What is Canada Missing?

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Canada will not meet its emissions targets for 2020. There has been improvements since 2005, but the oil sector is expected to produce 28% more emissions by the end of this decade. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would like to regulate the oil sands, but that “would be crazy” in light of economic developments. Despite the global trend towards adopting renewable energy and smart technologies, the Canadian government continued to tie this nation’s economic future  to the fossil fuel industry. So what is Canada missing?

Ontario & Quebec

Ontario and Quebec, #1 & #2 for WInd Production in Canada, are also the only provinces whose emissions are below 1990 levels - Ontario's Climate Chnage Update 2014
Compare Ontario’s and Quebec’s emissions with Western provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and BC – Ontario’s Climate Change Update 2014

A recent report from Clean Energy Canada said that in 2013, there were more people employed directly in clean energy jobs than are in the oil sands.

Quebec’s massive hydro and wind resources have  given her a 99% clean grid.

Though Ontario has been aggressively promoting renewable energy sources, the real credit for its emissions reductions goes to turning off coal fuelled power.

Both of these provinces now produce significantly less emissions than they did in 1990.

Most of the increase came from three provinces, all of which have huge untapped renewable resources.

Alberta Possesses The Best Potential

Courtesy Pembina Institute
Average spot price in the Energy Pool during 2013 – Courtesy Pembina Institute

Though the oil sands are better known, Alberta possesses the best potential for wind and solar in Canada.

One of the remarkable aspects of the province’s existing facilities is the lack of complaints.  Ben Thibault, of the Pembina Institute, thinks this might have something to do with the fact most, if not all, of them are erected on revenue property. (By way of contrast, many complaints from California and Ontario come from rural communities resisting the incursion of large scale industrial development.)

Most generators prefer natural gas when building new facilities. The profit margin is lower for wind. It tends to produce the most energy when it in least needed, which drives down the spot price.

Hourly price of Rooftop solar vs spot price - Courtesy the Pembina Institute
Hourly price of Rooftop solar vs spot price – Courtesy the Pembina Institute

Solar power is produced during hours of peak demand, but rooftop solar owners are given fixed rates. They received an average of 8.3¢/kWh, while producing energy that was worth over 13¢/kWh.

Neither the Federal or Provincial government currently offer renewable incentives for in Alberta.

There aren’t any incentives in Saskatchewan either, where there are also has significant untapped wind and solar resources.

” … It’s long been our national policy to subsidize fossil fuel production, in preference to renewable energy,” Green Party member Steve May wrote in today’s Sudbury Start. “Although some of the richest multinational corporations in the world are profiting from extracting our fossil resources, our federal and provincial governments continue to subsidize them with taxpayer’s money to the tune of about $34 billion per year, according to the International Monetary Fund. At the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, Canada promised to end fossil fuel subsidies, but we’ve taken no action to fulfill our international commitment.”

In British Columbia

Canada's fossil fuel focused energy plans appear to equate rising emissions with prosperity - Fig prosperity - A4 from Canada’s Emissions Trends Environment Canada 2014
Canada’s fossil fuel focused energy plans appear to equate rising emissions with prosperity – Fig A4 from Canada’s Emissions Trends Environment Canada 2014

In British Columbia, which obtains 93% of its energy from clean or renewable sources, the current government is focusing on a development of fossil fuels. The Ministry of Mines and Energy just issued a news release with the ludicrous title “Stuff your stockings with B.C. coal.” (It actually does extol locally produced coal!) However the cornerstone of Premier Christy Clark’s energy policy is the “trillion dollar” opportunity presented by the province’s natural gas deposits.

Environment Canada was not as optimistic (p 20), “There is a high degree of uncertainty regarding LNG production in Canada since its potential for export resides in factors such as the cost and acceptability of export terminals and pipelines on the West Coast, as well as the long-term price expectations of natural gas, both domestically and internationally.”

Table A.6: Mass of CO2 eq Emissions Emitted per Quantity of Energy for Various Fuels - Canada’s Emissions Trends Environment Canada 2014
Table A.6: Mass of CO2 eq Emissions Emitted per Quantity of Energy for Various Fuels – Canada’s Emissions Trends Environment Canada 2014

It has been more than two years since Premier Clark declared natural gas will be classified as a clean fuel when used to power liquefied natural gas extraction plants in northern B.C. The province’s Clean Energy Act was amended to incorporate this new. definition.

Now BC has adopted a “emissions intensity” scheme,  requiring  businesses to reduce the amount of carbon produced in liquefying a specified quantity of natural gas. Only according to Green ML, and former Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, Andrew Weaver

If we increase the production of LNG, even if it is produced more and more efficiently, emissions are still going up. Ultimately, the climate only cares about the total amount of carbon pollution a facility would release and how much carbon pollution is in our atmosphere.

“An emissions intensity scheme wouldn’t limit the overall carbon emissions. That’s why if you compare Alberta’s emissions to British Columbia’s, you will see that while British Columbia’s emissions decreased in the last few years, Alberta’s increased.

“So why are we going down this path? Because the government knows that emissions are going to skyrocket if we develop our LNG industry. And an Alberta or Harper Government style emissions intensity model will provide the illusion of action on global warming at the same time as our overall magnitude of carbon emissions continue to increase. That’s all this is: The illusion of action.”

Meanwhile the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association has released a report stating that British Columbia possesses sufficient geothermal potential to meet all of the province’s future power needs. This is virtually emissions free energy that is already used by much of the world. There are currently 64 operating geothermal power plants in the United States, but none in Canada.

BC also possesses a solar site that could be developed to 200 MW of capacity.

Compared To The World

Figure 1: GHG Emissions Growth, 1990 to 2010 - Canada Emissions Trends 2014
Figure 1: GHG Emissions Growth, 1990 to 2010 – Canada Emissions Trends 2014

BC, Manitoba and Quebec all derive most of their electricity from hydro. This has put Canada in the enviable position of obtaining 79% of its energy from renewable resources.

Compared to the world, it looks like we are making progress.

An altogether different picture emerges when Canada’s emissions are compared to developed nations. The European Union’s emissions were 19% below 1990 levels at the end of 2013. Canada is 18% above.

Do you think Canada is missing something?

(Graph at the top of page: Figure ES-1: Progress on Canada’s 2020 Target (Mt CO2 eq)2 – Courtesy Canada’s Emissions Trends 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.