New Canadian coalition urges government to accelerate renewable energy development

A coalition of corporate, environmental non-governmental organisations and municipal organisations has been set up to urge the Canadian government to accelerate development of the country's renewable energy industry.

The coalition is led by founding partners, renewable energy specialist Suncor Energy and a green think-tank, the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development. Initially, the coalition is pressing the Federal Government to implement two short-term mechanisms to help energy diversification, clean the air, improve people’s health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The suggested measures are, firstly, to develop a consumer ‘green energy’ credit, which would act to increase demand for green power. Secondly, the coalition is asking for the Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expense and Investment Tax Credit approaches to capital spend on green energy to be broadened.

In addition to Suncor and the Pembina Institute, the coalition is composed of a wide range of organisations, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has committed itself to climate protection. The Federation includes 61 communities across the country, representing 61% of the population in rural and urban centres, acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean the air.

Environmental organisations including Friends of the Earth, Pollution Probe and the Toronto Environmental Alliance are also involved, alongside energy companies, BC Hydro, BP Canada Energy Company, Enbridge, Shell, Toronto Hydro Corporation, TransAlta, and Westcoast Energy. Other organisations are expected to opt to join.

Canada currently uses fewer low impact renewable energy technologies than many other industrialised countries, and was a prime mover against the climate change proposals in The Hague. In 1996, the country generated just 0.02% of its electricity from the main green power sources. Denmark, Germany and the US all generate 15 to 30 times more electricity from wind power than Canada, and a report from Royal Dutch Shell suggests renewable sources could meet up to 50% of the world’s energy needs by 2050.

The Pembina Institute has been working to on such issues since 1983, when it was founded as an independent, citizen-based think tank, activist public interest organisation and non-profit consultancy. Last March it released a report on the results of two studies that looked at Canada’s climate change performance. The first was a review of the 88 measures recommended at the conclusion of Canada’s national climate change consultation process in 1993-94.

The second study examined on a company-by-company basis how Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions have altered over the years. So far, Canada’s primary means of addressing climate change, the Voluntary Challenge and Registry, has, as its name suggests, relied entirely on industry carrying out voluntary actions. Both studies concluded that voluntary measures were insufficient to meet Canada’s climate change challenge. The report also included recommendations to the Ministers of Environment and Energy on how they should address the situation.

The initiatives now being promoted by the coalition are designed to increase demand for green power from consumers – homeowners, small businesses, industry and government. They are also intended to redress the relative costs of supply compared to conventional energy production. Energy sources to be promoted will include solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies, wind power, geothermal energy, run-of-river, micro and mini-hydro technologies.

“Aggressive implementation of low-impact energy technologies is an essential component of any credible national programme to address air pollution and climate change,” said David Pollack, executive director of the Pembina Institute.

He claimed that 40% of Canada’s Action Plan 2000 on climate change emission reductions for the energy sector, which deals with the years 2008 to 2012, could be met from projects responding to these initiatives.

“We cannot leave the risk and costs of innovation in renewables to other countries or we will not harvest the rewards of cleaner air, achievement of international greenhouse gas commitments, regional development, more diversified energy sources and international competitiveness,” said Rick George, president and CEO of Suncor Energy.

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