by | Jul 6, 2021 | Blog

A view of wild Canada with a glacier lake and mountains

Summary

  • Renewable energy produces little to no global warming emissions. By continuing to push the implementation of green energy projects, Canada is helping to reduce global warming.
  • The majority of negative health impacts linked with the climate crisis occur due to water and air pollution caused by fossil fuels. Most renewable energy sources do not produce harmful pollutants. Solar arrays, for example, generate electricity with no associated air pollution emissions.
  • Renewable energy is the future, and the majority of natural green resources are available in inexhaustible supplies. Some examples of endless resources include solar, wind, water, geothermal and tidal energy.
  • There are not only environmental benefits to going green, but renewable initiatives are also great for the Canadian economy. The clean energy industry already supports thousands of livelihoods across the country and is projected to employ around 559,400 Canadians by 2030.
  • Despite their overriding benefits, some renewable energy projects may have some negative impacts on the environment. However, fossil fuels (including oil, coal, and natural gas) do substantially more harm than renewable energy sources.

Introduction

Canada is one of the leaders when it comes to using clean, renewable energy to fuel a nation. Around 67% of all the electricity generated in the country is from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro and other green projects (including geothermal energy, biomass, and various forms of ocean power). Unsurprisingly with the Canadian terrain, hydropower is the primary source of energy. However, new renewable sources are making an impact and bringing many advantages to Canadians across the country.

Renewable energy provides the opportunity to generate electricity from inexhaustible sources, and when projects are carried out correctly it has a minor impact on the environment – especially compared to the fossil fuel industry. As Canada races on to take one of the top spots as a global leader in clean energy production, let’s learn about the advantages that renewables are bringing to the nation from a Canadian perspective.

Reduced Global Warming Emissions From Canada

Renewable energy sources generate little to no global warming emissions, so by continuing to push the implementation of green energy, Canada is helping to reduce global warming.

The consequences of greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian industries do not just affect those close by. Human activity all over the world is filling our shared atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions. These gases are like a blanket trapping heat that triggers stronger and more frequent storms, droughts, rising sea levels, and even threats of extinction.

About 52% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada come from the oil and gas sector and transport industry. Emissions vary significantly from province to province. The degree of emissions released into the atmosphere depends on many factors; from the population and energy sources that are available in a particular area to the wider economy. Provinces and territories that are more heavily populated tend to have economies based on resource extraction and rely strongly on fossil fuels to generate electricity. These areas often have higher emission levels. In 2017, the top five emitters in Canada were Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Together, they released 91% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. It comes as no surprise that several of these provinces are also the most densely populated regions in the country.
Renewable energy sources generate little to no global warming emissions, so by continuing to push the implementation of green energy, Canada is helping to reduce global warming. Even when the emissions produced during the “life cycle” of clean energy are put into consideration, the global warming emissions connected with the manufacturing, installation, operation, and decommissioning of green technologies are minimal.

As a nation, Canada is currently the 10th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.  There is an extensive network of hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants providing its power. Canada has been a little slow in adopting other forms of low-carbon energy and cutting its transport emissions. On a more positive note, new forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, are being focused on. Increasing renewable energy supply will allow Canada to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and significantly reduce its global warming emissions over time.

Improved Public Health For Canadians

Infographic of a person cutting Co2 emissions with scissors.

Whatever your stance is on climate change, reducing greenhouse gases through renewable energy will reduce air pollution and save lives.

The water and air pollution emitted by natural gas and coal plants have been connected to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, and a multitude of other severe health conditions. In some cases, these emissions have been linked with premature death. Canada is responsible for around 5% of the global production of natural gas, 5% of petroleum, and 1% of coal. Given that 0.5% of the worldwide population lives in Canada, these figures are higher than expected. Furthermore, the pollution generated from non-renewables affects everyone both within and beyond national borders.

