Canada is on the path to low-carbon energy, helped along by policies at all levels of government. But it began its journey well behind most of the world and still has a long way to go, according to the National Energy Board’s (NEB’s) report, “Canada’s Energy Transition: An Energy Market Assessment”.
Critics of climate action will point out that Canada generates only 1.7% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But it is also one of the most energy- and emission-intensive nations in the world, says the NEB.
Energy transition in Canada is hamstrung by a number of factors, many of which Canadians would be unlikely to surrender without a fight: a large industrial base, a growing energy-producing sector, low-cost energy, a very high standard of living, a cold climate, a dispersed population.
However, according to the NEB, between 1990 and 2016, emission intensity (GHG emissions per GDP) fell by 35%, mostly through rapid growth of the institutional and commercial sectors and improvements in energy efficiency.
It says three key developments will power Canada’s energy transition in the years to come. First, there is the ongoing decarbonisation of electricity. Eighty percent of Canada’s electricity is now non-emitting. Four coal-reliant provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — account for 90% of the remainder. All four are on a path to reduce their reliance on coal.
The transportation sector is Canada’s second-largest source of emissions, and it relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels. It presents tremendous opportunities for emissions reduction through improved fuel and efficiency standards, the integration of sustainable biofuels, and electrification.
Continued improvements in energy efficiency in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors could also make a huge difference, according to the NEB.