The Future of Electricity: 2040 are alternative stories of how the future could unfold written by Ottawa author Kate Heartfield. They focus on what could happen and not what we might like to have happened. As such, they are not predictions. The intent is to identify a range of future outcomes that capture the key uncertainties inherent in how the future could evolve through storytelling. The CEA scenarios are plausible, distinct, divergent and challenging stories that describe a range of futures for the electricity industry in Canada to 2040.
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SCENARIO 1: CLOSER TO HOME
New technology provides new options for customers and helps utilities adapt to change. Distributed technology-based value propositions are offered by new market entrants and traditional utilities with existing utility systems and expertise is leveraged to deliver solutions. Policy and regulation supports a smooth and manageable transition, allowing competition to work where it can with a continued focus on safety and consumer protection. Utilities adapt and compete in this new world and act as system orchestrators in the delivery of sustainable outcomes.
SCENARIO 2: OFF THE GRID
Steep changes in distributed energy technologies are embraced by customers engaged in energy issues and at times outraged as utilities fail to adapt to their new competitive environment. Utilities fail to provide value-added services to customers and fail to facilitate the transition among customers, partners and others. In the face of angry ratepayers – and voters – governments elect to sideline utilities and accelerate the transition through pro-distributed-energy and climate policy. With a number of additional technology shifts, utilities find themselves left behind with stranded assets and a mess of financial, regulatory and legal issues.
SCENARIO 3: LARGE-SCALE RENEWABLES
Large-scale, low-cost renewable power gains market share as advances in battery technology make storage at scale economic. Renewables are transformed from being intermittent to being dispatchable. Coupled with advances in innovative applications of information technology by utilities, an efficient, reliable and stable grid with low-cost power to consumers emerges that undermines the competitiveness of distributed energy. The growth of renewables and the electrification of transportation support policies to reduce GHG emissions. The transformed system is politically, environmentally and economically sustainable. Some jurisdictions will rely on baseload nuclear and hydro to underpin their zero emitting electric systems that will be used to electrify the broader economy.
SCENARIO 4: POWER TO THE NATION
A coalescing of national issues supports policy intervention leading to a Canadian Energy Strategy that emphasizes electrification and the creation of an integrated national electricity grid. Resolving environmental (rising GHG emissions and deteriorating air quality), social (income inequality and Indigenous reconciliation and participation) and economic (growth and competitiveness) issues provide a strong political basis for the Federal Government to intervene. A national policy that promotes electrification and a low-cost, green, national electricity grid cuts across these major issues.