Ontario Construction News staff writer
Electrification is the number one national project of the century, according to a new report from the Public Policy Forum. Work will “dwarf the ambitions of previous centuries, including even the construction of the Canadian Pacific railways, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Trans-Canada Highway,” the report concludes.
Electricity demand is forecast to double in Canada by 2050; supply capacity will have to grow an astounding 2.2 to 3.4 times of today’s volume.
That means “Canada has to build the equivalent of one or two more of everything developed over the past century if supply is to catch up with the demand we’re already stimulating as well as to achieve our net-zero goals,” said Edward Greenspon, President and CEO of the Public Policy Forum, and one of the report authors. “Electricity is the foundation stone of the energy transition.”
Project of the Century: A blueprint for growing Canada’s clean electricity supply – and fast, provides a roadmap for the urgent twin electrification challenges of creating abundant supply, as well as clean supply.
The pressing question is where will all that clean supply come from?
Among the report’s key messages:
- Canadians are not prepared for the shock of moving from electricity abundance to scarcity;
- If we don’t ensure that affordability and reliability of supply stand alongside cleanliness as fundamental values of the electricity transition, we put our net zero goal at risk;
- Provinces are the most important players in electrification, and each has its own unique challenges; three provinces and two territories actually have more emissions in their systems than China and Russia;
- This doesn’t happen without Indigenous partnership as equity owners in projects, and that doesn’t happen without easier access to capital on competitive terms;
- We are behind where we need to be to achieve a near-zero grid in 2035 or a net zero economy and society by 2050. We need faster policy-making and regulatory streamlining;
- We need an industrial strategy that sequences electrification initiatives, putting energy efficiency and transportation first, then industry, then home heating; and
- We need a realistic assessment of how labour shortages and broken supply chains for minerals will affect Canada’s energy transition. These are major impediments.
Canada must adopt “a hurry-up offense,” Greenspon said. “Electrification is a worthy and necessary nation-building goal. We will need unprecedented policy coherence for Canada to meet the moment.”
The report came from PPF’s Energy Future Forum, a project launched in 2019 to identify practical measures that help Canada meet or exceed its 2030 emissions targets on the way to a net zero future, and that strengthen an innovative economy, deepen shared prosperity and enhance national unity.