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Canada will need more electricity to reach net zero: IEA report

Canada will need more electrical capacity if it is to meet its climate goals, according to a new report from a world energy agency.

The report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), released Thursday morning, mainly offers a rosy picture of Canada’s overall federal energy policy. But, the IEA draws attention to Canada’s growing future electricity demands and ultimately calls on Canada to leverage its non-emitting energy potential to meet its climate goals.

“Canada’s wealth in clean electricity and its spirit of innovation can contribute to a safe and affordable transformation of its energy system and help achieve its ambitious goals,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, in a statement. Press.

The IEA notes that Canada has one of the cleanest energy grids in the world, with 83% of electricity coming from non-emitting sources in 2020. But the report warns that this is not a reason for may Canada rest on its laurels. More electricity will be needed to replace fossil fuels if Canada is to meet its 2030 goals, the report says, and “even deeper reductions” will be needed to reach net zero by 2050.

“Perhaps more importantly, however, Canada will need to secure sufficient new clean generation capacity to meet the significant levels of electrification that its net zero goals imply.”

The Liberals promised to create a 100% net zero emission electricity system by 2035; by then, every new light vehicle sold in Canada will be a zero-emission vehicle. The switch from gas guzzlers to plug-in electric vehicles will create new pressures on Canada’s electricity grid, as will any diversion from fossil fuels. natural gas for domestic heating.

To meet these challenges, warns the IEA, Canada would need to double or triple the power produced from non-emitting sources compared to today.

“Such a change will require significant regulatory action,” the report says, and will require the federal government to work closely with the provinces and territories that control the production and distribution of electricity.

The report notes that further integration of territorial and provincial power grids could allow fossil fuel-dependent provinces, such as Alberta, to decarbonize and electrify their economies.

The report, titled Review of Canada’s Energy Policy 2022, offers what he calls an “in-depth” look at the commitments Canada has made to transform its energy policy. Since the IEA conducted its last review in 2015, Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net emissions zero by 2050.

The IEA is well known for producing its annual World Energy Outlook report. The Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization provides analysis, data and policy recommendations to promote global energy security and sustainability. Canada is part of the intergovernmental body, which also conducts peer reviews of the energy policy of its members.

Increase in oil and gas emissions

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responded to the report in the IEA press release.

“This report recognizes Canada’s ambitious efforts and historic investments to develop pathways to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and ensure a transition that aligns with our shared goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” , states Wilkinson’s press release.

The report notes that despite this target, absolute emissions from oil and gas extraction in Canada increased by 26% between 2000 and 2019, largely due to increased production.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson answers a question during a press conference following the swearing-in of the federal cabinet, in Ottawa, October 26, 2021. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press)

“Canada will need to balance future growth in oil sands production with increasingly stringent greenhouse gas requirements,” the report said.

On the positive side, the IEA has found that emissions per barrel of crude oil from the tar sands have declined by 20% over the past decade thanks to technical and operational improvements.

This can become important, the report notes, as investors and energy buyers seek low-carbon assets and more countries adopt net zero policies.

Other innovations, such as carbon capture and storage, could help turn the tide for Canada’s oil fields, he says. The Liberals have also said that they will place a hard cap on oil and gas emissions from production, but this does not include the combustion of fossil fuels.

In 2021, the IEA released a report that determined to reach net zero by 2050, among many milestones, investments needed to end in coal mines, oil and gas wells. Thursday’s report made no mention of it, however, which disappointed at least one environmental group.

“One glaring omission was that this assessment says nothing about production. We know the most important thing we can do is stop using and producing oil and gas,” said Julia Levin, manager principal of the climate and energy program at Environmental Defense.

“And yet that was missing from this report, and it is truly a glaring omission, which is completely out of step with their [the IEA’s] own work. “

WATCH | Climate group says it’s time to start talking about phasing out oil and gas:

Canada will need more electricity to reach net zero: IEA report

Canada needs conversation on phasing out oil and gas production, says climate group

Destination Zero executive director Catherine Abreu said Canada’s plan to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector may not be enough to tackle climate change. The NGO, which is working to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels, said the government should start considering phasing out oil and gas production. 8:01