Goal 7: Increase Canadians' access to clean energy
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Why this goal is important
This Goal's focus on increasing Canadian's access to clean energy supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:
- 7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
- 7.2: By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
- 7.3: By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
Access to affordable and reliable energy is essential to eradicating poverty and enabling economic growth and improved living standards. At the same time, energy production and use is currently the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 78% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In Canada, as in the rest of the world, greenhouse gas emissions primarily come from activities such as non-renewable electricity production, oil and gas production, transportation, and heating and cooling of buildings using fossil fuels.
Clean and affordable energy is essential to Canada's and the world's aspirations to decarbonize the economy and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. There are 3 key pathways to decarbonize how Canadians use energy: electrification, efficiency, and clean fuels.
Canada reduced its energy consumption per dollar of economic activity by approximately 17% from 2000 to 2018 but remains one of the world's largest per-capita consumers of energy and approximately 81% of its greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, including for export, and domestic use. Canadians use more energy per capita due to the country's extreme temperatures, vast landscape and dispersed population. Energy efficiency has an important role in meeting Canada's emissions reduction targets, while also helping individual Canadians and businesses save money on energy costs, improving competitiveness, and creating jobs.
Canadians have access to some of the world's cleanest electricity. Between 2016 and 2020, the electricity generated in Canada that came from non-greenhouse-gas-emitting sources increased about 2% to reach 83% of the total electricity produced in Canada, including 68% from renewables and 15% from nuclear. However, remote and northern communities are not afforded equal access to reliable sources of clean energy and typically rely on diesel fuel for electricity and heat. Increasing access to reliable and affordable clean energy is vital for enhancing the economic development and well-being of remote and northern communities, and for meeting the Government of Canada's climate change targets.
Electrification provides a foundation for decarbonization strategies such as electrifying transportation, heating and cooling of buildings, and certain industrial applications. It also underpins digitization, smart technology, and the internet of things, all of which play a critical role in managing energy and increasing demand.
Energy efficiency standards and labelling programs are among the most cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reduction policies and are the cornerstone of energy efficiency and climate change programs in more than 80 countries. According to the International Energy Agency, improvements to the energy efficiency of products are some of the lowest-cost options available today for reducing energy consumption and associated emissions (with benefit-cost ratios of 4:1 for Canadian society), while providing net financial benefits to individuals and the community.
Clean fuels produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fuels. Growing Canada's clean fuels market will help reduce its carbon footprint by cutting emissions from hard-to-abate sectors. Canada is rich in a variety of feedstocks that can be used to make clean fuels like hydrogen, cellulosic ethanol, renewable natural gas, and renewable diesel. Even our abundant fossil fuel resources can be converted to clean hydrogen when coupled with carbon capture and storage technologies. These fuels can be used to power our transportation and industrial sectors, supporting Canada's energy sector transition to a net-zero economy.
Nuclear energy, and small modular reactors (SMRs) in particular, will be part of the “all-options” approach to achieve the Government of Canada's ambitious commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and by 2035 in the electricity sector. This technology can position Canada as a clean energy leader; support the decarbonization of provincial electricity grids; facilitate the transition away from diesel power in remote communities; and help decarbonize heavy emitting industries. As a baseload, dispatchable and non-emitting source of energy, SMRs could also play a vital role in enabling deeper integration of variable renewables (for example, wind and solar) into Canada's energy mix, especially in regions without significant hydro resources.
How the Government of Canada contributes
In March 2022, the Government of Canada tabled its first 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. The ERP continues to build on the climate actions outlined in Canada's previous climate plans, the strengthened climate plan - A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, and the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, released respectively in 2020 and 2016. The 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan is the next major step in taking action to address climate change and create good, sustainable jobs. This $9.1 billion plan outlines a sector-by-sector roadmap for Canada to reach its emissions reduction target of 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
Through this plan, Canada is working towards net-zero electricity by 2035 and will expand non-emitting energy across Canada, connect regions to clean power, and foster more clean, reliable, and affordable electricity supply. In addition, Budget 2022 provided $250 millions to support pre-development activities of clean electricity projects of national significance, such as inter-provincial electricity transmission projects and small modular reactors. The 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan will also help reduce emissions from industry, buildings, and transportation. With these climate plans, the Government of Canada, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, will continue to improve the energy efficiency of Canadian homes and buildings; incent the uptake of technologies that reduce the carbon intensity of liquid fuels and invest in clean fuels production capacity; and support the transition of Indigenous and northern communities to clean, renewable and reliable energy.
To speed up the transition to clean fuels, technologies and processes across Canada, the Government of Canada is supporting the development of a clean fuels sector in Canada through a series of investments and initiatives that complement the Clean Fuel Regulations. The Government of Canada collaborated with stakeholders including industry, other levels of government, Indigenous organizations, non-government organizations and academia to develop the Hydrogen Strategy for Canada. The Clean Fuels Fund, a $1.5 billion investment in the clean fuels sector, is one of many federal initiatives supporting this strategy.
The Regional Energy and Resource Tables have been launched, a collaborative initiative with the provinces and territories designed to identify, prioritize and accelerate opportunities for sustainable job creation and economic growth for a low-carbon future in the energy, electricity, mining, forestry and clean technology sectors across all of Canada's regions.