The majority of the negative health impacts linked with the climate crisis occur due to water and air pollution. Most renewable energy sources do not produce harmful pollutants. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric systems produce electricity with no associated air pollution emissions. Biomass and geothermal systems do emit some air pollutants, but at a much lower level than those that are collectively produced by coal and natural gas power plants.

In addition to lower air pollution levels, solar and wind energy require no water to function. As a result, they do not pollute water sources or put undue strain on vital supplies that support agriculture, drinking water, or other essential water demands. Fossil fuels, however, can have a substantial impact on water supplies. Both coal mining and natural gas drilling can contaminate drinking water sources, and all thermal power plants (including those fueled by coal, gas, and oil) withdraw and use water for cooling.

People care about their health, and they are often even more passionate about protecting their children’s health. Therefore, air pollution is one of the key drivers in getting Canadians interested in taking positive action to influence the present and future. Whatever your stance is on climate change, reducing greenhouse gases through renewable energy will reduce air pollution and save lives.

Inexhaustible Canadian Energy

Renewable energy is the future, and the majority of natural green resources are available in inexhaustible supplies.

Even if you are not a renewable energy advocate, there is no getting away from the fact that fossil fuels won’t last forever. Green power offers longevity, among many other things. In fact, renewable energy is the future, and the majority of natural green resources are available in inexhaustible supplies.

Examples of endless resources include:

  • Solar: The sun is a powerful energy resource. It is able to produce power every day without fail and does not show any signs of fading. Solar is one of the primary natural resources that has been in use since ancient times and yet it still remains quite underutilised. No matter how much we exploit solar energy, it can’t be depleted and remains full of untapped potential. Until the sun ceases to exist, solar will forever be produced.
  • Wind: It is surprising how many of us don’t know how the wind is created. When there is a disparity in atmospheric pressure, it results in air movement from the high-pressure area to the lower area, which leads to gusts of wind. The wind is simply a huge movement of air. We can’t use up the air supply from every theoretical indication, so we’ll always have the wind at our disposal.
  • Water: This element is a basic requirement for all living things. It is said that water occupies around 70% of the Earth’s surface. The oceans hold about 96% of all the Earth’s water, but other reservoirs include rivers, lakes, ice caps and glaciers. Water also exists in the air as vapour, in the ground as soil moisture, and in many other places. Water is not exhaustible as it is continually generated and circulated through natural cycles. However, the pressures of climate change mean that it’s important for water resources to be managed productively and responsibly.
  • Geothermal: This is heat derived from within the sub-surface of the Earth. Water and steam carry geothermal energy to the Earth’s surface. Depending on its characteristics, geothermal energy can be used for heating and cooling purposes. It can also be harnessed to generate clean electricity. This energy source will last as long as the planet does.
  • Ocean waves and tides: As we know, an ocean is a body of water that generates momentum in two forms: tides and waves. Tides are a consequence of the movement of the Earth and the gravity of the moon. Waves, on the other hand, are a result of wind moving across the ocean. They are not used as much for renewable energy production as the resources above, but ocean waves and tides are also inexhaustible.

Canada has plenty of strong winds, sunny skies, fast-moving water, heat from the Earth, and huge quantities of plant matter, which can each provide a vast and constantly replenished supply of power. However, solar energy is the ultimate inexhaustible resource because it has a central part to play in most other energy resources, such as wind, water, and geothermal. As long as the sun exists, other renewable energy sources will keep existing too.

Canadian Renewable Energy Jobs and Economic Benefits

While 50,000 jobs are likely to be lost in the Canadian fossil fuel industry during the next decade, just over 160,000 should be created in clean energy.

Apart from the environmental benefits we all associate with renewable energy, clean power is also great for the Canadian economy. Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are more often than not mechanised and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labour-intensive. For example, solar panels require humans to install them, and wind farms need technicians to maintain them. There tend to be more jobs created for a renewable project than from a fossil fuel venture.

