Earth Day 2012: 5 Things Canada Should Do To Become A Green Energy Superpower

Posted: 04/21/2012 9:07 am Updated: 04/22/2012 1:57 pm

UPDATE: We asked, and you answered. HuffPost Canada readers offered their ideas for how to make a Canada energy superpower, and the breadth and thoughtfulness of the answers made it clear Canadians care about environmental policy and the green economy.

WHAT CANADA SHOULD DO TO BE A GREEN ENERGY SUPERPOWER: HUFFPOST READERS SPEAK UP

Not everyone thinks the green economy is a good idea, of course.

"Lots of bold, new 5 year plans from central planning," quipped Bill Kiechle on Facebook. "Thank god Canadians vote with their wallets and not with miss-informed ideology."

"I find the article is really just a rehash of ideas which will not work because the public will not accept them," Jeff Rose-Martland wrote on Facebook. "They call for too many changes which would impact an individual's life; hence will get rejected by the populace. Idealism is fine but practical solutions need to be found."

And yet others wondered why HuffPost bothered. "This green stuff is so over, surely your trending programs must show you that," wrote jimmcd2 in the comments.

[Actually, we're finding "Earth Day 2012" to be trending quite nicely today. Though, admittedly, not as well as "UFC 145 results." -- Ed.]

By recent estimates, the world’s green economy is worth nearly $2.5 trillion, a figure that is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Alongside this growth will come tens of thousands of new jobs for workers doing everything from selling solar panels to installing energy-efficient windows, and handsome profits for the leading manufacturers of green technologies.

The question, however, is how big a role Canada will play.

As environmental advocates and industry representatives told The Huffington Post Canada, that depends largely on the decisions our governments make in the coming years.

Here are five things Canada can do to become a green energy power:

(Text version below slideshow)

Got ideas of your own for how to make Canada a green energy superpower? Hit us up on our Facebook page, or tweet @HuffPostCanada. We'll run the best answers on our site.

  • 5. Think Longer Term

    Renewable energy projects require time and money to get off the ground. So if Canada intends to expand its green economy, says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, industry needs to have a sense of the size of the market for renewable for energy that governments want to create.

    In jurisdictions such as Ontario and Quebec, for instance, he says governments have done a good job of setting targets for the share of renewable energy to incorporate into the mix by 2015. But beyond that point, "the direction [...] is less clear."

    "It takes time to develop wind energy projects. If you're hoping that a wind energy project is going to be up and running in 2016 or 2017, you need to start working on that project in 2013," he said. "If there's no signal that there's actually going to be a market for these projects nobody is going to start doing that work."

  • 4. Follow The Leaders

    With role models like Denmark and Germany, which have undertaken ambitious renewable energy policies with gusto, Canada needn't reinvent the wheel to become a leader in the green economy.

    But before looking overseas, environmentalists point to expanding what's already working within our own borders in provinces like Ontario, where the government has pledged to phase out coal energy by 2014 and create 50,000 green economy jobs by 2015.

    "We need more policies like in Ontario," said Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute, a non-profit think tank based in Calgary.

    In Ontario, the sector is supported up by a feed-in tariff program that pays guaranteed prices for renewable energy, as well as subsidies for firms that manufacture renewable energy technologies in the province. But Weis says there is a need to develop a "broader and more consistent market" for green technologies.

    "Ontario is a big market and it's going to do well in terms of developing manufacturing capacity for wind and solar, but what we need is to expand that market to other parts of Canada so we have a bigger domestic market," he said.

  • 3. Make Fossil Fuels More Expensive

    What's one of the quickest ways to support the growth of Canada's green economy? Stop subsidizing the production of oil and gas, says Adam Scott, green energy project coordinator at Toronto-based Environmental Defence.

    At present, he says, subsidies for fossil fuel-producing sources of energy, particularly at the federal level, dwarf support for renewable energy -- which he sees as a major roadblock to advancement.

    "Everybody complains about why we are subsidizing green energy, but it's because we're trying to level the playing field with all these other subsidized forms of energy," he said. "Subsidizing fossil fuels really has a huge drag on the development of renewable energy."

