Canadians Can Support All Forms of Energy -- We Don't Have to Choose

Canadians can support all forms of energy - we don't have to choose cover

Canada is fortunate to have an abundance of energy resources, including large reserves of oil and natural gas, vast amounts of uranium and biofuels, and significant potential for additional hydro and wind – all of which can serve to lower CO2 emissions and provide the needed energy to power a modern society here and abroad, as well as long-term, high-paying employment across the country.

Our relatively sparse population distribution means we have a unique opportunity to extract the resources and to provide vital energy products not only to Canada but also to the global market, should we choose to do so.

What’s more, our strong Canadian institutions provide not just the skilled workforce to drive the energy sector forward. They also aid in the continually evolving technological innovations that ensure the lowest possible environmental impacts and best uses of our natural resources, and the governing bodies that oversee the sector and ensure high standards of environmental stewardship, human health and safety.

Next, Canada has a willing and able labour pool, populated by employees, contractors and suppliers who work tirelessly to ensure the prosperity of their families, communities, the sector and the economy at large. Canadians take real pride in these Indigenous and non-Indigenous workforces and the contributions they make to the country.

No one should underestimate the economic aspirations of Indigenous communities who continue to express in Canadian media coverage that they want to participate in Canada’s energy and natural resources economy. Far from presenting a challenge, this ambitious approach to partnership among Indigenous and non-Indigenous parties is a tremendous benefit.

Our own energy needs figure into the equation as well, given cold winters and hot summers that make fossil- and non-fossil-based heating and cooling essential in many parts of Canada, as well as the long distances we travel for work and recreation that still necessitate transportation fuels. And consider the important chemical inputs we require for our agricultural sector, and many other areas where fossil fuel resources are crucial to our society in the same way that renewables are also necessary.

Canada's total energy supply in 2021, by source

For Canadians and the developed world, energy is the life force that makes almost everything we do and every product we use possible. And despite getting over 82 per cent of our current electricity supply from non-emissions sources – namely hydro and nuclear – Canadians will be overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels well into the future.

For example, coal, oil and natural gas accounted for 76 per cent of Canada’s total energy supply (TES) in 2021, with renewables at 16.6 per cent and nuclear at 8 per cent, respectively (the latest available data). According to Natural Resources Canada, the global TES average sits at 80 per cent fossil fuels, 14 per cent renewables and 5 per cent nuclear [1].

Natural Resources Canada (NRC) defines TES as the following: production + imports - exports + stock exchanges, which essentially quantifies the total amount of energy sources required to satisfy Canada’s needs [4].

You see, there is much more to the story than just getting to 100% clean electricity – like Canada wants to do by 2035. Energy and electricity are often confused as being the same, when in fact, the latter is a type of energy that accounts for about one-fifth of global energy consumption [2]. Canada’s end-use demand by fuel type isn’t so far off, with electricity sitting at 17 per cent in 2019 [3].

In other words, even if we manage to get to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, oil and natural gas will still play a significant and critical role in providing Canadians with the energy they need.

Canada's electricity generation in 2021, by source

The reality is that in Canada and other parts of the West, we’ve developed our energy systems based on liquids such as oil and natural gas for well over a hundred years. Undoubtedly, it will take a lot longer than a decade or two to move away from a liquids-based energy system to a materials-based one. The investment, infrastructure, and mining requirements to do so are absolutely enormous, presenting challenges of their own on a path towards net zero here at home and abroad.

And while any energy transformation is underway – the speed of which is up for debate – it is essential to note that Canadians produce these energy resources to some of the highest environmental and human rights standards on the planet.

We don’t have to choose between supporting fossil fuels and renewables – but rather, we can support both to continue to provide well-paying jobs for Canadians and Indigenous communities, contribute to the energy security of our closest allies and trade partners, and work towards a more sustainable future through continued innovation and the deployment of cleantech as well as the development of emissions abated fossil fuels.

Let’s continue to build out our wind, solar, hydro, and other renewable energy sources, but let's not forget Canada’s bread and butter – the oil and gas sector. Global demand for all these energy sources continues to reach new record highs today. We can support all of the above for a better, safer, and more prosperous Canada, and a better, safer, more energy secure world.

SOURCES

1 - https://energy-information.canada.ca/sites/default/files/2023-10/energy-factbook-2023-2024.pdf

2 - https://yearbook.enerdata.net/electricity/share-electricity-final-consumption.html

3 - https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/en/data-analysis/energy-markets/provincial-territorial-energy-profiles/provincial-territorial-energy-profiles-canada.html

4 - https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Glossary:Total_energy_supply