The forecast is blustery in Canada’s clean electricity grid

Wind power is likely to play an important role in greening many provincial energy systems as Canada seeks to decarbonize its electricity grid on the path to a net zero future, according to a report released Friday by the Energy Regulator. energy of Canada.

Each year, Canada’s Energy Regulator (CER) produces a report forecasting Canada’s energy mix. This year, he modeled what a clean electricity grid would look like by 2050.

In the Liberal electoral platform 2021, meanwhile, the party promised to reduce Canada’s grid to zero by 2035, 15 years earlier.

CER presented two scenarios. The first measures the evolution of energy use within the framework of current policies and measures already announced, while the second assumes that actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions continue at their own pace. current, but that policies will have evolved.

In the latter, electricity produced from wind turbines becomes the main source of clean energy, especially in provinces that do not or cannot use hydropower.

Hydropower already accounts for almost 60 percent of Canada’s electricity. In British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, it accounts for 90% or more of their power, depending on Natural Resources Canada.

Hydroelectricity will continue to dominate in these provinces, but wind will account for about a quarter of total electricity production, except in Newfoundland and Labrador, which remains dependent on hydroelectricity.

Ontario and New Brunswick are the only provinces that use nuclear power to generate electricity. In Ontario, 57% of electricity is produced from nuclear power plants, while in New Brunswick it is 36%.

Wind power use is likely to increase the most in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island over the next several decades, according to the report. Wind will also account for a larger share of electricity generation in New Brunswick and Ontario, but the gains are somewhat offset by the continued presence of nuclear.

Wind is the most likely source of renewable energy in these provinces because it “makes economic sense and technically makes sense to deploy more wind power than solar in Canada,” said Caroline Lee, senior researcher at the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

In addition, the price of wind power is already close to that of natural gas, said Nicolas Rivers, a professor at the University of Ottawa specializing in climate change. A constantly rising carbon price “will make it very difficult to compete with fossil fuel producers and make the use of renewable energies much more rational”, he said.

Many places in Canada are particularly windy, such as southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“We are a high latitude country,” so wind is a more reliable source than solar power: Canada does not receive “the bright, direct, constant sunlight” that the equator receives, Lee said.

Canada has many “winter peak regions, which means our highest demand for electricity is during the winter months as we use a large portion of our electricity for space heating,” said Lee.

On the other hand, “the wind tends to produce more (power) in winter, less in summer. The (reverse) is true for solar.

While Canada’s many hydroelectric plants, and its geography that favors renewable energy, are an advantage during a green transition, the big unresolved issue is how to transmit electricity between provinces, Rivers said.

Wind is an intermittent source of electricity, which means you only get it when the wind is blowing. If not, a province needs another source of energy to take over. This is where hydropower can step in to “act like a big battery,” Rivers said.

“If you’ve had a lot of wind on any given day, you basically stop running the hydropower plants and store water in them with a big battery,” he said. “And on days when the wind wasn’t blowing,… you release the water from that dam and effectively compensate for the lack of wind and sun.”

However, not all provinces can harness all types of renewable energy within their borders, which is why transmission is crucial.

Easing the transportation of energy would allow a wind-rich province like Alberta to sell its electricity to a hydro-rich province like British Columbia, and vice versa, depending on the situation.

“As we begin to move towards more decarbonization, it will be up to the federal government to try to facilitate… the inter-regional transmission of electricity,” Rivers said.

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