Renewable Energy: Next-level initiatives from ABS 2011
ABS guest reporter Laura Phillips - Conversations around clean energy are gaining momentum in Atlantic Canada. With increased involvement of government and business parties are accelerating the shift towards long term clean energy trends, and the resources and economic opportunity of Eastern regions are being realized. Developments such as Newfoundland's Lower Churchill Project and DSTN's facilities in Nova Scotia are key-contributors to greater initiative in Canada as a whole. However, speakers at the 4th Annual Atlantic Business Summit let out a clear call to action: renewable energy at large is a task that requires a more unified stance. A recurring theme from speakers was that the lack of federal policies on clean energy is restricting dialogue and hindering the action for necessary change.
LOWER CHURCHILL PROJECT
The Lower Churchill Project is a running model of Atlantic Canada's economic and new paradigm potential. Developed from a partnership between Emera and Nalcor Energy, the undertaking is slated to supply power to hundreds of thousands of households annually and contribute significantly to the reduction of air emissions from thermal, coal and fossil fuel power. Discussing the project's logistics, Brian Rendell, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, emphasized the regional interflow: "Muskrat Falls, Gull Island, Churchill River and the Quebec Grid– this connection adds reliably, optionality and provides a more robust system that will benefit an entire region," he said. Interprovincial electricity grid integration shows a step towards more widespread policy agreements. With this project, there is a supported idiom with room to other provinces to follow in lockstep. "The level of cooperation of the provincial Atlantic government has enabled the push," Rendell added. And numbers don't lie: an estimated 45,000 workers employed, in combination with the $3.5 billion income for the creation of labour and businesses, indicates that this is an effort for substantial economical and ecological gain. Although challenges do exist, the Churchill Project has gained sufficient support to mark itself as a stakeholder in Canadian clean energy – a touchstone and starting point for Canada as a whole.
Paul Black, Director of Policy, Office of the Premier of Nova Scotia and James Glennie, Director of Marketing, DSTN, took the stage to discuss next-level initiatives for the rising future of wind energy. DSTN, a state-of-the-art wind turbine manufacturer located in Pictou County, NS, is a collaboration between the province and world-class shipbuilder, DSME, and a new wave of environmental and economical opportunity. With DSTN providing benchmarks for Atlantic Canada's renewable energy, the province can provide economic benefits and long-term interest.
"With annual growth rates of over 35%, the global wind industry is one of the fastest growing sources of energy in the world," says Paul Black. The progress in Europe – primarily Germany, Denmark and Spain – is a clear indicator of the future in energy, as countries have reduced greenhouse emissions by 20% below 1990 levels, and will have electrical grids based on 100% renewable energy in 30 years.
While North America is nowhere near Europe's stage of progress, the technology and a working blueprint exists. Wind turbines currently supply about 2% of the North American electricity needs, and government sources estimate that this could increase to 20% by 2030. Challenges in Canada and the US lie in the rallying of communities and businesses to better establish funding, policy, and commitment to a unified vision.
According to Glennie, the plodding resources of crude oil – which currently comprises 60% of all energy used in North America – is a reason to make wind power a priority. "Since 1965, the production of crude oil has been flat in the US and Canada," says Glennie, "In that time, the demand for crude oil has risen from 10 to 32 million barrels a day– and so there is a gap in the difference between cost and domestic resources." This difference is costing Canadians and Americans about a billion dollars a day, with money going to countries like Iran, Iraq and Algeria. It is with hope that by implementing innovations of the wind industry, more jobs and internal wealth will be generated alongside the good health of energy efficiency.
And the fact remains: carbon emissions must decrease. With over 68% of oil in Eastern Canada being used in transportation, the electric vehicle industry yields yet another opportunity for Atlantic Canada. On a global scale, technologies and intellectual properties already in place; however, industry growth in Canada is heavily dependent on the development of standards, national incentives and collaborative efforts of the auto industry and government. Al Cormier, CEO of Electric Mobility Canada, took to the podium to discuss the Electric Vehicle Industry and its Atlantic Canadian potential. "By moving forward with electric vehicles, Atlantic Canadians can expect improved oil security. As you gradually introduce electric vehicles, you import less oil. You can also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get involved in new jobs, new sectors and new technologies," says Cormier. "And with the car population growing five times faster than the world population, increasing oil prices become daunting."
The prospects of the electric vehicle are lucrative on a consumer level. Electric motors are super-efficient, converting up to 90% of energy to applied traction, whereas internal combustion engines only convert at 35%. They are simplistic in form, require less maintenance, and offer quiet, smooth-running functionality. Such vehicles also have the ability to store Grid energy within themselves: to imagine this on a large scale, the electric vehicle is able to put energy back into the grid at peak times, therefore significantly reducing energy generation needs. In terms of powering the vehicle, it doesn't matter where the electricity comes from. Hydro, coal, wind, biomass, tidal waves – electricity is electricity and it will all run the motors.
Although there is strong support in research and development, Canada lacks the federal targets or incentives of other nations. In part, because of certain provinces abundance of renewable hydro power generation, dynamic provincial programs have been established Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. With the possibility of Lower Churchill coming on and the aggressive renewable energy targets of the Atlantic region, it is hoped that Atlantic Canada will eventually follow such leads. And like many other renewable energy platforms, trends for electric vehicles are pushed by greater government policies and results-driven dialogue. The possibilities for the electric vehicle in Canada is a lofty venture (and at early stages), but with the, has potential to parallel with global energy trends and economic development.
Demonstrated developments in Canada's energy sector give way to a new kind of “eco-nomics.” As Atlantic Canada continues to progress, the call for greater government policy and inter-provincial communications become essential. Opportunities to join new and exciting technologies, strengthen Canadian infrastructure, and transform the way we fuel the world are imperative to establishing a unified stance and collective commitment to initiative.