October 26, 2010
Thank you very much for the kind introduction, and hello everyone. I want to thank the Canadian Hydropower Association for its invitation to speak. It’s an honour to be here today.
As you may know, Canada is the world’s second largest producer of hydropower in the world. Your industry employs tens of thousands of people, such as engineers, geologists, construction workers, electricians and mechanics, and makes a significant contribution to Canada’s economic growth and prosperity.
Prime Minister Harper has said that hydroelectricity projects “not only stimulate economic activity and boost employment where it is needed today, they also provide communities with the infrastructure needed to prosper in the future.”1 Our Government sees hydropower as part of Canada’s continued growth as both a natural resources powerhouse and a global clean energy superpower.
Since 2006, our Government has invested $10 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build a more sustainable environment and support the creation of jobs through investments in green infrastructure, clean energy technologies, the production of cleaner fuels and energy efficiency.
For example, our ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program is supporting hydro projects such as the Brilliant Dam expansion project in Castlegar, B.C., and the Centrale hydroélectrique Rivière Magpie project in Rivière Saint-Jean, Quebec. And our Clean Energy Fund is supporting demonstrations of smart grid and hydro technologies across the country.
We are investing in knowledge, research and innovation — the keys to success in the global economy.
Role of Hydro Power in Addressing Climate Change
As part of the Copenhagen Accord, our Government committed to reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 — a target that is aligned with that of the U.S.
More than 75 percent of the electricity generated in Canada already comes from non-emitting sources. Hydro, which accounts for 60 percent of our electricity, is a big part of that. Additional development of new hydro, solar, wind and other clean and renewable energy technologies has the potential to significantly reduce our emissions even further, helping us to meet our greenhouse gas reduction objectives while creating economic opportunities.
In addition to developing new clean energy sources, we are working to reduce the environmental impact of existing technologies. For example, our Government is developing regulations to limit emissions from Canada’s coal-fired power plants. We are also making important investments in carbon capture and storage. These regulations will help us meet our commitment under the Copenhagen Accord.
North American context
Going forward, Canada recognizes that only through cooperation at the continental level can we obtain our objectives.
An excellent example is the North American electricity grid, which is one of our most important pieces of shared infrastructure. This type of integration gives us a good foundation to move forward on a continental energy approach.
Our recent participation at the Clean Energy Ministerial meetings has demonstrated that we can work on shared objectives regarding energy and climate change. Mexico, the United States and Canada are all committed to collaborate on initiatives addressing energy efficiency, smart grids and carbon capture and storage.
Canada–U.S. electricity trade
In 2008, Canadian exports to the U.S. were worth just over $352 billion. Energy exports account for about a third of that amount. So, our government is working to capitalize on this strong trading relationship. We supply virtually all of the electricity the US imports.
One of the ways we’re working to build on our trading relationship is through the Clean Energy Dialogue established by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama more than a year ago. We’re working with the US to spur rapid progress in clean energy technologies and to promote climate and energy security.
Our Government is also working with the US government and industry to identify potential resources and markets for increased clean electricity and supplementary services trade. With our electricity grids so closely connected, cross-border trade in electricity between Canadian provinces and US states actually exceeds transfers between the provinces.
There is no question that hydropower can have a leading role as we work with the U.S. on the supply of clean energy. Hydroelectricity exports already provide a renewable, reliable and affordable supply to many regions of the U.S. — and we still have significant undeveloped potential in Canada. By taking advantage of our deep integration, we can optimize our clean energy resources and maximize the efficiency of the grid.
As an example of how we can work together with our neighbours, I’d like to take a moment to recognize and congratulate Hydro-Québec for signing a long-term contract for hydroelectricity exports with Vermont. This agreement has precedent-setting implications for the recognition of Canadian hydropower as a clean electricity source in the U.S.
Opportunities and Challenges
I mentioned a few moments ago the “untapped potential” of hydropower. In fact, I understand from your Association’s study2 that we have untapped potential that is about double the current capacity. So hydropower will clearly be an expanding source of clean energy trade in North America. However, there are some challenges to realizing its full potential.
I want to assure you that our Government is aware of these challenges, such as the long lead-times that can be associated with the regulatory review process, and has already taken concrete actions to improve the situation.
For example, in 2008 our government established the Major Projects Management Office to provide overarching management of federal regulatory reviews for large natural resource projects. Since opening its doors, this Office has led the development of new approaches to improve the predictability, accountability and transparency of federal regulatory review processes. And this Office is now managing over 50 major projects, representing approximately $100 billion of potential new investment in communities across Canada.
Our government is building on these improvements, and we are committed to implementing simpler, clearer regulatory processes. These changes will improve environmental protection and provide greater certainty to industry as we responsibly develop our energy and mineral resources. These changes are positive first steps towards improving the current system.
Hydropower is going to continue to be an important part of our clean energy mix. As we move towards a low carbon economy, hydroelectricity will play a key role in our government’s action to continue as a clean energy superpower.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak here today and wish you well in the rest of your annual conference.
1 PM’s speech “Partnering to upgrade Yukon's Mayo B hydro facility” – Whitehorse, YK, August 21, 2009 http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?category=2&featureId=6&pageId=46&id=2770
2 Hydropower Association’s “Study of Hydro Potential in Canada” - 2006