Global consensus insists that we must combat climate change by speeding up our transition to a more sustainable, clean growth economy.
Canada, being one in only a handful of nations with more than 80% greenhouse gas emissions-free electricity mix, can significantly reduce its national carbon footprint by developing renewable electricity resources and through the electrification of transportation, buildings, and industrial processes. Electrification is the process of changing from one type of power to electricity.
Cheaper and greener than gas
Electricity is the cheapest energy source for transportation. Electricity-powered transportation is one-quarter to one-eighth the cost of gasoline-powered.
The transportation sector accounts for about one-quarter of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
While vehicle emission standards will help bring this number down in the near term, electrifying Canada’s light vehicle fleet and public transportation (for example, electric street cars, buses, light rail) is the most promising way to drastically reduce emissions from the transportation sector.
While we are a long way from having an electric vehicle (EV) in every driveway, consumer interest in EVs continues to increase as new vehicle models are introduced and concerns about EV ownership and use diminish (such as anxiety about driving range and re-charging).
Increasing value of electric heating and cooling
CEA recognizes that in many parts of Canada, natural gas is the cheaper space heating and cooling option. However, carbon pricing, energy efficiency, and commitment to climate action will increase the value of electric heating and cooling in the years ahead.
Emerging technologies for energy efficiency
Electric thermal storage heating units are an especially promising technology. Replacing either baseboard or central heating furnaces, these units use off-peak electricity to heat their contents to 700°C and can store enough energy, up to 45 kWh for a single wall unit, to heat a home during on-peak hours (up to 16 hours). Heat pumps are another attractive option.
Using clean electricity to power industrial processes
Heat-intensive industrial processes present an important opportunity for decarbonization through electrification. Upstream natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and associated infrastructure present opportunities for electrification using clean electricity. CEA also encourages a measured transition to electric boilers as existing equipment reaches its end-of-life.
More research is required to identify cost-effective electrification opportunities in the industrial sector. This should be a key focus of federal research programs.
Electrification won’t happen overnight
Electrification will move forward at a steady pace as new technologies come to market, the value of emissions-free energy increases, and consumers and businesses become more familiar with its benefits.
In the meantime, Canada’s electricity sector will continue to invest in grid modernization and the infrastructure required to power Canada’s clean energy future in terms of transportation, buildings, and industrial processes.
As electrification accelerates, so too must grid investment.