I hope all of you had a great summer. I sure did, and managed to get some vacation here and there.
However, the summer was also filled with lots of analysis, meetings, and collaborative efforts to bring life to the 2015 edition of the Sustainable Electricity Annual Report, which highlights the sustainability performance of Canadian electric utilities.
This year’s report, released last week and entitled Delivering Value to Canadians, documents the tremendous work of electric utilities to innovate and continuously improve their sustainability performance.
Still, I’ll be the first to say that sustainability is not yet a “fait accompli” for the sector. In fact, it may never be; but the important thing is that utilities have made great strides on sustainability over the last five years.
These efforts are important as we look to the future. The infrastructure that sustains the current electricity system is aging. A large portion of skilled workers are getting set for retirement. The relationship between utilities and their customers is evolving. How the sector responds to these challenges will define many aspects of our future.
In that context, I am very pleased with some of the trends:
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions declined last year by 5.8 per cent, for a 22 per cent reduction over the last 5 years.
- Air pollutants all declined in 2015—NOx by 4.3 per cent, SO2 by 9.7 per cent, and Mercury by 15.6 per cent.
- The number of companies with a formal stakeholder engagement policy increased by 16.9 per cent.
- Approximately $13 billion was invested in new generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure to help the keep the lights on.
While these are important achievements, the sector needs to improve in several other areas, including the number of environmental priority spills, representation of women and minorities in senior positions, and consistency in system reliability.
What is re-assuring to me though is that at least we know where to improve. And, if the positive member efforts continue, these issues will become the new frontier in our efforts on sustainability.
As you head back to the office from your summer holidays, I hope you will take some time to scan the report, reflect on some of the trends and initiatives, and have some “water-cooler” talks with your colleagues on our progress. Off course, I’m happy to hear any of your thoughts in the comments below!
Channa Perera is Director, Sustainable Development, at the Canadian Electricity Association.