The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) says the next edition of its Canada’s Energy Future analysis will chart a pathway to net-zero emissions by mid-century, following a formal directive from Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
“I am pleased to confirm the next iteration of Canada’s Energy Future will be expanded to include modelling consistent with Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” wrote CER Chair Cassie Doyle, in a December 20 letter to Wilkinson. “This analysis will cover all energy commodities and reflect a global context in which the world achieves its Paris Accord goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.”
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The CER took sharp criticism last month after its Canada’s Energy Future 2021 projected the country’s oil and gas production growing steadily to 5.8 million barrels per day in 2032, before falling off slowly to 4.8 million barrels per day in 2050, just a bit below today’s levels. Outside analysts pointed out the report included no roadmap to meet Canada’s legislated climate target and contribute to the global goal of holding average global warming to 1.5°C.
“We have seen horrifying floods in B.C., wildfires throughout the summer, an extremely difficult season of drought for Canadian farmers—we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said International Institute for Sustainable Development policy advisor Vanessa Corkal. “This report does not provide the information that helps us deal with and prevent those types of climate disasters.”
At the time, Wilkinson issued a series of tweets that thanked the regulator for adding to a “growing body of knowledge on the clean energy transition”. Then he added that “going forward, I have asked the CER to look into how they could provide even more data in line with Canada achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.” Analysts responded that the NRCan minister’s authority extended beyond Twitter, with power under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act to mandate specific research and analysis.
And Wilkinson did precisely that.
“As we continue to make historic investments in clean energy throughout the country, we know that more needs to be done in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” he told [pdf] Doyle in a December 16 missive. “This includes ensuring we provide Canadians with information they need to better understand the energy we currently produce and consume, the impact of evolving energy policies, and what our energy future and energy transition could look like.”
As part of its “pivotal role” in delivering on those goals, Wilkinson instructed the CER to “undertake scenario analysis consistent with Canada achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 as soon as possible. This includes fully modelled scenarios of supply and demand of all energy commodities in Canada, including clean fuels, electricity, and oil and gas. The modelling should reflect a global context in which the world achieves its Paris Accord goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C, and should consider relevant uncertainties, including future trends in low-carbon technology and energy markets.”
In her formal reply four days later, Doyle said the CER welcomes “the clarity your letter provides as we continue to evolve our energy information products to meet the changing needs of Canadians.” She added that “the CER’s Energy Futures analysis has evolved significantly to reflect the dynamic federal policy environment.”
In a series of exclusive interviews last month, close observers of the CER’s processes and publications raised serious doubts about whether the Calgary-based regulator can get enough distance from the industry it oversees to produce independent advice on the country’s path to net-zero.