Home » Environment » Path to Net Zero » Q&A with Honourable Steven Guilbeault, and Environment and Climate Change Canada
Path to Net Zero

Q&A with Honourable Steven Guilbeault, and Environment and Climate Change Canada

Canada has set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. How does the regulation of clean electricity play a central role in achieving these targets, and what specific strategies are being pursued to transition the energy sector?

Clean electricity enables the reduction of emissions across the economy, by supporting the electrification of our homes, business, and industries. Reducing emissions also helps reduce the worst impacts – and costs – of climate changes. Even today, Canadians are experiencing these effects through wildfires, extreme heat, and storms.

Businesses and industries are demanding clean electricity; having clean, reliability, affordable electricity is a global competitive advantage. Canada is in a great place to start, with almost 84% of its electricity already coming from non-emitting sources. Shifting to clean electricity saves household’s money, as Canadians spend less on fossil fuels which have growing and volatile costs.

Clean electricity generation is a cornerstone of a sustainable future. Could you provide an overview of the key regulations and policies that are driving the shift toward cleaner energy sources within Canada’s electricity sector?

These regulations are a central part of our overall Emissions Reductions Plan, and key to achieving a net zero electrical grid by 2035. We have over $40 billion in federal supports for clean electricity system investments, a growing price on carbon that we intend to transition to full exposure of the carbon price for electricity emissions, that will also work to decarbonizing the grid. We have more work to do in achieving a net zero grid; these proposed regulations represent major progress in getting there.

Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power are vital components of Canada’s clean electricity mix. What measures are in place to incentivize investment in these technologies and promote their integration into the grid?

Canada is starting from a position of strength with a grid that is almost 85% clean. But the demand for electricity in Canada is expected to likely double by 2050 on the path to a net zero economy.

Even without any regulations, provinces and territories will need to spend $400 billion to undertake expansions of the electricity grid to keep up with demand. These proposed regulations help to ensure we expand our grid taking advantage of cost competitive clean technologies, while ensuring affordability for every day Canadians. Technologies have come a long way. Take for example the Oneida energy storage in Ontario which is one of the largest clean energy storage projects in the world that will double the amount of energy storage in Ontario to just under 500 Megawatts by 2025, which is enough to power an extra half million homes during peak hours.

The shift to clean electricity generation can have far-reaching economic impacts. Can you discuss how clean electricity regulations are not only contributing to environmental goals but also fostering economic growth and job creation across Canada?

The shift to clean electricity will have far-reaching economic impacts if we all work together. For example, Alberta has been a major success story for the scale up of renewable electricity – on track, without any further government support, to reach 30% renewable by 2030. They were on track for $3.7 billion worth of renewable construction by 2023 and more than 4,500 jobs.

Growing renewables is where we need to be going: they’re cheaper than fossil fuels, they don’t pollute, and they represent a huge economic opportunity. Recent estimates suggest that in a net-zero economy by 2050 scenario, jobs in the clean energy sector would grow by 2.2 million at 7% per year out to 2050. Job growth will be especially prominent in the clean energy supply sector, with the number of jobs more than doubling to reach 478,000 by 2050.

Energy storage technologies are pivotal for harnessing the full potential of renewable sources. What initiatives are being undertaken to advance energy storage solutions and enable a more stable and resilient clean electricity grid?

Canada will need a mix of generation – hydro, wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, and natural gas with CCS. Canada has the expertise and workforce to lead the way. But Provinces will need to determine which technologies suit their needs.

We do have some strong evidence of carbon capture; companies like Capital Power are employing CCS technologies that are able to meet the performance standard and we are having conversations with vendors that say they can meet them. This is aligned with the US government and we have given companies long lead times of over ten years for companies to further develop and deploy these technologies.

Technological innovation is driving advancements in clean energy production and consumption. How is the government fostering innovation within the electricity sector, and what role do research and development initiatives play in achieving clean energy goals?

If we are to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transition to a net zero economy, we need to ensure decisions are pointed towards the same goal. Federal investments are expected to cover more than half of provinces’ costs of the regulations

They will also stimulate investments in renewable energy like wind and solar, smart grid and energy storage systems, and emerging technologies such as small modular reactors and carbon capture and storage. Many clean technologies have decreased in cost and produce electricity at a lower cost than burning fossil fuels.

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