Partnering for Green Power in the 21st Century

February 26, 2016 / The Honourable Sergio Marchi, Canadian Electricity Association

Vancouver plays host to two significant and complementary events designed to help propel Canada towards a greener future.

At the Conference Centre, Prime Minister Trudeau will meet with provincial Premiers on March 3rd to discuss a national climate change strategy. And across the lobby, some two thousand business, non-governmental organization, and Indigenous leaders will debate green strategies and technologies, at the biennial GLOBE Leadership Summit.

For the First Ministers, they must now tackle the arduous task of operationalizing the Paris Agreement. They will set the political ambition, while many of the Globe delegates will be responsible for achieving the target.

These are two sides of the same climate coin. If we are to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions in the most efficient, fair, and cost effective manner, it is critical that we nurture a balanced partnership between governments and industry.

An agenda of pressing issues awaits that partnership. Let me touch on just four.

First, we must invest in clean energy solutions.

Every time Canadians flick on the lights, they are accessing some of the cleanest power in the world. Over 80% of Canada’s electricity is GHG emissions-free. And this will only improve as coal-fired generation comes offline.

But we cannot stop there. The electrification of transportation and industrial applications holds the key for Canada to drastically cut emissions. Transportation alone is responsible for almost 25% of our carbon foot print. We must therefore devise and execute an electrification strategy for our country.

Second, we must make long term and transformative infrastructure investments.

These projects must support nation-building at its finest. Our Prime Minister was right when he told the Davos Economic Forum, “We need infrastructure that supports change.”

Canada’s electricity sector is aligned with this approach. We must invest $350 billion over the next twenty years to renew aging systems. This presents a generational opportunity to work together; to bring forward innovative, renewable and green technologies; and to extend service to remote areas. On the latter, why should Canadians have to rely on unhealthy and expensive diesel, when their citizenship should grant them same right to first class energy power that the rest of us enjoy?

Third, we must understand who is doing the innovation.

People often think that the next Google will come from brilliant youngsters experimenting in their garages. They may be right, but that is only part of the story.

Our members and those from other energy sectors, many of whom have been around a long time, are also driving innovation. Whether it’s BC Hydro delivering on a network of EV charging stations; or SaskPower’s Carbon Capture and Storage Project, the only one in the world; or Ontario Power Generation’s plant converting coal to biomass – the largest in North America – established entities are also innovating. Accordingly, we need to embrace all innovators, and resist picking perceived winners.

Finally, in facilitating a workable climate partnership, we need to establish a new, permanent Government/Stakeholders Climate Forum.

For many, COP 21 represents a watershed moment. Indeed, many governments have since adopted a more aggressive stance, including ours. This major political undertaking will thus require a more coherent, holistic approach. A Forum which brings together federal and provincial government officials, industry, NGO’s, and Indigenous interests would help immeasurably. The mission would be to identify opportunities and resolve challenges, and to help forge a national consensus, on an evolving and ongoing basis.

I look forward to expanding on these issues at the Globe Conference. I hope you can join me and other panelist on March 3rd from 11:30 – 12:30 as we speak to the “The Future of Electricity & Grid Infrastructure: Powering the 21st Century Economy.”

 

Hon. Sergio Marchi is the President & CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA)