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The Race Is On: Accelerating a Sustainable Future for Canada

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Éric Deschênes

Éric Deschênes

Country Managing Director and Head of Electrification business, Canada, ABB

The electrification of Canada’s transportation system is critical to achieving our net-zero ambitions. Meeting this goal of carbon neutrality will require multiple elements, including technology, finance, and services to be delivered and scaled at unprecedented levels in the coming decade. Private and public interests will need to come together to achieve a net-zero mobility future.

Here in Canada, global technology pioneer ABB is leading the way in the drive for clean mobility electrification and digitalization.

We have a moral obligation to turn this current situation into a better one for the planet and the future

Moving toward a net-zero future

Canada is on an ambitious path toward net-zero emissions. At the recent 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Canada committed to accelerating the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

But are we equipped to tackle this goal?

We know that clean electrification would get us much of the way to net zero. Digitalization empowers everyday citizens to shift from traditional demand and consumption to prosumerism, or the increased involvement of customers in the production process — that is, both producing and consuming electricity, and even selling it back to the grid. And digital smart grid technology can be used to enable flexible demand.

Making electricity truly clean

The first challenge in making the transition to net-zero is making our electricity truly clean. By 2040, 90 percent of electricity must come from renewable sources. We’ve already made enormous progress, with 29 percent of electricity from renewable generation globally.

The second challenge is enabling our power grids to be able to manage that renewable energy. Today’s power grid wasn’t built for variable sources, so it can’t capture and use all of the renewable energy being produced. We’re wasting renewable energy, then using fossil fuels as backup when solar and wind are low. We can’t afford that.

Other challenges include addressing and accommodating the complexity of the modern grid and rising electricity demand, which will more than double by 2050. This will require doubling our infrastructure, or managing existing infrastructure more intelligently with smart grid technology.

The good news is that digitalization helps solve many of these issues in the grid. Smart grids connect supply and demand sites to make demand more flexible. They use artificial intelligence (AI) to shift user demand automatically in buildings and electric vehicles to times when energy from renewable sources is available, and also add capacity, by feeding energy back into the grid, when solar and wind are low.

E-mobility’s role in the transition

As we increase clean electrification through empowered demand and a shift to clean energy, one specific area that offers a lot of promise is e-mobility.

E-mobility — the use of electrified vehicles for transportation purposes — will be a key part of the transition to net-zero emissions. “The number one and two challenges in greenhouse gas emission for Canada are buildings and transportation,” says Eric Deschenes, Country Managing Director and Head of the Electrification Business for ABB Canada. “If we collectively have the political courage to tackle these two challenges, it would represent more than 50 percent of the whole undertaking. Political will is the first domino. It’s action on the governmental level that allows the second and third dominoes in the economy and in the community to fall. Technology is no longer the show-stopper here.”

An interconnected ecosystem

The political will is clearly materializing, but we need widespread collaboration. Moving toward clean electrification and e-mobility will require cooperation and action from an ecosystem consisting of government, the private sector, public citizens, industry, and everyday Canadians.

Companies like ABB are an integral part of that ecosystem. In the quest to lift up the entire energy ecosystem to a new, consistent, and sustainable level, events such as the ABB FIA Formula E auto racing championship, returning to Canada this year, are here to speed the transformation.

“ABB Formula E is more than just a race,” says Deschenes. “It’s a testbed and platform to develop e-mobility-relevant electrification and digitalization technologies all in the name of accelerating the transition of electrified transport.”

While these races are energizing the conversation around the electrification of mobility, they’re also directly driving the development of the infrastructure that supports that transition. To further strengthen ABB’s commitment to advancing e-mobility in Canada and to coincide with the return of the championship to a country so closely tied to ABB’s own e-mobility development, ABB Canada will be donating electric chargers to the City of Vancouver and will work closely with the city to determine which chargers will be provided based on Vancouver’s current needs.

“ABB FIA Formula E does more than just engage the local community and drive faster adoption,” says Deschenes. “Right after the Canadian E-Prix in Vancouver, next July, ABB Canada will leave behind more than $50,000 in charging infrastructure. This is in addition to everything Vancouver and British Columbia are doing.”

ABB leading the way

As Canada moves toward its net-zero emissions goal, ABB’s leadership is invaluable.

“I recognize that my generation runs the risk of receiving a planet in better condition than the one we’re leaving to the next generation,” says Deschenes. “We have a moral obligation to turn this current situation into a better one for the planet and the future.”

The time to act is now. We need to unite. What are you going to do?

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