Canada is also working to enhance energy security and efficiency and to accelerate the pace of the clean and inclusive energy transition around the world. As a founding member of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Canada actively supports developing net-zero roadmaps—tracking progress, enhancing its assistance to priority countries, leveraging its expertise through data, supporting modelling and analysis, and providing policy advice to IEA member governments and key emitters. Recognizing the importance of an inclusive and equitable clean transition, Canada is an active member of the IEA's Global Commission on People-Centred Clean Energy Transitions.
Canada is a member of the Clean Energy Ministerial, which brings together 28 countries and the European Commission to accelerate progress on energy efficiency, clean energy supply and clean energy access. Canada also advances its clean energy agenda through the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of Twenty (G20).
The Powering Past Coal Alliance, co-founded and co-chaired by Canada and the UK, is the world's leading initiative seeking to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of unabated coal power. As of July 2022, the alliance has more than 165 members. It is committed to just transition and an economically-inclusive phase-out of coal through its Just Transition Taskforce. Domestically, Canada has committed to phasing out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030 and with new regulations in place, will end exports of thermal coal by 2030.
Canada continues to play a leadership role in Mission Innovation, an initiative among 23 governments launched in 2015 to enhance collaboration and catalyze action and investment in research, development and demonstration to make clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible for all. Mission Innovation 2.0 was launched in June 2021 and Canada is co-leading the Carbon Dioxide Removal Mission, and participating in the Green Power and Clean Hydrogen Missions.
The Energy Efficiency Act provides the authority to regulate energy efficiency standards and labelling for energy using products. The Government of Canada is reviewing this Act to maximize its legislative authority to better support innovation in energy efficiency products and services, promote effective decision-making, minimise burden, manage market challenges, and facilitate voluntary approaches. It also recognizes the importance of aligning regulatory policies with provinces and territories, who share authority in this area.
In December 2020, the Government of Canada released the SMR Action Plan to enable the development, demonstration, and deployment of Small Modular Reactors or SMRs to reduce emissions, decarbonize heavy industry, and spur economic development. The plan now includes 119 participating organizations and over 500 actions. The government is supporting the plan through demonstration and deployment projects, as well as developing policy, legislation and regulation, such as inaugurating the SMR Leadership Table, engagement and capacity building and working to develop international partnerships.
Finally, Canada is a member of the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to producing energy from clean, sustainable energy sources. Canada recently contributed to the launch of a Multi-stakeholder Platform for Transitioning Remote Communities to Renewable Energy.
Access to energy in Indigenous and northern communities
About 200 communities across Canada rely completely on diesel fuel for heat and power. The vast majority are Indigenous or have significant Indigenous populations. Remote communities consume more than 680 million litres of diesel per year and close to two thirds of this areused for heat, as many remote communities are located in harsh environments. The Government of Canada is investing in several clean energy projects in Indigenous communities that are seeking to transition from diesel to clean energy. For example, the Fort Chipewyan Solar Project has received $4.5 million toward building a 2.2-megawatt solar energy and energy storage project in northern Alberta. The project, Canada's largest off-grid solar project, is owned by 3 neighbouring Indigenous groups in Fort Chipewyan. It will produce 20% of the community's electricity, displacing 650,000 litres of diesel fuel per year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,743 tonnes annually. In 2021, the federal government announced an additional investment of $300 million, starting in 2022, to continue to support community-driven solutions to reducing diesel reliance in remote communities.
Partner perspective: Energy democracy in Indigenous communities
Some Indigenous communities are generating wealth from a range of renewable energy assets and have full employment of their membership as a result. These trends provide a stepping stone towards energy democracy in Indigenous communities. “Energy democracy” refers to systems where both the sources (for example, solar panels) and ownership of energy generation are distributed widely, where the energy system is governed by democratic principles that allow ordinary citizens to have a say, and access to governance of the energy system is equitable regardless of socioeconomic status or other factors.
As of 2017, as many as 152 clean-energy projects featured Indigenous community involvement or were Indigenous-owned, with an estimated production capacity of 19,516 megawatts and an estimated $2.5 billion in profits for involved Indigenous communities over 15 years. The economic benefits of Indigenous-owned clean-energy generation are also estimated to be three times greater than absentee-owned systems. Greater institutional completeness (or the ability to meet human needs for survival and cultural expression) through energy security in Indigenous communities is also sparking the resurrection and reinforcement of internal moral authorities such as clan mothers, Elders' councils, and Indigenous governance structures. The map below visualizes Indigenous Clean Energy projects that were active or which had undergone feasibility studies as of 2016. For more information on Energy Democracy in Indigenous communities, see Scott (2020).
Source: Perspective provided by a member of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council
Partner perspective: Student residence deep energy retrofit in Iqaluit, Nunavut
Nunavut's infrastructure is aging, as most of its buildings were constructed in the 1970s. The old building designs, coupled with the cold environment, means that building retrofits could have a high impact on energy savings. Qikiqtaaluk Properties Inc. is renovating a building constructed in 2006 that functions as a student residence for Nunavut Arctic College. It is a demonstration project to support national and territorial building energy codes and will verify the feasibility of Arctic deep energy retrofits.
This retrofit project features significant improvements to the building envelope (including triple pane windows), upgrades to LED lighting, low flow fixtures, heat recovery systems, and a 100kW rooftop solar installation. Energy modelling projects that the retrofits will reduce energy consumption by an estimated 62 percent. This is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 352 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, equal to taking 65 cars off the road annually. The project also creates training and career opportunities for highly qualified clean energy personnel, and includes an occupant education project to educate the students on how to improve their energy use-behaviours.
Source: Perspective provided by a member of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council