Like it or not, the world is quickly heading toward a post-carbon era.
The future will therefore belong to those who can power their economies with the cleanest, most cost-effective, energy available. That’s probably why Ontario is madly scrambling to shut down its carbon-intensive coal-fired electricity generators and replace them with whatever solar power and wind energy they can manage to scrape together, and paying exorbitant prices for the solar power.
Admittedly, Ontario’s push for clean energy is largely about job creation in the present, and rescuing Ontario’s manufacturing sector. Manufacturing solar panels has been seen as a way to revive Ontario’s manufacturing sector while also encouraging clean energy, even though energy from solar panels is one of the most costly forms of clean energy.
The obvious question that needs to be asked, then, is how will a province like Ontario, with meagre and fairly costly clean energy resources, be able to compete over the long term with a province like BC that is rich in low-cost clean energy resources? Many are asking questions like this and pondering possibilities and long term solutions.
For example, Manitoba and Quebec, like BC, are rich in clean energy resources and are already exporting affordable clean energy to the American east coast and Midwest. Would Ontario be better off to secure an affordable supply of clean energy from these provinces to power their future economy rather than staking their future on solar panels?
And what about Alberta? Exporting carbon-intensive oil and gas has generated great wealth for Alberta. But how will their economy fare in a post-carbon world? Will elusive carbon storage schemes pan out for them, or will the coal-fired generators they’ve been rushing to build before tougher carbon standards come into effect end up being costly white elephants?
As with Ontario, would Alberta be better off securing a long-term supply of affordable clean energy from a clean energy dynamo like BC rather than desperately trying to squeeze in a few more coal-fired plants before the gate closes?
I don’t have all the answers, but solutions do exist for powering our provincial economies in a post-carbon era. But to find and implement these solutions, people, and especially politicians, will need to start thinking beyond the confines of their own borders and work toward a national clean energy strategy that makes the best use of our country’s unevenly distributed clean energy wealth. If we can work together as a nation and achieve this goal, the future will unquestionably belong to all of Canada.
Matthew Enns, East Vancouver