Report / February 24, 2023

Build it: The state of the Canadian electricity industry 2023

These are two words that say everything about the ambition, the anxieties and the dream of the electricity sector in Canada in 2023.

Build it.

The work we have to do has been clear for several years. In order to reduce the impact of climate change, we need to turn away from carbon-emitting energy, and use electricity as a primary power source. To do that we need to build capacity on our grid. We need to make our grid almost completely non-emitting by 2035 so we can help Canada become net zero by 2050.

We have twelve years to get the grid ready for this. We need to start building now. We can do this.

Before 2020, the rollout of a vaccine took years. Then COVID-19 happened. Government, industry and civil society worked together and fast-tracked the research, development, production and distribution in mere months. This was a public endeavor of the magnitude seen during the 1960s, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade” and a human stepped onto the moon seven years later.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout was a moment where everyone worked together and made the seemingly impossible happen. We need a similar effort right now to avert the effects of climate change.

Electricity is the enabling technology of our efforts to minimize the impacts of climate change. Our grid is already over 80% non-emitting. We need to get closer to 100%, and still ensure that the grid is reliable and affordable.

Make no mistake, this is a mammoth task. But it is possible. It just needs everyone – federal and provincial governments, electricity providers, consumers, other stakeholders and Indigenous Peoples in Canada – to work together to build it.

And yet… we are not building fast enough.

Spring 2022’s federal budget and last fall’s economic statement have made some important and crucial spending commitments. The government’s Clean Electricity Regulations are on Canada’s regulatory agenda for 2023. We have made important gains.

But we are still in neutral.

Canada’s electricity grid was the marvel of the 20th century. It helped birth the 21st century we now live in. We want the grid to create the 22nd century – carbon-free, reliable and affordable. To be sure, there are immense challenges facing everyone who wants this: regulations, the time to site and approve projects, the differences from province to province in how electricity is generated and distributed.

These challenges are considerable. But they are not insurmountable. It’s time to come together, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

It’s time to build it.