Canada can achieve net-zero electricity by 2035: Jaccard and Griffin

A new report by energy economists Mark Jaccard and Brad Griffin asserts that it is possible for Canada to achieve net-zero electricity by 2035, and describes and models how this can be achieved within the challenging jurisdictional structure.   A Zero-Emissions Canadian Electricity System by 2035 focuses on zero-emission policies that the federal government has the authority to implement, chiefly through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which has allowed the federal government to establish an industrial output-based pricing system. However, the report recognizes that the electricity sector is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction, resulting in wide variations which are described in a summary of the status and key features for each province.  The report models two different future scenarios, both of which assume substantial growth of solar, wind, and other renewables; the  growth of energy storage capacity; and continued resistance to interprovincial grid development. However, one scenario assumes continued use of fossil-fuel electricity generation with carbon capture and storage in Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with the development of large hydro in Atlantic Canada.  In terms of cost, the authors state that the scenario allowing for fossil fuel generation will be cheaper in the short-term, and more expensive in the long-term. The authors recommend that the government continue with the existing structure of federal-provincial equivalency-based carbon pricing systems, but that those agreements be monitored by Canada’s Net-Zero Advisory Body, “using the assessment expertise of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices”. (It should be noted that author Mark Jaccard is a member of the Institute’s Expert Panel on Mitigation).

The report was commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation, in collaboration with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, the Ecology Action Centre and the Pembina Institute.  A summary by Mark Jaccard appears in his blog .

Natural gas drives GHG emissions increase for Toronto region and Ontario

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is home to 7.4 million people in six municipalities: the City of Toronto, City of Hamilton, Halton, Peel, York and Durham regions. According to a new report released by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF),  the region produces  44 per cent of  total carbon emissions in the province of Ontario.   Top level findings from the report, Reality Check: Carbon Emissions Inventory for the GTHA: “Total carbon emissions in the GTHA increased 5.2% in 2018, reaching 55.5 Mt. . …. showing that since the completion of the coal phase out, emissions are slowly increasing across all regions and nearly all sources.” The report zeroes in on each municipality, and also on sectors, showing that buildings (42.8%), transportation (34.3%), and industry (18.9%) are the most significant sources of emissions in the region.

The key take-away from the report:  “Natural gas is a fossil fuel (methane) and it is the most significant source of emissions in the GTHA and Ontario. In 2018 natural gas increased about 10.6%, or 2Mt CO2 eq. Achieving net zero by 2050 will require phasing out virtually all natural gas from both heating and power production.”  An associated blog , “Toronto has an embarrassing gas problem”  (Feb.18) states: “the City’s latest emissions inventory showed an increase of 68% from natural gas from 2017 to 2018, and plans are afoot to increase gas-fired electricity which will make emissions skyrocket by over 300%. …. Toronto cannot meet its 2030 climate goals or the council-approved TransformTO plan if Ontario’s electricity is increasingly generated with fossil gas.”

Based on this analysis, TAF makes policy recommendations for all three levels of government, calling for near zero emissions standards for new building, acceleration of deeper retrofits for existing buildings, and electrification of heating and transportation while decarbonizing electricity production.  Detailed recommendations regarding retrofitting measures are provided in TAF’s submission to the Federal Budget 2021, and summarized in “Four ways the government should boost the retrofit market” (Feb. 23).  At the municipal level,  TAF is supporting one City of Toronto Councillor’s motion which calls for the provincial government to phaseout all gas-fired electricity generation as soon as possible.  The City of Toronto deferred a vote on that motion, and voted in February on a budget which appears to downgrade the priority for climate initiatives.  “’We can’t afford to lose a year’: Worries abound over Toronto’s plan to reduce climate funding” (CBC, Feb. 18)  provides details.

Electricity Industry in the U.K. Sees the Green Light

Reported in The Guardian on February 28   as a “watershed moment”,  the biggest energy lobbying group in the country, Energy UK,  has shifted its position on green energy and will start campaigning for low-carbon alternatives. The shift in policy follows the publication of Pathways for the GB Electricity Sector to 2030 , commissioned by Energy UK and written by consultants KPMG. (For comparison purposes, see the Canadian Electricity Association documents   Vision 2050  ( 2014) , and Adapting to Climate Change  (2016).

The U.K. Budget delivered on March 16  initially imposed a VAT increase from 5 – 20% on solar panels and other energy-saving products, but Chancellor George Osborne was forced to backtrack by political opposition.  Small comfort when the  Petroleum Revenue Tax was effectively abolished  and a supplementary charge on oil and gas extraction dramatically reduced – the government claims that it has provided tax support worth 1 billion pounds to the oil and gas industry.