    Putting a price on carbon that's consistent and country-wide would also help, says Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute.

    "We need a market signal that levels the playing field and lets everyone know where we're going on this," he said. "It's pretty important that that happens at a national level so it's well coordinated across the country, and everyone is looking at the same picture."

  • 2. Get Serious About Energy Efficiency

    Improving the energy efficiency of buildings and construction projects tends to be "the poor child" of efforts to grow the green economy, says Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute.

    But if Canada wants to up game in the green economy arena, he says that must change.

    "[Improving energy efficiency] pays for itself, it has usually the fastest and the strongest bang for your buck in terms of actually reducing emissions and reducing energy, so it really needs to be at the top of the list," he said.

    That means developing more initiatives like the federal government's former ecoENERGY Retrofit program, which granted homeowners up to $5,000 to improve the energy efficiency of their homes by installing everything from better insulation to high-efficiency windows. The program expired at the end of last month.

    Though Weis says that particular program was "fairly successful," he estimates that 90 per cent of the homes in Canada could still benefit from an upgrade.

    "That's still a big area that we need to be working on nationally," he said.

  • 1. Develop A National Strategy

    "[The Conservative government] is always saying that Canada is an energy superpower, but they're very selective in what energy fits that bill," says Adam Scott, green energy project coordinator at Toronto-based Environmental Defence.

    As he sees it, getting serious about growing Canada's green economy will require federal support for renewable energy, and a national strategy for incorporating wind and solar into the overall energy mix.

    "Ontario is doing very well, Nova Scotia is developing renewable energy and some of the other provinces are looking at it, but without a national approach, Canadian companies are limited to [what] these local jurisdictions are doing," he said.

    This concern is shared by Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley, who says, "The world is going green."

    "I would have thought that every government that wants to support jobs and prosperity would want to participate in the green energy economy," he said. "I anxiously await their decision to be part of that in the future."

5. Think Longer Term

Renewable energy projects require time and money to get off the ground. So if Canada intends to expand its green economy, says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, industry needs to have a sense of the size of the market for renewable for energy that governments want to create.

In jurisdictions such as Ontario and Quebec, for instance, he says governments have done a good job of setting targets for the share of renewable energy to incorporate into the mix by 2015. But beyond that point, "the direction [...] is less clear."

"It takes time to develop wind energy projects. If you're hoping that a wind energy project is going to be up and running in 2016 or 2017, you need to start working on that project in 2013," he said. "If there's no signal that there's actually going to be a market for these projects nobody is going to start doing that work."

4. Follow The Leaders

With role models like Denmark and Germany, which have undertaken ambitious renewable energy policies with gusto, Canada needn't reinvent the wheel to become a leader in the green economy.

But before looking overseas, environmentalists point to expanding what's already working within our own borders in provinces like Ontario, where the government has pledged to phase out coal energy by 2014 and create 50,000 green economy jobs by 2015.

"We need more policies like in Ontario," said Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute, a non-profit think tank based in Calgary.

In Ontario, the sector is supported up by a feed-in tariff program that pays guaranteed prices for renewable energy, as well as subsidies for firms that manufacture renewable energy technologies in the province. But Weis says there is a need to develop a "broader and more consistent market" for green technologies.

"Ontario is a big market and it's going to do well in terms of developing manufacturing capacity for wind and solar, but what we need is to expand that market to other parts of Canada so we have a bigger domestic market," he said.

3. Make Fossil Fuels More Expensive

What's one of the quickest ways to support the growth of Canada's green economy? Stop subsidizing the production of oil and gas, says Adam Scott, green energy project coordinator at Toronto-based Environmental Defence.

At present, he says, subsidies for fossil fuel-producing sources of energy, particularly at the federal level, dwarf support for renewable energy -- which he sees as a major roadblock to advancement.

"Everybody complains about why we are subsidizing green energy, but it's because we're trying to level the playing field with all these other subsidized forms of energy," he said. "Subsidizing fossil fuels really has a huge drag on the development of renewable energy."

Putting a price on carbon that's consistent and country-wide would also help, says Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute.

