While Canada enjoys a high percentage of carbon-free electricity in its electricity networks, largely on the back of established hydropower, its path to a full decarbonization is far from certain. To assist the process and build capacity among its varied utilities, a knowledge sharing platform has been funded by the Canadian federal government.
The Electricity Transition Hub was launched today and will be managed by the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA). Speaking at its launch, the senior director of the hub, Phil McKay said that while the initial funding will get the hub off the ground, the intention is for the initiative to prove its worth and become “self-standing” after the initial three years.
McKay noted that knowledge sharing among regional utilities is of great importance given the diversity among Canadian utilities.
“In Canada we have a representation of many of the different grids that exist around the world, from islanded systems to fully integrated metropolitan areas,” McKay told pv magazine. “So, what we’ve heard from each one of those utilities is actually quite different based on their context, which is why it is quite important for us to tailor the information.
“So, we’re not looking for a single silver bullet here, we’re looking to help with the transition at each of those regional contexts, cultural contexts, and the existing infrastructure that is there.”
The Electricity Transition Hub already boasts 13 inaugural partners including the Alberta Electric System Operator, BC Hydro, City of Medicine Hat, EPCOR, Essex Power Corporation, Fortis Inc, NB Power, Manitoba Hydro, Ontario Power Generation, Qulliq Energy Corporation, SaskPower, Toronto Hydro, and Utilities Kingston.
Robert Hornung, the outgoing president and CEO of CanREA said that Electricity Transition Hub will play a very important role in informing Canadian utilities about the rapidly changing renewable energy technology landscape, at a time when the industry must ramp up to meet Canada’s decarbonization goals.
Canada has a legislated national goal to achieve net zero economy-wide emissions by 2050. The country also has the target of implementing a zero-emissions electricity network by 2035. To meet these goals, Hornung, who has a career spanning close to 20 years in Canadian renewable energy industry organizations, said solar and wind deployment must rapidly accelerate.
“To get onto a net zero pathway, we think we are going to need to add 30 GW of wind and solar within the next eight years,” Hornung told pv magazine. “The good news is that we already have commitments made, procurement processes in place that will take us to at least half of that total. And now it’s a case of ensuring that those are successfully implemented and ensuring that we get onto the other half.”
Limited distributed energy resources (DER)
Hornung acknowledged that distributed solar and energy storage continues to play a limited role in Canada’s energy mix, although there is an increasing willingness among provincial governments and utilities to foster its adoption.
“I think it is fair to state that at this point in Canada, we don’t have the same frameworks to support that deployment that we’ve seen in other countries.
“We do see some signs in terms of a willingness by governments to revisit net metering and net billing frameworks going forward, and to enable more corporate or customer procurement – which is a rarity in Canada because of our vertically integrated monopoly utilities,” said Hornung. “But this innovation is now coming to the fore because people recognize that DER will play a role but more importantly, customers are demanding it.”
Speaking at the Electricity Transformation Canada conference, Jeff MacAulay, the CEO Charge Solar said that awareness of the cost competitiveness of rooftop PV among Canadian households and businesses remains low. Charge Solar is a rooftop PV distribution company and engineering services provider, that has been active in the market for more than 30 years. It claims to partner with over 1,000 installers across Canada.
“Awareness remains a top concern for us,” said MacAulay. “Solar is a new topic for a lot of homeowners, and many are unaware that solar LCOE is already below many utility rates. Public education remains a top priority for us.”
Energy Transformation Canada 2023 will take place on Oct. 24-25, in Calgary, Alberta.
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