“Clean electricity will power Canada’s net zero transition.” This is the first paragraph of The Big Switch: Powering Canada’s Net Zero Future report. The report shows how we can transform our electricity systems, paving the way to a more sustainable and affordable future for all. We already have the technologies. What we need now is the social, political, and institutional will to power this change.
(This post is sourced from the Canadian Climate Institute (CC).)
The Big Switch
“Reaching Canada’s climate targets requires a big switch from fossil fuel energy to clean electricity. This switch involves producing more clean electricity in every region, phasing out greenhouse gas-emitting sources, and using clean electricity to power more and more of our homes, vehicles, businesses, and industries. It will underpin Canada’s climate progress and power Canada’s future prosperity.”
‘The Big Switch’ refers to the production of a lot more clean electricity to phase out all fossil-fuel-produced power—from coal and natural gas—and to meet the growing need for clean electricity as we switch to electric vehicles, heat pumps, electric furnaces and away from gas stoves.
Key findings of the report:
- The big switch will increase affordability for Canadians when it’s powered by the right policies. Rapidly declining costs of renewables and storage makes electricity more affordable than volatile fossil fuels. Smart co-ordinated policy can build the bigger, cleaner, and smarter electricity systems that can power this promise.
- Aligning electricity systems with net zero—by making them bigger, cleaner, and smarter—is both necessary and achievable. These systems can reliably and affordably power Canada’s economy and the broader transition to net zero.
- The most significant barriers to the big switch are social, political, and institutional. Policy needs to address both the technical and non-technical barriers to the deployment and uptake of key solutions. (excerpt from the media release)
Bigger, Cleaner, Smarter
Widespread electrification will grow demand substantially. Studies show that electricity demand will be 1.6 to 2.1 times larger in 2050 than it is today. The current capacity of electricity systems needs to double or even triple—at a rate 3 to 6 times faster than the last decade—on the path to net zero.
There are three broad elements to making electricity production cleaner:
- the phase-out of generation from unabated fossil fuels;
- the acceleration of the growth of non-emitting electricity—especially solar and wind;
- the need for hydro and nuclear power to maintain their important roles.
“Making systems smarter entails deploying a range of solutions so systems can become more flexible to support more solar and wind—as well as more resilient to the effects of climate change.” (Clark and Kanduth 2022). To make electricity production smarter means:
- making demand for electricity more flexible;
- balancing out the grid with a range of non-emitting sources of electricity;
- speeding up the deployment of electricity storage;
- enhancing integration and trade of electricity across regions and provinces.
The stakes are high – getting it right is imperative
- Acting early with smart policies can significantly reduce overall costs and make achieving net zero easier by:
- requiring less capital investment;
- avoiding a more difficult and costly transition later;
- eliminating stranded assets;
- meeting the stringent 2035 deadline for electrification.
- Strategic action today can unlock clean growth opportunities.
- New companies focused on transition-consistent growth are well positioned to grow and create employment and prosperity for Canadians and the country at large.
- Electricity system transformations can be pursued in ways that support equity by:
- ensuring that higher electricity rates do not disproportionately impact lower-income households;
- introducing measures that will support the adoption of electrification technologies.
- Catalyzing Indigenous participation and leadership can support Indigenous self-determination and reconciliation.
- There will be significant opportunities for reconciliation and economic growth.
“The path is clear, the technology is affordable and available, and the benefits are considerable. Co-ordinated action from federal and provincial governments is how we get there.” — Rick Smith, President, Canadian Climate Institute
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