Climate change, increasing costs of fossil fuels, and rapid technological advancement continue to drive changes in how we generate and use energy. Canada has committed to several visionary international and domestic initiatives to enhance its energy system, including a 40–45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and the achievement of net zero emissions by 2050.
The clean energy transition will play a significant role in achieving Canada’s carbon reduction goals, but requires the leadership of government officials, ESG (environmental, social and governance investing) and circular innovation focused companies and environmental advocacy organizations like Pollution Probe to drive real and lasting change.
The shockwaves from COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine have served as a wake-up call for countries and businesses to reduce their reliance on external sources and instead look towards enhancing their energy independence, pushing for larger and more effective use of clean energy, diminished usage, and the circular economy.
In 2023, the most noticeable energy industry trends won’t necessarily be the most significant or groundbreaking ones; instead, the electrification of vehicles, decarbonization and the transition to renewable energy sources will command the most public attention as these initiatives have a more tangible effect on people’s lives and have already become hot topics of discussion online.
Shift to non-emitting energy sources
Over the past two decades, clean energy has continued its upward growth trajectory, and by 2050, it’s expected to account for 60 per cent of the global energy market. As more countries commit to net-zero energy, demand for clean and renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydro, and nuclear power is expected to grow in 2023. Increased use of renewable energy sources contributes to decarbonization, lowering the electricity sector’s overall carbon footprint and helping to mitigate climate change. In addition, mining and oil and gas companies will continue to make investments in clean or renewable energy technology, including carbon capture, utilization, and storage, to expand their portfolios and minimize their corporate carbon footprints. Pollution Probe has worked on both how to integrate renewable energy in our electricity system and the potential of nuclear for industrial decarbonization.
According to several studies, Canada must increase its electricity production by 2050 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Full decarbonization across all sectors is required for Canada to meet its net-zero target by 2050. Decarbonized electricity is the most efficient and practical way to reduce GHG emissions and can produce green hydrogen for many industrial, construction, and transportation applications, which may be cost-effective for applications with more complicated electrification. Given the urgency around decarbonization, Pollution Probe is working on electricity planning in Ontario and determining how distributed energy solutions, such as batteries and solar, could reduce Ontario’s reliance on electricity from natural gas.
AI and big data
The burgeoning integration of AI and Big Data in the energy industry and the development of green hydrogen energy are expected to be the most exhilarating energy trends in 2023. Big Data and AI have the potential to revolutionize global energy efficiency. By connecting localized and decentralized energy production with consumers and accurately forecasting their energy needs, AI algorithms can build a “smart coordination layer” across the energy industry.
The use of hydrogen will be one of the most significant trends in the energy sector in 2023, as we are likely to see the global adoption of green hydrogen within energy systems. The creation of more affordable and practical green hydrogen energy has the potential to revolutionize several important industrial processes, increasing efficiencies and reducing emissions in the production of steel and cement, as well as heating and transportation. Pollution Probe is evaluating the potential for Canadian hydrogen trade with Europe and hydrogen as a potential low-carbon fuel source.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage
The concept of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is not new; industrial-scale projects have existed for over half a century. The global CCUS project pipeline increased by over 50 per cent in 2022 and will become a key grid asset in 2023, helping decentralized power systems become more reliable and resilient. In addition, the widespread implementation of energy storage solutions, such as batteries with a long duration for utility-scale integration of renewable energy, will continue to experience rapid growth in 2023. Pollution Probe in particular is examining low-carbon innovation policies in the Canadian energy sector to help eliminate any barriers to the deployment of innovative energy systems.
Drivers for industry growth
The strong growth outlook is supported by robust government policies and industry initiatives. Governments and industry participants are implementing a variety of policies and programmes to incentivize the growth of clean energy and achieve these goals, such as:
- Government support has enabled Canada to achieve remarkable accomplishments in the development of renewable energy. The Canadian energy department has provided substantial financial support for the projects that accelerate clean energy transition.
- In addition, commercial and residential users have been provided with financial incentives to use renewable energy sources.
- The federal government, along with four provincial legislatures, have suggested small modular reactors (SMRs) as a technological solution to assist Canada’s decarbonization efforts. Pollution Probe examined if SMRs could help with industrial decarbonization.
- Hydrogen and hydrogen exports from Canada will be a top priority for all governments.
- To better integrate renewable technologies, the government also helped develop the technical infrastructure of grid networks. For instance, to support upcoming smart, clean energy and grid-modernization projects, the government launched a $964 million programme in 2021. These funds will be used to invest in clean energy technologies such as solar, wind, hydro, storage, tidal, and geothermal.
- Sandboxes are a helpful tool used by jurisdictions all over the world to address new and emerging concerns, meet evolving priorities, and jointly create frameworks that will encourage innovation in all tiers of provincial and territorial energy systems across Canada. Policymakers and regulators can then use these foundational frameworks and other stakeholders to change existing policies and regulations or create more effective policies, regulations, and programmes to accelerate the transition to a low-emissions future. Pollution Probe, in partnership with QUEST Canada, is working on promoting the use of Sandboxes to help deploy the innovation Canada needs to reach net-zero.
Energy is the foundation of society, and the industry drives significant change that affects every facet of daily life. Therefore, it is crucial for Canada to devise strategies that will benefit humankind’s future regarding how we live, conduct business, interact with one another, and guide the world towards a more promising future. The path to a clean, green, and sustainable energy future is fraught with difficulties, but governments and businesses are cooperating and making commitments in this direction.
Written by the Pollution Probe team.
Featured image credit: Getty Images.