capacity by 2030 and highlighting India’s broader potential to accelerate its clean energy transition,” said Executive Director Fatih Birol.
Utility Dive points to the IEA’s forecast that United States renewable energy capacity will grow 65% from 2021 to 2026, with more than 200 GW of new capacity, mostly solar, going into service. That forecast is 35% higher than the agency’s previous estimate, the result of “state-level targets, federal tax incentives, and the increasing economic attractiveness of corporate procurement of renewable electricity.”
The Clean Energy Canada report, meanwhile, highlights wider electrification as a pathway to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel demand. “Without abundant clean electricity, Canada cannot effectively combat climate change,” the Vancouver-based organization declares.
What’s more, “clean electricity can help households save on energy bills and insulate consumers from fossil fuel price shocks. Provinces with cleaner grids, like Quebec, B.C., and Manitoba, tend to have the lowest electricity prices in the country.”
CEC concludes that:
• The federal government must “use its governing power to put Canada on track to 100% clean electricity by 2035” by implementing its recently-announced Clean Electricity Standard by 2023 and using the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to prevent new fossil plant construction in the meantime.
• Federal and provincial governments “must support the development, scale-up, and installation of new generation, storage, transmission, and efficiency technologies,” with Ottawa providing infrastructure support and investment tax credits.
• Wider partnerships, innovation, and investment must extend across governments, utilities, industries, clean energy companies, and Indigenous nations.
• Federal and provincial governments must streamline regulatory processes for clean energy projects involving Indigenous partners, and orient funding “toward projects that support the switch from fossil fuels to clean electricity or hydrogen, rather than projects that perpetuate fossil fuel use and development.”