It’s Time to Capitalize on Canada’s Renewable Energy Advantage

Wind energy is central to any credible climate change plan

Earth Day marked another milestone for the Paris Agreement, with nearly 160 nations inking a commitment to pursue a path that would limit global temperature rise this century to 1.5-2°C. Governments around the world have become more serious about the climate change challenge and the urgent need for action, and that includes, for the first time in a long time, our own federal government, which is now ready to build on actions taken by some provinces and territories.

What will governments do to keep temperatures in check?

Reduce carbon. Canada doesn’t yet have a clear vision or strategy for exactly how to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, but the federal government is now working with the provinces to come up with a plan, and most of the provinces and territories are each in their own way working on their own new or strengthened climate plans.

Canada must leverage its renewable energy advantage within these plans.  

Canada has some of the best wind, solar and hydro resources in the world. It is clear that if the provinces, and the country, are to meet the objectives they have set, renewable energy will be critical and wind energy will have to play a central role. Study after study, including a recent report from the Canadian Council on Renewable Energy (CanCORE), has concluded that emissions reductions of the required magnitude are only possible through decarbonization of our electricity grid and then using that power to replace fossil fuels in transportation, heating and cooling and industrial processes.

Wind energy is already a generation source of choice as the most cost-competitive form of no-carbon generation available today.



What are the plans for wind energy?

In some cases, the role for wind energy in contributing to emission reduction targets has been laid out quite explicitly. Alberta and Saskatchewan see wind energy as a key element of their strategies to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of their electricity sectors. In Alberta, coal will be phased out by 2030 and largely replaced with new wind energy and natural gas. In Saskatchewan, the utility is targeting a doubling of renewable energy capacity by 2030, most of it from wind.

In other provinces that already have low-carbon electricity grids, commitments have been made for much more significant reductions across the broader economy – much of which will need to come from electrification with no-carbon electricity. Ontario’s plan calls for reductions of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, B.C. has a goal of at least 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050, and Quebec has signed a memorandum of understanding with other governments that have pledged to reduce emissions by 80 to 95 per cent by 2050.

What is the export opportunity for clean energy?

Looking south, Canada can help the U.S. meet its own aggressive greenhouse gas emission targets through clean electricity exports, refocusing our dialogue with the U.S. from pipelines to transmission. This export opportunity is an incredible economic opportunity for Canada with its vast renewable energy resources.

Achieving climate targets are very important, and not just for our industry.

The success of the Paris Agreement and the attention it has brought to the climate change issue is not only good news for our industry, but good news for all of us. Climate change is the most significant environmental challenge we face, and we can take pride in the fact that wind energy will play an important role in helping us to address it.

Featured photo: Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, at the CanWEA Spring Forum in Gatineau in April 2016.

President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association

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