Bullfrog Power has been hosting Greener Horizons events across Canada for over a decade, bringing together business and environmental leaders to discuss all things sustainability. For our first Greener Horizons Online event, co-hosted with CBSR, we were delighted to hear from Céline Bak, President & Founder of Analytica Advisors; Megan Leslie, President & CEO of WWF; and Sean Drygas President of Bullfrog Power with Leor Rotchild, Executive Director of CBSR moderating the panel discussion.
As we recover from COVID-19, we have the opportunity to prevent the next crisis by building a resilient, low-carbon economy. Our panelists discussed the various ways Canada can build back better and ensure a renewable energy grid. We’ve captured the key takeaways from each of our panelists, but if you missed the webinar, you can view it in its entirety here:
Sean Drygas: why renewable energy is the answer for a green recovery
Sean outlined three necessary criteria for economic stimulus projects during the COVID-19 pandemic: we need it, it creates jobs, and we can do it safely in our current reality. Renewable energy ticks all these boxes.
We need it. The IESO found a decrease in electricity demand of approximately 5-10% since the beginning of stay-at-home measures, but demand will perk up as restrictions ease. Energy projects don’t pop up overnight, and we can expect to see the economy back at capacity by the time we finish projects that we start now. And we don’t just need electricity—we need emissions-free power that will help Canada get to 50% carbon reductions by 2030, as per the Paris Agreement.
It creates jobs. New renewable energy projects create good jobs, with half the money spent on the projects going directly into Canadian workers’ pockets. And as these projects scale up, the cost to complete the projects comes down. If we deploy stimulus funds now, this industry will continue to flourish and provide employment opportunities of over 160,000 over the next decade. In contrast, it’s expected that 50,000 jobs will be lost over the same time period in the fossil fuel industry.
We can do it safely. Renewables fit the task of safe work since installation is done outdoors, and the permitting and planning work can be done remotely.
Megan Leslie: by looking to nature we can fight the health, climate, and biodiversity crises
Nature has been called “the sleeping giant” of the climate crisis. Staggeringly, one-third of emissions come from the destruction of ecosystems like wetlands, forests, peatlands and coastline plants. Protecting, restoring and sustainably managing these carbon sinks—which absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere—has the potential to deliver a third of the mitigation needed to reach the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target.
Investing in nature-based solutions are cost-effective—for example, sequestering carbon into grasslands costs as little as $18/tonne of carbon annually. And this type of restoration work can be conducted effectively during the pandemic while following physical distancing protocols.
WWF also strongly supports the transition to renewable energy but notes that it is imperative that projects minimize their impact on nature. WWF’s Renewables for Nature tool was created to help developers identify sites with high renewable energy potential and minimal interference with wildlife or sensitive habitat.
We must recover our economy in a way that limits our risks from future pandemics, biodiversity loss and climate change. All three challenges can be addressed by investments in solutions that strengthen nature.
Céline Bak: initial investment in renewables and transmission between provinces can lead to huge paybacks
Currently, the Canadian energy grid lacks the connectivity between provinces that we would need to better distribute our renewable energy production. Céline noted that improving transmission between provinces would also encourage developers to bring much more renewable energy online. Initial public funding of $8.3 billion for transmission infrastructure could enable $100 billion of public and private funding for green energy. Having a fully renewable grid would result in 75 megatonnes of emissions reductions.
To fully transition our grid to renewable energy, we’ll need to create inter-provincial transmission lines, deeply retrofit our homes and businesses, shift to electric vehicles, and decarbonize heavy and light industry. This would cost around $10 billion per year for 10 years. In comparison, the oil and gas industry has approximately $15 billion in capital expenditure per year. And there is huge opportunity to innovate zero-carbon solutions in oil producing provinces.
This transition would create 600,000 to 700,000 jobs each year for 10 years, which is six to seven times more jobs than are currently in Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Building transmission projects alone would employ 67,000 people per year for the next 10 years.
Looking to the (greener) horizon
With more than a hundred billion dollars in COVID-19 relief funds already earmarked by the Canadian government, we have a unique opportunity to choose a new, more resilient direction for our economy. By putting stimulus funds towards renewable energy, transmission infrastructure, and nature-based solutions, Canada can recover economically while creating good, safe jobs and preventing future climate-related crises.
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