Trudeau’s win puts Canada back in a position to be a global energy leader
October 22, 2015
The following CanWEA blog first appeared on North American Windpower.
When Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, took the stage Monday night to address Canadians after the Liberal party’s election win, he emphasized his commitment to change. It is a message that resonates with the country’s renewable energy sector, because it marks the start of a new era of federal engagement in the issues that are important to our continued growth and prosperity.
Action on climate change is at the top of the list. It’s true that there are many questions yet to be answered. The Liberals have not committed to specific emissions reduction targets, for example. Nor have they been explicit about their preferred mechanism for setting a national carbon price. But the signs are positive. Trudeau has said he will take part in the Paris climate negotiations at the end of the year, and plans to invite Canada’s Premiers to join him. Within 90 days of the COP21 conference, he will convene a meeting of provincial leaders to come up with a plan to fight climate change. The Liberal platform also called for the creation of a $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Trust to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There is potential for transformation on other fronts as well. The new government has committed to working with the provinces in the development of a Canadian Energy Strategy that will bring more renewable energy onto the electricity grid. It has indicted it is ready to support provinces in their plans to boost electricity exports to the U.S., opening up an important opportunity for Canada’s clean energy producers to play a part in U.S. plans to slash carbon emissions from its power sector by 32 per cent from 1990 levels over the next 15 years. It has stressed the need to invest in Canada’s infrastructure, including “helping provinces and territories invest in the kind of modern grid, power storage, and transmission that ensure a bigger role for clean energy.” It has promised to leverage the federal government’s creditworthiness to issue green bonds to support both large- and community-scale renewable energy projects, and to shift subsidies from fossil fuels to new and clean technologies like wind energy.
Trudeau’s emphasis on collaboration with the provinces, I think, is very telling and a welcome change in tone from the last 10 years. The wind energy sector has experienced firsthand what is possible when the federal and provincial governments combine forces to meet shared goals. Federal production incentives in the mid- to late-2000s worked hand-in-hand with provincial procurement initiatives to help kick-start our industry, and now wind energy is a mainstream and cost-competitive source of electricity right across the country. Today there is even more opportunity for both levels of government to find common ground on priorities ranging from clean job creation to greenhouse gas emissions reduction to technological innovation. The provinces have made important progress in recent years, leveraging investment in wind and other renewables to create tens of thousands of new jobs in communities across the country, and stepping up to develop their own climate action plans. But with the federal government as a partner, there is potential to do so much more.
Clearly, wind and other renewables can play a strong role in advancing the new government’s economic and environmental agenda. We need to remember, however, that details matter. A poorly designed climate policy could drive investment to natural gas, leaving Canada no further ahead from an emissions perspective 20 or 30 years from now. Maximizing the use of renewable electricity ensures that greenhouse gas emission reductions are sustainable over the long term, and enables further decarbonization of the economy through electrification of transportation, heating and cooling and some industrial processes.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has long been vigilant about uncovering opportunities to present wind energy as a solution to challenges at the federal level, but the results of this election provide new hope that the federal government is now willing to resume a leadership role on energy transformation. We are eager to work with Ottawa to ensure that the new pan-Canadian climate framework, and the broader economy, can take advantage of all that wind energy has to offer.
Featured Photo ©Justin Trudeau Flickr account