Environment Canada expects 'higher electricity rates' for Canadians amid expedited push for 'net-zero' grid

The Department of Environment would not estimate how much more consumers and industry will pay for 'green' electrification, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

Environment Canada expects 'higher electricity rates' for Canadians amid expedited push for 'net-zero' grid
Facebook/ Danielle Smith, Steven Guilbeault and Scott Moe
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A staff memo for Environment Canada has confirmed what premiers have told taxpayers for months — an unjust transition to 'net-zero' electricity will cost ratepayers more each month.

How much more? Well, even Environment Canada doesn't know.

The Department of Environment would not estimate how much more consumers and industry will pay for "green" electrification, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

"As the economy transitions to net zero by 2050, there will be increased demand for clean electricity to decarbonize other sectors such as transportation or buildings," said the March 27 memo.

"This expansion of clean electricity supply towards 2050 will increase costs. Some experts are predicting that demand could double by 2050."

According to the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) report, transitioning the province to a 'net-zero' grid would cost taxpayers between $44 billion and $52 billion over the next decade. 

They claim power generation costs would exceed $92.2 billion over the same period.

"The report says the [transition] would have a largely negligible impact on GDP growth. What is your response to that?" asked a reporter. Premier Danielle Smith replied: "It would result in a cumulative reduction of $35 billion." 

"We have two reports — the AESO report that said we would have to invest $52 billion to get to a net zero power grid, and then Navius Research [...] said it would have a cumulative effect of reducing GDP by $35 billion," she said.

Smith intends to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 but warns Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault not to "accelerate […] the timeline" to 2035 if the technology isn't there.

According to Blacklock's Reporter, Cabinet has yet to detail the impact phasing out coal-fired power plants has on electricity rates or the federal electric vehicle (EV) market.

In a 2016 submission to the Senate Energy Committee, the Canadian Electricity Association pegged infrastructure costs at $350 billion. "That's going to come mostly through utilities through rate hearings," testified Sergio Marchi, then-CEO of the Association.

The Senate committee, in a 2017 report Electricity Sector In A Carbon Constrained Future, said it could not estimate the impact on ratepayers. "Many Canadians could soon be paying higher electricity bills as the country tries to meet reduction targets for its greenhouse gas emissions," said the report.

On May 17, the Saskatchewan Party and NDP Opposition voted unanimously to support the province's plan for affordable, reliable power generation to 2035 and beyond. That includes not phasing out conventional coal by 2030 or transitioning their electricity grid to net zero by 2035.

"We're going to continue to chart Saskatchewan's path," Premier Scott Moe told reporters. "It may not necessarily be Canada's path, and we'll have more details in the coming weeks."

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Saskatchewan it will be illegal to operate coal-fired power plants past 2030 without technology to reduce carbon emissions. "Not complying with this regulation would violate Canada's Criminal Code," he told reporters.

On May 26, Smith told Rebel News that her government intends to "stand with Premier Scott Moe" but would not reopen the coal debate for her province.

The Department of Natural Resources, in a February 3 Inquiry Of Ministry tabled in the Commons, said estimates of costlier electricity were "still being developed," reported Blacklock's Reporter. Conservative MP Warren Steinley requested the figures.

They note Cabinet's EV mandate alone would increase overall demand for electricity by 23%.

"The projected costs of the investments needed to enhance Canada's electricity grid to meet increased demand from electric vehicle charging and the electrification of the economy more broadly are currently being developed," said the Inquiry. 

"The majority of grid costs associated with electric vehicles likely will be attributed to upgrades to distribution systems."

On December 21, Guilbeault proposed that one-fifth of all passenger vehicles sold in Canada be electric by 2026. 

Parliament set an ambitious target of 6 million more zero-emission passenger vehicles by the decade's end. Annual vehicle sales before COVID amounted to under 2 million units, with the total stock in Canada at about 23 million.

At the end of 2022, EVs constituted 8.4% of new cars registered in the country.

By 2030, Guilbeault hopes 60% of all vehicular sales will be EVs and, by 2035, every passenger vehicle.

Cabinet wants to eliminate new gas and diesel-powered cars and pickups by 2050 as part of that mandate. 

According to Blacklock's Reporter, the Inquiry said the EV targets would bolster electricity demand by "approximately 3.4 percent (by 2030), 16 percent (by 2040) and 22.6 percent (by 2050) of today's domestic electrical power demand." 

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