By Anthony Capkun
January 23, 2013 – In a report issued today, “Electricity in Canada: Smart Investment to Power Future Competitiveness”, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce argues that, as Canada continues to define its place as a responsible energy producer, electricity—and the sector responsible for its production, transmission and distribution—will play a significant role in Canada’s energy future.
Canada’s electricity sector is embarking on a decades-long period of transition that will see a move away from fossil fuel-based thermal generation to an electricity system that is heavily weighted toward non-emitting, renewable sources of electricity, says the chamber.
“Our electricity sector, by ensuring a secure, reliable and affordable supply of electricity, has been a main contributor to Canada’s competitive advantage,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Today, the sector is once again at the beginning of a period of continued investment and reinvestment in generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure not seen for nearly three decades. How the nearly $350-billion in required investment in Canada’s electricity system will be allocated will be determined by demand projections and forecasts, environmental and other regulations, public pressure and capital availability. This is a challenging period for the sector.”
Once this transition is complete, it is likely that hydroelectricity will remain the predominant electricity source in Canada with a significant portion of its remaining potential being under development. While there no current business/economic reasons to construct an East-West transmission grid, says the chamber, it is clear that such a transmission system could serve as the catalyst for new hydro development and the transition away from thermal electricity. The first step down this path is to complete an energy chapter in the Agreement on Internal Trade, adds the chamber.
“Canada needs to invest significantly in refurbished and new electricity infrastructure in order to maintain system reliability,” said Jim Burpee, president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association. “A pan-Canadian approach to energy would support areas of inter-provincial cooperation and promote the further development of the smart grid, renewable energy, harmonized standards for energy efficiency and the development of electrical vehicle infrastructure. Although provinces have historically approached their electricity system and supply independently, opportunities exist for increased interprovincial cooperation to create a more efficient, sustainable and affordable electricity system for Canadians.”
As the trend to include the environmental and social costs of energy development gains momentum, the chamber says Canada’s competitive advantage gained by access to abundant, reliable, low-cost energy can be maintained through the investment choices made to support this transition away from fossil fuel thermal generation. To sustain the transition over time, the chamber says investments in both ‘brawn’ (new capacity and infrastructure) and ‘brains’ (technological upgrades to existing infrastructure) will be required.