The Canadian electricity sector will need to invest $15 billion a year through to 2030 to replace and maintain aging facilities and meet rising demand, according to a new report released by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC).
“A growing population, new technologies, a recovering economy and new ideas about how Canadians want their energy needs met all point to the need for an unprecedented upgrading of our electricity system,” stated Pierre Guimond, president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA). “If we want to maintain our electricity advantage, we must turn this corner.”
The study, commissioned by the CEA and conducted by the CBC, estimates that Canada has investment requirements for electricity infrastructure of about $293.8 billion (all figures in 2010 dollars) between 2010 and 2030. The study, Canada’s Electricity Infrastructure: Building a Case for Investment, said this investment would renew, rebuild and replace some of Canada’s electrical infrastructure, as well as meet future demand.
“The electricity grid that serves us so well was built for a population of about 20 million, but is today servicing around 35 million,” said Guimond.
“It is time to make some of the decisions that previous generations also had to make to have reliable and affordable electricity.”
The largest share of the full price tag, $195.7 billion, would be for generation.
Most of these investments would be in renewable and low carbon emission sources of electricity generation.
The study estimates that the distribution system will require about $62 billion in investment over 20 years, both to sustain existing infrastructure and to implement new systems.
The transmission system across the country is estimated to require about $36 billion in investment.
However, this level of investment is likely underestimated because the study could only assess future transmission needs based on publicly available expansion plans and their cost estimates.
This level of investment would be a mix of public and private sector investment, depending on whether the systems in each province are owned by governments or by private industry.
According to the report, growth in the productive capacity of electric power generation was phenomenal over the 1960s and 70s, averaging six per cent per year. But, the pace of expansion slowed to 2.9 per cent annually over the 1980s and has averaged 0.5 per cent per year over the 1990s and 2000s.
“Much of Canada’s electricity infrastructure was built 30 to 50 years ago following the Second World War, when our population stood at 20 million and must now either be refurbished or replaced,” said Guimond. “With more than 35 million Canadians today, there is an urgent need to engage on this issue and we are pleased to see investment in electricity infrastructure being raised in the current federal election campaign. We need a sustainable pan-Canadian energy strategy that includes electricity.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on federal leaders to use pubic infrastructure investment to protect citizens from the negative health effects of Dalton McGuinty’s wind turbine policy in Ontario.
“Federal political parties must commit to banning all subsidies and funding to any industrial wind energy plan in Ontario or any other part of Canada, until independent, third party epidemiological health studies are completed to ensure these projects are not built dangerously close to communities.” said John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.
Laforet argued that political parties should get serious about clean energy and continue investing in hydroelectricity, while phasing out generation based on fossil fuels.
Quebec is the biggest generator of power in Canada, with a 2010 capacity of 47,013 megawatts (MW), while Ontario is second with 33,845 MW and British Columbia third with 15,093 MW.
According to the report, Ontario is proposing the largest increase in capacity (11,572 MW), followed by Alberta (7,543 MW) and B.C. (4,258 MW).
Hydroelectricity represents more than 60 per cent of Canada’s electricity production and there are major hydroelectricity projects underway in British Columbia, Quebec and Labrador. Alberta is planning to replace several coal powered plants with natural gas and biofuel.
Canada is a net exporter of electricity and diverts seven to nine per cent of its capacity to the American market.
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