Geothermal power, heating & cooling can be part of Canada’s energy future

City skyline, Toronto/ Ontario, Canada (source: flickr/Kingdafy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 21 Mar 2017

A new report on a low-carbon future for Canada's economy, geothermal is mentioned only in a sidenote, but can actually play a much more important role for electricity, heating, as well as cooling.

Canada sitting partly on the Pacific ring of fire, is the only country that has shamelessly not seen any real geothermal development or government support, despite efforts by the private sector.

In a new report on Shaping the Canadian Low-Carbon Economy, the Conference Board of Canada highlights how Canada can fulfill its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This – so the report – requires a commitment to “improve the way we produce, transport, and consume energy. It influences all sectors of the economy, government actions, and household decisions, according to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada.

Shaping the Canadian Low-Carbon Economy outlines what this transition might look like and the policies and practices that will guide it along the way.  It puts forth four cornerstones for the ongoing low-carbon transformation of the Canadian economy: energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy production, and engaging firms in the low-carbon business opportunity.

The release on the report explicitly mentions geothermal, unfortunately only in a side note. With its potential for electricity generation in the Western Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, but also in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, geothermal could also play an important role in heating and cooling. There are already heating projects operating, e.g. in Nova Scotia and efforts are made to utilise geothermally heated mine water in Quebec. So geothermal energy should be part of Canada’s planning for a low-carbon energy market.

“Despite a new direction on the environment from U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadians seem increasingly ready to accept and vote for low-carbon change,” said Glen Hodgson, Senior Fellow, The Conference Board of Canada. “Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy should aim for steady, progressive change over time building on a strategy including a strong energy sector.”

The report highlights include:

  • A shift in energy production will continue as Canada moves toward a low-carbon future.
  • The low-carbon transition will similarly require changes in energy consumption and energy efficiency, which will present opportunity for Canadian businesses.
  • A new low-carbon infrastructure could include: further decarbonizing electricity production; vehicle electrical recharging stations and systems; and the expansion and electrification of public transit/rail.

A shift toward low-carbon energy production has already begun. Canada’s hydrocarbon industry is working to reduce the energy used in production and two refineries are adding carbon capture to their operations. Moreover, developments are underway to make captured carbon a useful input in industrial and business processes. Other areas of opportunity for shifts in energy production include: geothermal or district heating and cooling, additional renewable low-carbon electricity, and building on opportunities to strengthen power grid integration.

Aside from energy production, the report highlights the need for a modification in energy use by both consumers and businesses. If Canada is to steadily reduce its GHG emissions, it will need to change how energy is used, as well as the technologies and fuels Canadians rely on. This means increasing the use of lower-carbon sources of energy for heat, transportation and infrastructure. Already, Canada is more than 80 per cent reliant on renewable electricity production.

Energy efficiency is a close complement to the shift to low-carbon energy consumption. Improvements to energy efficiency could provide a positive and welcome boost to economic activity, in two ways: through increased private and public sector investment and construction activity; and through ongoing energy cost savings for businesses, governments, families, and individuals, which could be recycled into other activities.

Canadian businesses have a central role to play in developing and adopting low-carbon best practices across their entire business models. Businesses can actively minimize their GHG emissions in their own business operations and can be selective in choosing suppliers and buyers with similar objectives. Another opportunity for businesses will be to engage in the clean technology value chain for innovative low-carbon goods and services.

Building on the theme of this report, The Conference Board of Canada’s Reshaping Energy conference will take place on April 11-12 in Ottawa. Canadian and international climate change experts will provide insights on how to proactively manage Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy and will address questions surrounding the economic and social impacts of reducing GHG emissions.

The Centre on the Low-Carbon Growth Economy is a new initiative by The Conference which aims to inform the policy and business conversation in Canada on how to shape the low-carbon growth economy.

Source: The Conference Board of Canada via Newswire