Key Variables Affecting the Future of Canada’s Electricity System

To inform the discussion about scenarios of the future, Vision 2050 lists a series of variables that may dramatically impact the future of electricity in Canada if they change significantly over time. The variables include:

  • The future size of the system – the size of electricity supply and demand could be altered by variables such as growth rates for population, gross domestic profit (GDP), electrification of vehicles and electricity exports as well as the effectiveness of energy efficiency and demand management programs at reducing demand.
  • The future composition of the system – decisions made about the evolution of nuclear, fossil fuel and renewable generation could significantly alter the total composition of the electricity mix. Canada’s ability to incorporate the economic, environmental, social and cultural interests of Aboriginal Peoples and communities in the development of renewable and non-renewable energy resources will also be impactful.
  • Changes in management of the system by the industry and customers – how the system will be managed and designed in the future will be impacted by the effectiveness of energy efficiency and demand management efforts, adoption of new technologies such as electric vehicles and grid modernization, advancement of consumer management of energy, and the ability of the sector to overcome human resource shortages. Learn more about technological innovation in CEA’s report entitled, Electric Utility Innovation Toward Vision 2050.
  • Economic and financial levers that might be brought to bear on the system – the ability of governments and regulators to implement and support economic and financial instruments that balance costs, benefits, alternatives, timelines and beneficiaries will impact Canada’s transition to a low carbon energy mix.

Models can generate a range of scenarios by altering inputs and assumptions. The difficulty is that energy and infrastructure planning today must occur in the absence of full certainty, with developments in technology or unforeseen events threatening to upend the most rational assumptions about the future.

Some of the variables affecting a 2050 vision for electricity are external factors that cannot be predicted clearly today and depend on a combination of technology advances, policy support and consumer response to price signals. These variables affect how our future electricity system will be managed and designed. Fundamental change in each might well impact significantly on the system as a whole. Nevertheless, there are prudent steps policy makers can take because other variables are more controllable and present real dilemmas and choices.

Between the variables that are within the scope and control of the electricity sector, Canadians will need to make some important decisions in the near future.

For other variables, important choices will need to be distinguished from less important choices – at least from the standpoint of a visioning effort for electricity in Canada and what needs to be decided or resolved over the next five to 10 years.


 

There is a strong case to be made for the urgency of getting on with updating Canada’s electricity system and infrastructure.

 


 

Read more about the many key variables affecting the future of Canada’s electricity system in the full Vision 2050 report. Download Vision 2050.