Canada’s renewable energy industry is trailing that of other countries due to a lack of supportive federal and provincial government policies and financial incentives, two new reports say.
“Canada is missing its opportunity to lead in the international effort to develop and deploy the sustainable energy technologies of the 21st century. In fact, we are falling behind,” says a report by the Clean Air Renewable Energy (CARE) Coalition of corporations, municipalities and environmental groups.
The potential for low environmental-impact, renewable-energy technologies in Canada could be equal to the current production of coal, natural gas and nuclear power combined, the report says. However, renewables now comprise only 1.3 per cent of the country’s electricity production.
The CARE Coalition says a $260-million federal incentive aimed at developing 1,000 megawatts of new wind energy by 2007 should be extended to other renewable energy technologies, such as low-impact hydroelectric power, biomass (burning forest industry waste) and solar.
“We’ve got wind, water and biomass resources from coast to coast,” says John Keating, CEO of Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers, Inc., a coalition member. Other members in Alberta include BP Canada Energy Company, Shell Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Ltd., Enmax Corp. and the Pembina Institute.
The CARE Coalition’s report says renewables should make up a minimum seven per cent of Canada’s electricity production in 2010, and 15 per cent by 2020. It recommends that governments define a comprehensive renewable energy vision for Canada and set long-term targets for renewables in each region or province.
Mark Young, development engineer for Shell Canada Renewables, says global leaders in the field such as Germany, Spain and Denmark all have provided a range of financial incentives to help the industry grow. For Canada, generating 15 to 20 per cent of its electricity from renewables “is certainly reasonable, based on what’s been done in other countries,” he said at The Canadian Institute’s Renewables 2003 conference last week in Calgary.
Don Wharton, director of offsets and strategy at TransAlta Corp., said Canada’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto accord creates an opportunity to significantly expand the development and use of renewable energies. “We can either take advantage of that opportunity or we can really screw it up,” he told the Renewables 2003 conference.
In a separate report, the Pembina Institute says Canada’s “green” power sector is growing but is still very small compared with several other industrialized countries.
No governments in Canada have yet implemented mandatory renewable portfolio standards (requiring electricity producers to supply a certain portion of power from renewable sources) or special levies on electricity to expand green-power development, the report notes. In contrast, 13 and 14 U.S. state governments, respectively, now have the standards and special levies.
Canada’s climate change plan sets a target to have 10 per cent of the country’s new electricity generation come from renewables by 2008-12, says report lead author Matthew Bramley, director, climate change at the Pembina Institute. “Governments have taken initial significant steps, but now they must follow through on those bigger commitments,” he said.
The Alberta government leads the country in publicly committing to meet 90 per cent of its electricity needs with green power by 2020.
Katherine Braun, director of markets in the electricity business unit at Alberta Energy, says to encourage more green power, the department is reviewing a prohibition on net metering in the province and wants to support it where appropriate. Manitoba Hydro is the only utility in Canada that offers net metering to its customers.
Net metering is where the electric company allows a customer’s meter to actually run backwards if the electricity the customer generates – by wind power, for example – is more than they are consuming. At the end of the billing period, the customer pays only for their net consumption: the amount of power consumed, minus the amount of power generated.
Keating said that businesses and individuals can help boost renewable energy development by buying renewable energy certificates (created through the production of clean power) to offset the emissions from their buildings and homes.
“It’s also becoming an important marketing tool for businesses to be able to promote that the company is doing its part to protect the environment,” he said.
Jason Hay, owner of the Patagonia store on 8th Avenue S.W. in Calgary, says his store bought a renewable energy certificate because it’s good for both the environment and his business.
“We asked for an oversized sign to specify that we are ‘Green Power Supporters,’ as we want our position to be obvious to everyone that shops in the store,” Hay said.