Clash between the two levels of government underscores the need for co-ordinated efforts to achieve a clean energy transition
The ongoing dispute between the Trudeau and Alberta Provincial governments regarding the timeline for creating a “Clean Electricity Grid” raises significant questions.
At the heart of the issue is a stark contrast in project duration estimates. Alberta has proposed a realistic 27-year timeline, while the Trudeau government demands an unrealistic 12-year plan. This debate is centred on a crucial aspect – the development of a low-cost, reliable electricity grid that has served as the backbone of our civilization for over a century and a half. This grid must maintain perfect balance, even during the energy transition.
The Trudeau government appears to overlook the complexities of developing and testing small-scale prototypes with unproven technologies before scaling up. Building multibillion-dollar projects and establishing commercial supply lines for certified power-producing systems and components take time. Designing and constructing thousands of kilometres of a new grid system is a lengthy process.
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Energy transition is not as simple as flipping a switch.
The reliance on solar and wind power, as advocated by the Trudeau government, presents a fundamental challenge: their inherent unreliability, which can result in zero production at any time, leading to prolonged blackouts, especially in harsh winter conditions such as those experienced in most parts of Canada.
Furthermore, the Trudeau government’s insistence on proceeding with the “Impact Assessment Act” despite its classification as “Unconstitutional” by the Supreme Court of Canada raises concerns. While legal experts and politicians focus on the “letter of the law,” engineers and financiers must work to develop practical systems that meet Canada’s energy needs.
Several technical realities should be considered:
- Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are global issues requiring co-ordinated efforts from all countries.
- Canada, Alberta, and oil sands production contribute only a small fraction of global emissions.
- Major emitters like China, India, the U.S., and the EU are responsible for the majority of global emissions.
- Some of these major emitters continue to build coal-fired power plants, leading to substantial future emissions.
- The reduction in electric vehicle (EV) demand and expansion of gas pipelines in the U.S. indicate a lack of commitment to emissions reduction.
- Carbon tax disparities exist between countries, with Canada’s expected to be significantly higher, raising questions about its justification.
- European countries, including France and Germany, are granting extensions for fossil-fueled cars, compromising green targets.
- Poland, the Czech Republic, and other EU countries maintain options for consuming fossil fuels, undermining emissions reduction efforts.
- Disagreements over a carbon tax on imported emissions suggest that greenwashing persists.
- Recent election results in the EU and the UK indicate resistance to the green transition, with actions such as reissuing drilling permits for North Sea Oil.
Additionally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected rising fossil fuel use and emissions until 2050. To achieve net-zero climate goals, extensive transmission line infrastructure will be required, potentially relying on coal-fired steel production in China. The IEA’s estimates for achieving net-zero goals also entail substantial costs and enormous grid refurbishments.
In summary, the Trudeau-Alberta disagreement over the Clean Electricity Grid timeline is just one facet of a complex global challenge. It underscores the need for co-ordinated international efforts, realistic expectations, and a thorough understanding of the technical and practical aspects of transitioning to cleaner energy sources.
Cosmos Voutsinos is a retired engineer who has published multiple scientific papers that have garnered a total of 96 citations. He earned his Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) at the University of Waterloo and his Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree from MacMaster.
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