Why Quebec is spending billions on buses, how Canada's largest solar farm is changing the oil patch, and why zero-emissions flights could be closer than you think


Week one of COP26

We’re halfway through COP26 and the developments (and, in some cases, disappointments) are too numerous to detail in a newsletter, but here are the headlines. And if you want some background before diving in, head over to our latest media brief, which offers a rundown of topics up for discussion and their relevance to Canada.

More than 40 countries—including Canada—have committed to ending all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally, leading the U.K. business and energy secretary to declare that “the end of coal is in sight.” And while a number of heavy coal users like Poland and Vietnam have signed on the dotted line, some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent countries, namely China, India, Australia and the U.S., failed to commit.

Canada also joined 19 other countries in committing to stop financing fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of the year in what has been hailed a “historic” step. But major Asian countries responsible for the majority of overseas fossil fuel financing did not make the commitment. Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada used the conference as a platform to make new climate change commitments that will see it better assess climate-related risks to Canada’s economy.

The Glasgow breakthrough

COP26 also yielded a new international plan, termed the Glasgow Breakthroughs, to mobilize key clean technologies over the next decade. As I told the Weather Network, the “Breakthrough exists to help encourage the massive scale-up of the technologies needed, making them widely commercially available and the predominant, lowest cost option.” 

Indigenous voices at COP26

Canadian non-profit Indigenous Clean Energy is running several sessions at COP26 next week on the role of Indigenous communities in the energy transition. As Indigenous Clean Energy’s James Harper put it, “We will not meet our climate targets unless Indigenous peoples are empowered.” And there are several recent examples of the importance of Indigenous-led clean energy projects. In Nova Scotia, the Neqotkuk First Nation's wind farm recently started providing revenue the nation is planning to use for infrastructure improvements, such as new housing and road repairs. And in the Yukon, Old Crow Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm explains how his remote village is planning to be carbon neutral by 2030 (other municipalities, take note).

An American payday for ecobee

Canadian cleantech company ecobee is selling out to American manufacturer Generac Holdings Inc. after e-commerce giant Amazon announced it would soon be a competitor. While this means another Canadian cleantech star is acquired by a U.S. firm, the company received a substantial purchase price of up to US$770 million. Ecobee CEO Stuart Lomard said, “There are huge opportunities for us to grow the business and do it at a much bigger scale, much faster.” 

Billions on buses

Quebec is making a major electric bus investment, with the provincial and federal governments together with private companies spending $5 billion on buses and associated infrastructure. The Quebec government says it’s in discussions with Quebec electric bus manufacturers, such as Novabus and Lion Electric, but that “a foreign manufacturer could very well win the contract.”

The name of the game is fossil fuels

The latest in this new series on emissions data from Canada's biggest polluters makes it clear: “If Canada wants to make a meaningful dent in its industrial carbon emissions… the name of the game is fossil fuels.” As I told the National Observer, “there’s no credible pathway to net-zero by 2050 that allows for oil and gas production to still exist.... But other heavy industries, like cement or steel making, are the foundations on which the economy is built, making the industries critical beyond 2050.”

It’s the economy, stupid (but also the emissions)

It’s not just emissions issues that plague the oil patch. According to new research, “half the world's fossil fuel assets could become worthless by 2036,” and countries that are slow to decarbonize will “suffer” while early movers will profit. On the bright side, the study finds that “renewables and freed-up investment will more than make up for the losses to the global economy.”

The largest solar farm

The bright side of the energy transition isn’t just metaphorical. Alberta will soon be home to Canada’s largest solar farm, which, when complete, will host 1.3-million solar panels over a 3,300-acre area. But more than that, the project is providing “much-needed jobs and investment in the area” while utilizing Alberta's North-American-leading renewable resources.

An EV sales update

According to new data, electric vehicle sales (for both battery electrics and plug-in hybrids) made up 5% of Canada’s total market share in the third quarter of 2021. In B.C., however, the share grew to 13%, while in Quebec it was 10%. Ontario lagged with a paltry 3%. Germany, meanwhile, just announced that EVs accounted for more than 30% of new car sales in the month of October—a new record. 

Zero to a hundred

U.S. startup Wright Electric is proving that the sky really is the limit when it comes to zero-emission passenger transportation. The company says its 100-passenger, all-electric plane made from retrofitted jet aircraft could be ready in only six years—a lot quicker than expected.

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Clean Energy Review is a weekly digest of climate and clean energy news and insight from across Canada and around the world.

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