Renewable energy already supports thousands of Candian livelihoods. Clean Energy Canada has estimated that Canada’s clean energy sector will employ around 559,400 Canadians by 2030. These jobs will include insulating homes, manufacturing electric buses, and maintaining wind farms. While 50,000 jobs are likely to be lost in the Canadian fossil fuel industry during the next decade, just over 160,000 should be created in clean energy. According to the Clean Energy forecast mentioned above, this marks a net increase of 110,000 new energy jobs in Canada.

Jobs in renewable energy are predicted to increase nearly four times quicker than the Canadian average between 2020 and 2030. According to the same report, jobs in the fossil fuel sector will likely decline by 0.5% annually over the same period. Canada’s clean energy GDP contribution is also set to increase by 3.4% each year, which is more than double the 1.5% national average.

These estimations for future employment prospects are based on current Canadian policies. The picture could change if the government does not continue to support renewable energy projects. In the instance of Ontario, 6,000 jobs and half a billion dollars of investment are understood to have been lost after the government abandoned renewable energy developments.

The world is transitioning towards renewable energy, and Canada can still be an energy leader in the decades ahead. That future will not exist without a strong, clean energy sector and a federal government that backs clean energy projects. Without a federal strategy that puts a price on carbon and provides electric car and renewable energy incentives, Canada will fall behind on its climate goals (not to mention job growth in its clean energy sector).

Steady Energy Prices For Canadians

Relying more on renewable energy can help lower the prices and demands associated with natural gas and coal by increasing competition.

Renewable energy is providing reasonably priced electricity solutions across the country and may help stabilise energy prices in the future. Although renewable facilities need upfront investment to build, they can generally operate at a very low cost once they get started. For many clean energy technologies, the ‘fuel’ is free, and as a result, over time, renewable energy prices can be very stable.

In addition, the prices of renewable energy technologies have declined steadily and are projected to drop even more. A good example of this is solar power, with the average price to install panels dropping by more than 70% between 2010 and 2017. The costs are likely to decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of the growing economies.

Fossil fuel prices have a tendency to vary dramatically and are susceptible to considerable price fluctuations. The unpredictability of fossil fuel pricing, along with the difficulty of forecasting fossil fuel prices, puts Canadian energy customers and providers at risk from swinging energy rates.

Relying more on renewable energy can help lower the prices and demands associated with natural gas and coal by increasing competition. It will also diversify energy supplies in Canada, and the increased reliance on renewable energy will help protect consumers when fossil fuel prices soar.

Improved Energy Reliability and Resilience Across Canada

Solar and wind are less susceptible to large-scale failure due to the fact that they are distributed and modular.

Canada has some very remote and wild areas. With this comes the challenge of getting electricity to those who need it. Solar and wind are less susceptible to large-scale failure due to the fact that they are distributed and modular. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, here is a simple breakdown:

  • Distributed Systems – These are spread out over a large geographical area which means if a severe weather event takes place in one location, it will not cut off power to the entire region.
  • Modular Systems – This comprises multiple solar arrays or individual wind turbines. If some of the equipment in the system ever breaks down, the rest can usually continue to operate without a problem.

In August 2003, there was the Northeast Blackout which left 50 million people inconvenienced for up to two days. It turned out to be the largest blackout in North American history. Sadly 11 people died, and there was a reported $6 billion in damages. Principally, the Canadian Defense Minister, John McCallum, attributed the outage to a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. However, the state’s Emergency Management Agency denied these claims. Instead, these disruptions were attributed to a high-voltage power line in Northern Ohio that brushed against overgrown trees, causing it to shut down.

Water shortages are another problem for non-renewable power plants. Nuclear, coal, and many natural gas plants depend on having sufficient water for cooling, which means that severe droughts and heatwaves can put electricity generation at risk. On the other hand, solar and wind energy do not require water to produce electricity and can operate dependably in conditions that would otherwise require shutting down a fossil fuel-powered plant

Global warming is increasing the risk of more disruptive events such as droughts, heatwaves, intense storms, and severe wildfires. By switching to clean energy technologies, Canada can help reduce greenhouse gases and provide more reliable, clean sources of electricity for its citizens.

