It is an important time in energy politics. Last month the federal government released Budget 2019. While the budget was positive overall for Smart Energy Communities in Canada, a more important story is about to unfold.
The federal election is set for October 21, 2019 and it’s time to remind all federal parties that their election platforms need to support smart energy at the community level. Since we all come with a different understanding of what that means, let me give you a definition:
A Smart Energy Community seamlessly integrates local, renewable, and conventional energy sources to efficiently, cleanly, and affordably meet its energy needs. It is a coveted, highly livable place to live, work, learn, and play.
You may be thinking “of course smart energy policy will be a part of the conversation!”. Carbon pricing for example, whether parties are for or against, has been in campaign promises as far back as the 2008 federal election. And don’t get me wrong, carbon pricing is a necessary tool for curbing pollution and stimulating innovation, but those debates have overshadowed what is actually taking place in our energy sector.
Sometimes missing from the conversation is what is happening at home in each of our communities. Think about the importance of energy policy at the local level. It’s how we get from point A to point B, access water, heat our homes and businesses, manage waste, pave streets, build homes, turn on the lights, and the list goes on.
Communities account for over half of total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Political parties need to recognize that communities are on the front lines of the transformation and disruption taking place in the energy sector – and they need support.
Climate policy, innovation, new technology and financial tools, consumer choice, and the declining cost of renewables are making lower emissions distributed energy resources a competitive alternative. This recent blog by Tonja Leach provides a good overview of the drivers of change and the transformation in the energy sector.
This transformation is creating new economic opportunities for our communities. When we talk about communities we mean – local utilities, municipalities, builders and developers, energy service providers, governments, businesses, and even homeowners. Never before has it been as easy as it is now to participate in the energy market. Everyone is impacted.
These opportunities, however, need to be balanced by significant risk for the long-standing energy system imperatives of affordability, reliability, and safety. Consider the potential disruption to existing business models and the rate of return on existing generating assets that the introduction of more distributed energy resources will cause. In addition, the emergence of digital and smart technologies also raise concerns with data management and privacy issues.
There will be winners and losers as our energy sector transforms. It is happening at a different pace depending on where you live and while the future energy system will look mostly the same to the average Canadian, the rules and players could be vastly different. We know that the energy industry is grappling with unprecedented disruption and upheaval.
In the next federal election, policy platforms need to go beyond pricing pollution, they need to help communities adapt to a lower emissions future. QUEST will be looking to see support for community energy planning in each political platform.
This means support for developing and implementing community energy plans at the local level, energy efficiency and conservation, sustainable transportation, local renewable energy, for efficient water and wastewater systems, and climate adaptation and resilience – including infrastructure that can stand up to the strength of the storms and flood waters of our changing climate.
The federal government that is formed this fall can either put policies in place that will support or hinder this transformation. At this critical time, these decisions will have a long-lasting impact on the health and economic prosperity of all Canadian communities. While navigating this turbulent transformation may be daunting, policy positions which are well informed and based on data, centred around communities, and are non-prescriptive in nature must be a priority for every federal party.
Stay tuned to the QUEST mailing list for what the election will mean for Smart Energy Communities. We will be publishing policy statements that will serve as recommendations for federal parties as Canada moves into campaigning season. We will also keep our network informed with analysis on how the party platforms address Smart Energy Communities.
In case you missed the commentary and analysis in the days following the release of the 2019 federal budget, here is a breakdown…Read more
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