Electrifying Canada, a business-led task force aimed at accelerating electrification across the nation, is calling on Canada’s premiers—through the Council of the Federation—to spearhead the development and implementation of an electrification strategy for Canada.

This is the key recommendation from its new report, Canada’s Electrification Advantage in the Race to Net Zero, which synthesizes existing research and interviews with 20 corporate and Indigenous leaders to identify what it will take to accelerate the pace of clean electrification in Canada.

“Clean electrification is key to Canada achieving net-zero, and key to ensuring Canadian businesses can compete in a low carbon world,” says Susan McGeachie, co-chair of Electrifying Canada and Head of the BMO Climate Institute. “But if we are going to deliver on this, we need Canada’s premiers to step up to champion electrification and take the lead in developing an electrification strategy for Canada. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves to help.”

While the federal government has an important role to play, responsibility for electricity and energy systems more broadly largely resides with the provinces. According to the report, only they have the authority to direct utilities and regulators alike to align their planning and decisions with the electrification needed to reach net-zero, and they will need to work together to optimize and integrate their power grids to do so at the lowest cost to consumers.

“Electricity’s role in the energy system has grown for over a century and it will need to continue growing while improving our standard of living,” said James Brewer, VP Business Development & Strategy, Ontario Power Generation. “OPG is proud to be leading the push for electrification through the work of our subsidiary, PowerON, through our Ivy EV charging network partnership with Hydro One, and by continuing to expand and upgrade our clean energy fleet.”

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The report identifies five catalysts that can help overcome current barriers to business electrification and serve as a starting point for a national electrification strategy:

  1. As businesses, we need to ACT, supporting the early deployment of electrified solutions, learning by doing, and translating climate action targets into electrification plans, pilots, and projects that prove out approaches to support scaled-up investment.
  2. We need provincial governments to EMPOWER climate leadership by providing clear net-zero mandates to utilities and the regulators that oversee them. Fully embracing electrification’s potential and enabling its role in cutting pollution will require modernizing the mandates of regulators, local and provincial utilities, system planners, and system operators to ensure utility plans and regulatory decisions are consistent with pathways to net-zero.
  3. Utilities should move to immediately ALIGN and optimize their planning with net-zero pathways to ensure that all customers have enough clean power where they need it and when they need it, enabling them to increasingly electrify.
  4. Governments need to TILT the playing field to provide the certainty needed to drive electrification, facilitating greater investment certainty by regulating clear performance standards and guaranteeing a rising price on carbon pollution. This must be accompanied by clear and corresponding timelines for scaling up clean electricity.
  5. We need to FINANCE electrification projects and new clean electricity supply by crowding in private investment, channelling interest in private investment through innovative public–private–Indigenous approaches. These efforts should also recognize and replicate the current examples of private–Indigenous approaches that do not require public funding.

The report is accompanied by four sector briefs, which explore specific barriers and recommend how relevant catalysts can enable the electrification of commercial and institutional buildingsmedium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and the construction and mining sectors, as well as encourage the necessary scaling up of clean electricity generation.

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“The infrastructure required to achieve electrification and emissions reductions will impact Indigenous lands,” said Niilo Edwards, Executive Director, First Nations Major Projects Coalition. “In order to be successful at achieving net-zero targets, governments and the private sector must ensure that the interests held by Indigenous groups are incorporated into public policy and project planning. This includes access to competitive capital for equity partnerships and capacity support so that informed business decisions can be made.”

Electrifying Canada is co-chaired by Susan McGeachie (BMO) and Richard Florizone (IISD), and its members include Teck Resources, OPG, Dunsky Energy + Climate Advisors, Innergex Renewable Energy, First Nations Major Project Coalition, Cameco, and the Ivey Foundation.

Featured image: (Hydro One)

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