The Potential Drawbacks of Renewable Energy

By understanding the current and potential environmental issues associated with each renewable energy source, we can take the steps necessary to effectively avoid or minimise these impacts.

As with all energy production, there are some negative impacts that may affect our environment, even with renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels (like oil, coal, and natural gas) do substantially more harm than the clean energy sector. Some of this damage includes air and water pollution, public health risks, wildlife threats, habitat loss, the destruction of land, and global warming emissions.

As damaging as fossil fuels are, it is important to note that renewable sources (such as solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower) also have an impact on the environment, and some of them are rather considerable.

The precise type and intensity of environmental impacts will vary depending on the geographic location, specific technology used, and several other factors. However, by understanding the current and potential environmental issues associated with each renewable energy source, we can take the steps necessary to effectively avoid or minimise these impacts. This is particularly important as clean energy continues to occupy a more significant portion of the Canadian electricity supply.

Boosting efficiency measures throughout the renewable industry is key to a more sustainable mineral supply chain in Canada and across the globe. The solar industry will especially need to focus on efficiency, as recycling solar cells can be difficult and is not economically feasible under many current business models. Recycling should be the most crucial strategy to reduce the primary demand for battery metals. In addition, some materials like lithium and manganese are not currently recovered at high enough rates. Finding a way to reduce cobalt use could also help minimise degradation within the supply chain.

The renewable industry in Canada does all it can to reduce the negative impact on the environment. For example, extensive environmental impact assessments are completed before any new sites are constructed. However, policymakers, industry leaders and government officials will need to keep making improvements to ensure the major forms of renewable energy are improving and that negative environmental impacts are avoided.

Closing Thoughts

Canada is lucky to have a wealth of natural resources, with its vast landmass and dynamic geography of long coastlines. Across all ten provinces and three territories, clean resources (which include moving water, wind, biomass, solar, geothermal and ocean energy) are being applied to generate a considerable portion of Canada’s energy requirements. As a result, Canada is now one of the world leaders in renewable energy generation.

Canada has become a magnet for investors, which has become a direct result of the nation’s fiscal prudence, geographical advantages, and general promotion of clean energy initiatives. Renewable energy is not only great for Canada’s environment and public health, but also for its economy.

FAQs

What are Canada’s primary sources of renewables?

By far, hydroelectricity is the most prominent form of renewable energy generated in Canada. Bioenergy and wind also play a valuable role in Canada’s energy mix. However, solar photovoltaic power and wind power are currently experiencing the highest growth rates and investment interest.

 

How to invest in Canadian renewable energy: what’s the best approach?

There are many ways to invest in Canadian renewable energy. If you are looking for a part of the sector that is experiencing growth and technological advancements, solar power is one to watch. Investment opportunities are available for people with varying budgets, from those who want to install home solar panels to buying stocks in a Canadian solar array. There are a lot of solar investment opportunities out there.

 

Is there a problem with Canada relying solely on clean power?

With the proper framework in place, there is no reason why Canada could not rely solely on renewable energy sources by 2050. It may involve working with North American regions, such as the USA and Mexico. Researchers in Finland say that if a renewables super grid was built, it could significantly reduce storage requirements and the overall cost of the energy system. It would involve dividing the regions into 20 interconnected sub-regions based on population, energy demand, area and electricity grid structure.

 

How much energy does Canada get from renewables?

The nation already gets 67% of its electricity demand from renewables. This means that more than 16% of the country’s total principal energy supply is from renewable sources, which is much higher than the typical amount found among OECD nations.

 

Can renewables save the planet?

This is a complicated question. While renewable energy can help to save the natural world, it can also cause some harm with the wrong approach. The transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources is crucial in our pursuit to reach carbon neutrality. Unfortunately, building wind turbines, solar panels, and various other renewable energy infrastructures often requires mining materials. However, it’s important to remember that renewable energy is generally far less environmentally destructive than fossil fuels. Added to this, green technologies are being developed on a continual basis.

 

Westbridge Energy Corporation

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