"We need a market signal that levels the playing field and lets everyone know where we're going on this," he said. "It's pretty important that that happens at a national level so it's well coordinated across the country, and everyone is looking at the same picture."

2. Get Serious About Energy Efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings and construction projects tends to be "the poor child" of efforts to grow the green economy, says Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute.

But if Canada wants to up game in the green economy arena, he says that must change.

"[Improving energy efficiency] pays for itself, it has usually the fastest and the strongest bang for your buck in terms of actually reducing emissions and reducing energy, so it really needs to be at the top of the list," he said.

That means developing more initiatives like the federal government's former ecoENERGY Retrofit program, which granted homeowners up to $5,000 to improve the energy efficiency of their homes by installing everything from better insulation to high-efficiency windows. The program expired at the end of last month.

Though Weis says that particular program was "fairly successful," he estimates that 90 per cent of the homes in Canada could still benefit from an upgrade.

"That's still a big area that we need to be working on nationally," he said.

1. Develop A National Strategy

"[The Conservative government] is always saying that Canada is an energy superpower, but they're very selective in what energy fits that bill," says Adam Scott, green energy project coordinator at Toronto-based Environmental Defence.

As he sees it, getting serious about growing Canada's green economy will require federal support for renewable energy, and a national strategy for incorporating wind and solar into the overall energy mix.

"Ontario is doing very well, Nova Scotia is developing renewable energy and some of the other provinces are looking at it, but without a national approach, Canadian companies are limited to [what] these local jurisdictions are doing," he said.

This concern is shared by Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley, who says, "The world is going green."

"I would have thought that every government that wants to support jobs and prosperity would want to participate in the green energy economy," he said. "I anxiously await their decision to be part of that in the future."

WHAT CANADA SHOULD DO TO BE A GREEN ENERGY SUPERPOWER: HUFFPOST READERS SPEAK UP

  • Jeff Rose-Martland: Grow More Of This

    ITEM 1 - Massive hemp growing. Pot is just an off-shoot of the real uses for hemp. It makes excellent fodder for livestock, grows everywhere( even in NL) and, most importantly, makes excellent bio-deisel. We could move every existing diesel engine in the country over to hemp biofuel with almost no effort.

    ITEM 2 - Ethanol fuel. If we dramatically boost ethanol production with the intent of replacing the gasoline we use, then we should be able to move over to the cheaper and cleaner fuel with little effort. Especially if we keep the price of ethanol down to half the price of gasoline.

    NOTE: its fine to talk about reducing consumption by reducing travel, but the reality is that Canada is a very spread-out nation - if $1.50/l hasn't reduced our travel, talking won't either.

    ITEM 3 - alt energy sources. (in turn) a) Nuclear - The CanDU reactor is the absolute safest ever designed. It cannot melt-down as it uses a completely different process from other reactors. The nuclear-energy industry has taken a lot of bad press because of Three-Mile island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima; time to educate people. The CanDu reactor will run on everything from uranium ore to the waste from other reactors. It will also turn nuclear weapons material into energy. We also have the means of disposing of our own nuclear waste; down the shafts of the many worked-out mines in our country. As for spills - they are less damaging than oil spills and easier to clean up. b) hydro/tidal - in this vast country of water resources, this should be a no-brainer. c) wind - see above. d) geo-thermal and solar - along with large-scale use, individual homes or streets should be encourgaed to become energy self-sufficient. This reduces the amount of maintennence and waste generated by transmission.

  • Jim F Bartley: Begin At Home

    Forget multi-billion dollar mega-projects for a second. Start at home. A simple thing that just about any homeowner can do--install a solar air heater on a south facing wall, like a Cansolair or a Solarsheat etc, for about $3000. Complements any type of heating system. Outside temp is irrelevant, could be -40 and it'll work as long as you have sunshine. Mine paid for itself in less than 2 years, and replaces about 2 tanks of furnace oil ($2000) ie 90% spring/fall and 50% winter heat, while using less than $10 of electricity each year. Biggest bang you can get for your buck, beats solar hot water (which I also have) geothermal, solar PV electricity panels, home windmills etc.

