Canada Launches $800 M RE & Grid Modernisation Program

Canada Launches $800 M RE & Grid Modernisation Program

Seamus O’Regan Jr., Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, recently launched a CAD 964 million (USD 800 mn) program that will support smart renewable energy and grid modernisation projects over four years, aiming to lower emissions and help the country achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Our new Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program will increase our grid’s renewable capacity and improve its reliability and resiliency. This means a cleaner, more reliable electricity supply for Canadians. This is how we get to net zero by 2050,” the minister said.

According to the government, the SREPs supports building Canada’s low-emissions energy future and a renewable, electrified economy through projects that focus on non-emitting, cleaner energy technologies, such as storage, and modernising electricity system operations.

O’Regan launched the program during the Canadian Electricity Association’s (CEA) virtual regulatory forum on Electricity Regulation & the Four Disruptors – Decarbonization, Decentralization, Digitalization and Democratization. The launch also coincides with Canadian Environment Week, which celebrates Canada’s environmental accomplishments and encourages Canadians to contribute to conserving and protecting the environment.

Through SREPs and other programming, the government claims it is working with provinces and territories, utilities, Indigenous partners and others, including diverse businesses and communities, to deliver these clean and reliable energy initiatives.

The program is also said to support Canada’s climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. Collectively with investments from the Fall Economic Statement 2020 and Budget 2021, the government says that the country will achieve our climate change commitments and ensure a healthier environment and more prosperous economy for future generations.

Despite these plans, the Justin Trudeau-led government has faced the ire of environmentalists for its equivocal position on climate change and fossil fuel consumption. The Canadian oil sands industry, still thriving in the state of Alberta, has been a particularly contentious issue, given the immense environmental damage it has caused over the last couple of decades by way of deforestation, high water consumption, greenhouse emissions and the poisoning of groundwater reserves. O’Regan has said in the past that achieving Canada’s climate goals is not possible without financial support from the fossil fuels sector, especially the Alberta oil sands, which export large amounts of “dirty oil” containing a toxic slurry of heavy metals and hydrocarbons from the bitumen separation process.

Given that Canada’s per capita electricity consumption is one of the highest in the world and that the country is still heavily dependent on oil and gas for revenue, optimistically speaking, the new renewable energy program could have twin benefits: One, help Canada make up for its past environmental damage by reducing its contribution to future global greenhouse emissions; two, fundamentally change the country’s energy mix to enable an effective transition to renewables for both financial and electrical reliance for the long haul.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.