Clean, renewable electricity

Reliable, clean, renewable electricity is 100 per cent possible and will benefit the climate, health, communities and the economy

The clean electricity climate solution

It’s impossible to imagine modern life without electricity. As there will be many more electric cars to charge and buildings to heat and power electrically, we’ll be more than doubling the total electricity generated by 2050. The electricity used must come from clean sources to meet critical climate targets.

Canada is starting from a good position because its largely hydro-dominant energy grid is already relatively clean, and it has a wealth of wind and solar resources.

Transitioning off fossil fuel–powered electricity to clean, renewable sources is the foundation for many climate policies needed to effectively address the climate crisis.

What if we told you a 100 per cent clean power future was possible?

Have you been dreaming of an immediate, effective climate solution? Here’s one: getting off fossil fuels to power our electricity. Our modelling finds that you can have clean, reliable, affordable electricity across Canada. It will mean lots more renewable energy like wind and solar combined with energy storage, energy efficiency and better transmission connections. The good news is that 100 per cent clean electricity by 2035 is 100 per cent possible.

Shifting Power: Zero-Emissions Electricity Across Canada by 2035

This research is the first in Canada to model a pathway to 100 per cent zero-emissions electricity by 2035, ensuring we can meet our increasing electricity demand when and where we need it. As more electric vehicles and other electrified climate solutions come into our lives, swapping out fossil fuel–powered electricity for clean-powered electricity is essential. This report uses electricity system modelling to explore the potential for Canada to transition to clean electricity.

The research details how we can get to 100 per cent zero-emissions electricity by 2035 by prioritizing wind, solar, energy storage and interprovincial transmission, while also accounting for much more electrification being added in sectors like transportation.

The pathways modelled avoid the need for new large hydroelectricity, new nuclear generation or carbon capture and storage technologies in the electricity sector — a welcome direction from environmental and economic perspectives.

View the report

 

Key findings

Shifting power, zero-emissions electricity across Canada by 2035 report thumbnail
  • It’s possible: One hundred per cent zero-emissions electricity is possible in Canada by 2035 by primarily relying on wind and solar, and the technologies that enable them. TWEET THIS
  • It’s reliable: Energy efficiency, energy storage, existing hydroelectricity and grid connections between provinces work together so we can meet our demands for electricity where and when we need it. TWEET THIS
  • It’s affordable: Relying primarily on renewables like wind and solar is an affordable way to meet climate targets and the growing demand for electricity. It’s cheaper than business-as-usual alternatives. TWEET THIS
  • It creates new jobs in clean energy: Construction, operation and maintenance employment alone will grow to more than 75,000 jobs a year, resulting in close to two million job-years between 2025 and 2050. TWEET THIS
  • It meets climate goals: By switching out fossil fuel–powered electricity for cleaner, renewable sources, Canada can reduce emissions by more than 27 per cent, which is needed to meet its net-zero 2050 goal. TWEET THIS
  • It’s a win for the environment: The path to clean electricity does not need new large hydroelectricity or nuclear generation and avoids expensive and immature carbon capture and storage technologies. With careful planning and siting, we can limit landscape and biodiversity impacts of a growing number of renewable projects. TWEET THIS

View the report

Decarbonizing electricity requires decolonizing power

Front cover of a new report on decarbonizing electricity and decolonizing power

All existing and future energy projects in Canada are located on either unceded Indigenous territories or treaty lands. A clean electricity transition must ensure benefits flow to communities and will only succeed with full Indigenous consent and participation that upholds Indigenous rights and title. This report, authored by Neegan Burnside and Dean Jacobs, sets out six principles for upholding Indigenous rights and ensuring community benefits.

View the report

Say YES to clean renewable electricity

  Renewable electricity is reliable, affordable and good for jobs and climate

Sign now

Explainer

One hundred per cent clean renewable electricity is 100 per cent possible in Canada by 2035! More than three years of advanced energy modelling shows that this clean power pathway is reliable, affordable and good for communities, the economy and climate change.

