Week 14, April 6: Renewable Electricity
This is one of the 26 segments of Guy Dauncey’s Climate Emergency: A 26-Week Transition Program for Canada. Excerpted by permission.
In 2017, the generation of electricity from fossil fuels produced 74 Mt (10.3%) of Canada’s emissions. Renewable energy has become the cheapest option for new power generation. Onshore wind and solar PV power are now less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance. In 2018, the IRENA Report on Renewable Energy Generation Costs concluded that during 2018 commercially available renewable power generation technologies became even more affordable:
- Bioenergy costs declined by 14%
- Solar PV costs declined by 13%
- Onshore wind costs declined by 13%
- Hydropower costs declined by 12%
- Geothermal costs declined by 1%
- Offshore wind costs declined by 1%.
The levelized cost of land-based wind power has fallen to 1.5-3 cents/kWh in the US, 3.7 cents in Alberta. The levelized cost of offshore wind has fallen to US 4.7 cents/kWh, 6.23 cents Canadian.
Priced over 30 years, utility-scale solar now costs 3-5 cents/kWh in America, 4-6 cents in Canada, which is much cheaper than new gas-fired or nuclear power. The yield of a solar panel falls by 0.5% a year, while the efficiency of new solar panels is rising by 0.5% a year. New residential solar PV priced over 30 years costs 7 cents/kWh, compared to current utility prices of 10-15 cents/kWh, 13-20 cents/kWh by 2030. The Stanford report referenced in the introduction finds that Canada has 92 GW of residential solar potential, of which 19% (17.5 GW) will be needed, and 176 GW of commercial and governmental solar potential, of which 60% will be needed.
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In 2018 Canada consumed 640 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity. The Jacobson Stanford report estimated that by 2050 Canada will need 1,327 TWh of electricity, including planned storage by various means for grid stability. Compared to business-as-usual (BAU), the needed end-load capacity falls from 404.5 GW to 152 GW. 33.3% of the reduction is due to the greater efficiency of electric vehicles and heat pumps, 23% to the elimination of upstream fossil fuel demand, and 6% to policy-driven increases in end-use efficiency beyond BAU. The Jacobson/Stanford data for Canada is here.
In the data below I have adjusted the assumed capacity factor for solar PV downwards, from 19% to a more realistic 14%. Canada’s future energy will be produced by:
- Onshore wind: 33% = 183 GW (49% capacity factor) = 785 TWh/year
- Offshore wind: 9% = 30 GW (56% capacity factor) = 147 TWh/year
- Geothermal: 2.63% = 5 GW (86% capacity factor) = 37 TWh/year
- Hydro: 23.6% = 81 GW (same as today) (51% capacity factor) = 390 TWh/year
- Residential solar: 7.6% = 12 GW (14% capacity factor) = 15 TWh/year
- Commercial and government solar: 14.6% = 98 GW (14% capacity factor) = 120 TWh/year
- Utility solar: 8.9% = 34 GW (14% capacity factor) = 42 TWh/year.
Jobs: An average of 238,000 installation, operations and maintenance jobs per year will be generated through the installation of wind and solar (jobs data from IRENA – the International Renewable Energy Association). [Check Dauncey’s site for the full calculation—Ed.]
Investment: With the exception of $5 billion invested in community renewable energy, the investment in wind, solar and geothermal energy is assumed to come from the private sector. Capital costs are assumed at:
- $1.6 million per MW for onshore wind ($14.6 billion a year)
- $6.5 million per MW for offshore wind ($9.75 billion a year)
- $1.06 million per MW for solar PV ($7.1 billion a year
- Total: $31 billion a year.
Solar and wind costs: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/assumptions/pdf/table_8.2.pdf
Land: The total area needed is 425 square kilometres for the footprint of wind and solar devices (0.005% of Canada’s land) and 8,700 square kilometres for spacing between the turbines (0.096% of Canada’s land), which can also be used for farming and utility solar PV. The average cost of new renewables between 2020 and 2050 is 7 cents/kWh. The total investment needed is $914 billion, most of which will come from private investors and be repaid by Canadians’ monthly utility payments. To speed the transition to 100% renewable energy:
- We will phase out coal-fired electrical utilities in Canada by 2027, three years earlier than our current target, though units may be kept on standby or in reduced operation until 2030 for transition flexibility.
- We will work with the provinces to phase out gas-fired electrical utilities by 2030, though units may be kept on standby or in reduced operation until 2033 for transition flexibility.
- We will requiredependency on diesel as the primary source of heat and power in off-grid situations to end by 2030, though generators may remain available for back-up grid stability and for use in emergencies.
- To encourage investments in renewable energy, we will cut tax rates by 50%for companies and social enterprises that develop, manufacture and install zero-emissions technology.
- We will advance legislation enabling the community and cooperative ownershipof renewable energy projects, guaranteeing their right to participate in Canada’s energy transition, and making it illegal for a power utility to discriminate against local power producers and social enterprises, or to levy solar fees to discourage uptake.
- To encourage local investment, we will expand the Clean Power Fund into a 5% interest $5 billion per year Community Renewable Energy Development Fundto ensure that smaller entities including First Nations, farmers, cooperatives and social enterprises are able to compete with private corporations and keep locally generated income within local communities. Cost: $5 billion per year (#34)
- We will work with such entities to establish a Canadian Community Energy Collaborative, using their share purchasing power to increase financial resilience and protection against risk.
- 5 GW of residential installations is approximately 4.5 million solar rooftops, or 450,000 a year over ten years. Each installation costs on average $10,000, and generates solar earnings of $1,000 a year. To accelerate uptake, the Bank of Canada will act as buyer of last resort for $4.5 billion in PAYS and PACE Solar Loansin provinces and territories that are working to close down coal and gas-fired power generating facilities, or which need to generate more power to meet demand. Cost: $4.5 billion (#33)
- We will rewrite Canada’s Building Codeto require every new building with clear southern exposure in similar provinces and territories as above to have the optimum number of solar panels, starting in 2021. Model: France.
Nuclear power: Nuclear power in Ontario produces 15% of Canada’s power. We do not support the construction of new nuclear plants because of the heavy opportunity cost resulting from the long period of time needed to plan, win approval and build a nuclear plant, when the same investment could generate much more wind and solar power without undue delays. Nor do we support extending the life of existing, obsolete facilities. We are also concerned about the non-sustainability of uranium mining, the health hazards at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, and the global security risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.