Electric vehicles and charging infrastructure
Electric vehicles (EVs) emit no greenhouse gases (GHG) and are a proven option for significantly reducing CO2 emissions worldwide. If consumers, businesses, and municipalities don’t shift toward EVs or vehicles that run on cleaner fuel, the Canadian transportation sector is expected to produce about 170 megatonnes of CO2 per year by 2050. But with advances in EV technology, the sector can reduce its CO2 emissions to fewer than 20 megatonnes per year—the amount necessary for Canada to meet its net-zero target by 2050.
Canada is already a world leader in renewable energy. With its large land mass and diversified geography, the country has substantial renewable resources—including hydro, wind, biomass, solar, geothermal, and tidal energy—that can be used to produce electricity. The challenge will be affordability; otherwise, governments risk significant backlash from citizens who are trying to decarbonize by using electric power. They also risk compromising the competitiveness of industries that are transitioning to using this resource.
Direct contact steam generation (DCSG)
DCSG can reduce GHG emissions produced during bitumen extraction by up to 85% while minimizing the need for fresh water and eliminating expensive water-treatment processes. This ultimately lowers the costs, as well as the environmental price, of bitumen extraction. DCSG has not yet been commercialized at scale, so questions about true costs and efficacy remain.
Hydrogen production from natural-gas reformation and coal gasification can be a major source of carbon emissions. Green hydrogen could be produced moving forward by including carbon capture storage (CCS) systems in existing and future plants. CCS has the potential not just to eliminate carbon emissions from hydrogen production, but also to capture additional emissions from the air, which could be critical in attaining Canada’s 2050 net-zero target.
Liquid and solid biofuels
Expanding the use of biofuels and other non-fossil clean fuels from 7% in 2017 to 10%–15% by 2030 would reduce GHG emissions by 15 million tonnes per year. Additionally, their use can potentially displace a significant amount of diesel and gasoline use.
Small modular reactors (SMRs)
SMRs have the potential to reduce reliance on coal and diesel, especially in remote communities, thus helping Canada to reach net-zero by 2050. They could also help to drive deep industrial decarbonization, including green mining, and provide opportunities for new applications for nuclear energy, such as space exploration.
Electric heating for buildings
Electric heating systems could decrease energy demands in Canadian buildings by 2050 by as much as 35%. These gains would come without curtailing building services, since about 85% of reductions would stem from heating and cooling savings. A shift to electric-power sources could also potentially reduce resulting CO2 emissions from more than 40 megatonnes per year.
A microgrid is a small network of distributed, often renewable, energy sources. They can help to integrate more highly distributed sources of renewable energy generation into Canada’s main power grid while increasing energy resiliency and affordability, especially for smaller towns and remote communities. Microgrids can provide a vital service for the almost 300 remote communities in Canada, many of which use diesel generators to produce electricity.
Battery-storage technology is readily available and rapidly becoming more economical. It can convert variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power into immediately available electricity. If fully utilized, it could contribute more than 60 terawatt hours of electricity to the grid by 2050 to help Canada reach net-zero emissions.
CCS and direct air capture (DAC)
CCS and DAC are projected to be essential not just for attaining Canada’s net-zero goal but also for hitting global targets by 2050. CCS technologies could potentially capture more than 150 megatonnes of CO2 per year in Canada by 2050, but it would require sizable investments to be widely implemented across heavily polluting industries.
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