FAQs

  • All models have limitations and are not predictive by design. The modelling simplifies the real world, seeking only least-cost solutions to building out future generation, storage and transmission capacity to meet future energy demand within scenario settings and constraints. Other factors will need to influence the grid of the future, including local preference for what renewable generation is built where, how provincial grid interties are strengthened and how electricity markets are structured. These pathways need to be technically feasible and socially acceptable.

    Off-grid and remote electricity systems and territorial grids or non-integrated electricity systems are beyond the scope of this report. Technologies such as offshore wind, geothermal generation, distributed energy resources, demand response, green hydrogen and hybrid projects (e.g., a project where solar generation and battery storage are bundled) were also beyond its scope.

  • Yes. The results challenge those who claim that renewables can’t play a leading role in the clean electricity transition. The sun may not always shine and the wind may not always blow, but the combination of solutions that are modelled in this report shows how a grid largely powered by renewables can deliver clean electricity reliably where and when it is needed across the country. Improvements to energy efficiency and battery storage technologies are essential.

    The scale of transformation is daunting. It would require an average annual build-out of wind and solar electricity projects never before seen in Canada. An average of more than 2,200 new four-MW wind turbines would be installed every year and more than 160 new 10-MW solar farms would be built each year. Interprovincial transmission will also need to expand at an unprecedented rate. An equivalent rate of adding renewable projects is already planned in places like Germany. By early 2022, Germany had installed 28,000 onshore wind turbines. By 2025, the country expects to be adding 10 GW of wind annually, similar to what our modelling scenarios would require.

  • The electricity system of the future will operate differently than the one we have today. Sharing wind, solar and hydro resources within and between provinces will make Canada’s electricity grid more reliable and flexible. Connections between regions together with energy storage and other grid upgrades will make it easier to deliver electricity where and when it’s needed.

    Sharing electricity between provinces will also cost less as the grid expands than having provinces rely on their own, separate systems. All provinces, regardless of their current electricity systems, can realize real benefits to a more connected electricity grid.

  • Yes. Building out wind and solar at this scale would affect large areas. Careful planning is needed to ensure that renewable infrastructure and transmission lines are located in landscapes in ways that minimize negative impacts on biodiversity. Where possible, all infrastructure projects should be evaluated for their potential to support biodiversity recovery and incorporate natural infrastructure.

    Impacts differ. In some agricultural landscapes, for example, wind farms can be located with relatively little impact. Areas that supply critical habitat for migratory birds would likely be poor candidates for a wind farm location. Likewise, prime agricultural lands are better suited for food production and would be a poor choice, in most instances, for locating a solar farm (though solar PV on farm buildings make good sense and can reduce farmers’ energy costs). Where possible, existing linear infrastructure, such as railway rights-of-way or highway corridors, should be considered for transmission lines to avoid additional habitat fragmentation.

  • Indigenous world views and knowledge need to be incorporated and respected within broader societal and economic value systems;

    Meaningful, rights-based and consent-based consultation must become common practice for all clean energy projects;

    Existing Indigenous leadership needs to be honoured and advanced through support for capacity, ownership opportunities and jobs;

    Indigenous leaders require a seat at decision-making tables, as decarbonizing electricity must also mean decolonizing power structures;

    Solving systemic infrastructure gaps for Indigenous communities through focused just transition measures must be prioritized as part of the clean energy transition; and

    Economic reconciliation must be central to the clean energy transition by removing barriers to accessing financial capital, ownership and other project benefits.

Zeroing in on emissions

The Zeroing in on Emissions: Charting Canada’s Clean Power Pathways study (also available in French) identifies ten strategies and approaches that experts agree will be essential to fast-track Canada’s decarbonization efforts. This review of decarbonization studies and models is a litmus test for effective climate plans that can reduce emissions to near zero by 2050.

 

Ten strategies and actions essential to any clean power climate plan