30 mins Canada in a Changing Global Energy Landscape (Dec.7, 2016)
Hats off to the federal government. I have been waiting, like millions of other Canadians, for something this progressive from a federal government, for decades. It is music to my ears and a must read, written by Policy Horizons Canada, “a strategic foresight organization within the public service of Canada with a mandate to help anticipate emerging policy challenges and opportunities, explore new ideas, and experiment with methods and technologies to support resilient policy development.”
As a resident of the NWT, the insights, scenarios and implications set out in this report are all on target (except an absence of any reference to ending the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry). The NWT, post-devolution, is positioned to blossom if it continues to build on the good work it has done to date and doubles down on the renewable energy opportunities presented as the world moves to a digital and post-carbon future.
Report Conclusions and their Implications for Canada and the NWT
- The primary energy supply of the globe is shifting to electricity. A new global energy ecosystem may emerge rapidly.
- Oil demand for transportation is likely to decline more rapidly than expected. This will have a positive downward pressure on cost of living, goods and services in the NWT.
- Competition for emerging energy markets will be based on technology rather than resources.
- Minerals become strategic assets. In the NWT, this means Nechalacho, the rare metals reserve, is poised to finally take off. Also, the large tungsten reserves the GNWT bought for less than $5M, will be a huge asset for the NWT and diamonds will experience a resurgence.
- Fossil fuels could lose their commodity status leading to splintering of the oil market.
- Externality costing will accelerate the shift to renewables. The impending carbon tax, emission standards, environmental concerns are all pushing the NWT to ramp up the move to renewables and the move to a digital economy, with the fibre optic link backbone as the engine.
- Renewables can reduce distribution infrastructure costs. In the NWT, this means high penetration micro-grids can be installed in each of the 26 off-grid communities, without the prohibitive costs of long transmission lines.
- Renewable-based electricity is becoming cheaper than generation by fossil fuels even though fossil fuels are being heavily subsidized. Electricity’s flexibility allows it to cross energy silos and substitute for fossil fuels. In the NWT the cost of living, the cost of energy and the cost of doing business are crippling. This means the move to high penetration micro-grids in off grid communities to minimize the use of fossil fuels, is critical. 8MW’s of wasted power continue to pour over the dam at Taltson, while northern opportunities, like the heat market, go under-developed.
- Storage solutions are emerging and evolving faster than anticipated. This is yet another factor that makes high penetration micro-grids a natural next step in the 26 off grid communities.
- Data management will become a key element of the electrical energy system. The state of the art fibre optic link line up the Mackenzie valley means every community, no matter how small, will be able to use all the latest smart grid and smart energy technology to make energy use as efficient as possible. In addition, there is a huge opportunity for the NWT to become an economic hub for data warehousing and data streaming because of our cold climate, the fibre optic link, remote sensing in Inuvik, cheap power that could be realized from the Taltson dam, and the data streaming platform for water that the GNWT and the Gordon Foundation jointly developed, in Fort Smith.
- Heat from renewables could reduce demand for fossil fuels. In the NWT this is a yearly market worth over $100M per year. This is a major economic opportunity for northerners to use fair power purchasing agreements with NTPC and renewable energy to capture the heat market in the NWT.
- Renewables will enhance national energy security, productivity and economic stability.
- Transportation may electrify more rapidly than expected.
There are 2 scenarios: the tired, reactionary ‘defend the status quo’ scenario, or the NWT way of ’embracing and leading change’ scenario. The promise to Northerners was that post-devolution we would, together, build a future of the kind talked about in this document. “It is increasingly plausible to foresee a future in which cheap renewable electricity becomes the world’s primary power source and fossil fuels are relegated to minority status”. This is the time that all northerners hope for and work towards. The NWT is ideally situated, with the gifts of location, geography, climate, wonderful natural resources and a forward thinking, hardworking, creative population. It is said timing is everything. For the NWT the time is now to fully take advantage of the transition to a digital, post-carbon future.