Canada’s National Energy Board is an independent federal agency that regulates international and interprovincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries in Canada. These aspects include safety, security, the environment, and efficient infrastructure and markets. Natural Resources Canada, as part of its mandate, works to ensure the responsible and sustainable development of Canada’s natural resources, including forestry, energy and minerals and metals. While these two organizations provide a coordinating framework for the country’s energy, provincial administration is also an essential part of the equation.
The energy strategy documents prepared by the provinces and territories demonstrate the unique character of each jurisdiction, but they also show many common focuses that will likely provide the basis for coordinated federal action on energy use and production.
Specific information is located under the name of each province. Together, these documents reveal ten key areas of focus and action across the country. These include awareness, benefit, efficiency, development, diversification, electricity, emissions, leadership, innovation and security.
Efficiency campaigns, information designed to highlight potential economic benefits of smart energy management and similar efforts are all featured in the country’s energy strategies. The intent is to communicate provincial and territorial actions and their benefits to Canadians.
The public benefit underlies every provincial and territorial energy strategy. Balanced with an action’s environmental impact and sustainability, long-term prosperity is a goal implicit in every energy strategy’s actions. One of Alberta’s three main desired “outcomes,” for example, is “sustained economic prosperity.”
The simplest way for organizations and individuals to reduce the effect of energy use is to reduce energy use. Transportation and building construction are areas of particular focus for efficiency in most plans, and at least three provinces have created governmental offices specifically devoted to promoting energy efficiency, including Prince Edward Island’s Office of Energy Efficiency, Quebec’s Agence de l’efficacité énergétique and one mandated in Nova Scotia’s energy strategy.
The resources in each province provide a unique energy mix, from Quebec’s numerous hydro projects to Alberta’s oil and natural gas industry. Provincial energy strategies provide a vision for how these resources will be developed into the future, from potential new projects to regulation. Focuses for this development include Alberta’s oil sands; hydroelectric resources in BC, Northwest Territories and Quebec; and Nova Scotia’s offshore petroleum reserves.
While energy sources like hydro, oil and natural gas are already well established, an increasing emphasis on reducing emissions has led to an increase in the use of alternative energy sources. From biomass to wind, and to a lesser extent, tidal and solar, these unconventional resources add a new dimension to provincial energy mixes. Prince Edward Island, for example, intends to add another 500 MW of wind power before 2013.
Provincial energy strategies reflect a growing desire to improve both the way electricity is used and, often, a commitment to increase the capacity of transmission networks. Upgrading provincial transmission networks would serve several important needs, including creating a more dynamic transmission network (so-called “smart grid” technology) and improving a province’s capacity to both import and export electricity. Newfoundland, for example, intends to build a transmission link between Labrador and the island in conjunction with its Lower Churchill development.
Emission reductions provide some of the most consistent comparisons across energy strategies. With the exception of Yukon (which provides only a government target), Nunavut and Saskatchewan (which doesn’t have an energy strategy), these plans all include greenhouse gas reduction targets. Newfoundland, for example, has a goal of “reducing emissions to 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020” while the Northwest Territories has a goal of a “10 per cent reduction in GHG emissions below 2001 levels by 2011.”
Government leadership in energy efficiency includes three primary areas: building, transport and procurement. Without exception, in those provinces and territories with energy strategies, projects funded with public money will be used as examples of the kinds of efficiency measures that can be put in place. Alberta, for example, requires “all new government-funded buildings to be silver or gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard, while Yukon will establish “green action committees” in all departments.
Many of the initiatives described in provincial energy strategies involve changes in the way current resources or technologies are used. Others focus on the potential of developing technologies and skills that will create the specialists required for these nascent industries. This emphasis on innovation suggests that future energy management will rely largely on currently unforeseen solutions.
For example, as part of its recent Green Energy Act, Ontario’s proposed Feed-in Tariff Program will provide stable, competitive prices and long-term contracts for energy generated using renewable resources. Homeowners, businesses and developers will be eligible if they generate electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, waterpower, biomass and biogas, solar photovoltaic power and landfill gas.
Despite the distinction between intermittent and conventional power supplies, disruptions can occur in any supply chain. Self-sufficiency provides material benefits including reduced costs for importing power, and a more dependable supply. Jurisdictions seeking self-sufficiency include BC (2016) and New Brunswick (2026), and all energy strategies are designed to increase the security and reliability of their jurisdiction’s respective energy system.