  • Guy LaPierre: Listen To This Guy

    Limit all households to ONE car, limit size of houses to 1200 square feet, run a twelve month school year to adequately educate our children, free high speed wifi everywhere in Canada toe courage education/tech uptake, put a twenty dollar tax on every barrel of oil which would build a Heritage fund like Norway has, declare and follow up on a commitment to put a team of Canadians on Mars by 2050, eliminate Provincial Government as wasteful and needless, outlaw fast food, force mandatory fitness tests, limit immigration to very rich or low level labour, outsource all manufacturing in favour of exporting raw materials and high value labour work, and generally subscribe to everything David Suzuki says.

    (Photo by Marianna Massey/Sustainable Living Festival via Getty Images)

  • Clifton Bertram: R&D

    Double federal funding for basic research overall, and segregate 50 percent of the total for green energy research at universities and research institutes across the country. At each location where funding injections are provided, provide significant tax incentives for small-to-medium businesses to create new green technology businesses and bring tech to markets. Make sure every overseas 'Team Canada' trade mission includes a significant percentage of green business leaders. Re-acquire AECL Canada from SNC, and commit to a major push on Canada's place in the world as a leader in clean, safe nuclear.

  • Philippe-André Boileau: Geothermal Energy

    Geothermal energy and use of waterways for heating-cooling when in proximity. Biomethanisation of organic waste including diverting food waste thru the sewer system by way of in-sink grinders. Boat, train and long-haul trucking use of LNG. Publicity campaign encouraging lower temperatures in winter (18C). Bonus-malus for cars and tires. Develop thorium nuclear power. We are already doing very well I think with: decreased consumption of vehicles, diesel exhaust fine filters, LED technologies, etc. Without doing much more we are doing already pretty good.

  • Carolyn Givens: Pressure Government

    With the rising number of concerned Canadians over the tarsands and pipelines, we're closer to wanting, needing and backing these ideas than ever before.

    Now we need to pressure govt to get on board. We've got all our eggs in one oil soiled basket, one that's weak because it's saturated with toxic chemicals. This govt just made cuts to sustainable and renewable energy funding.

    If Canadians think we're going in the wrong direction, let govt know. Get involved in the many, many environmental groups, donate to their campaigns, sign petitions, ask questions, and above all, write govt to make sure they know we hold them accountable to Canadians first, not corporations.

  • Miguel Lécuyer: A Political Solution

    First, merge the Liberals, NDP, and Greens together to ensure a guaranteed majority over the PCs. Second, reverse all the stupid decisions Harper and the Cons have made regarding the environment. Third, appoint Elizabeth May as Minister of the Environment and Renewable Energy, then hire credible organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation and top environmental scientists as consultants to the Ministry and Government. Finally, stiffer laws and penalties for anyone who damages the environment - be it individuals or corporations - starting with Stephen Harper. (EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)

  • My Take: The Hydrogen Economy

    You mention solar/wind/green, but you should be mentioning The Hydrogen Economy.

    You should be using this phrase; it is time to PIVOT away from The Carbon Economy and release The Hydrogen Economy.

    Mercedes-Benz is PRODUCTION READY with their POLLUTION FREE Hydrogen Fuel Cell electrical generation automotive technology. However, The Oil Cartels will not INSTALL Hydrogen Gas Pumps on their service station lots to allow The Hydrogen Economy to get underway.

  • Swarf Maker: The Nuclear Option

    If the goal is to kick the fossil fuel habit, nuclear is our only viable option. And that is not nuclear as presently done, but molten salt thorium breeder reactors.

    There is enough thorium to fuel the world's energy needs for the next thousand years. Canada, to produce 2008 needs would require 470 1GW reactors - a large, but manageable, number as implementation will take decades.

    With abundant electrical energy, we could condense carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and combine it with hydrogen derived from electrolysis of water - also available from the atmosphere - to produce carbon monoxide which, with more hydrogen, feeds the Fischer-Tropsch process to produce fuels for transportation. By recycling the carbon dioxide from F-T this would make our transportation industry carbon neutral.

    It is past time to stop this wind, solar, and conservation nonsense and get on with something that will actually solve the problems.

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