A new hydrogen opportunity for Canada (with caveats), why we're missing a window to meet Paris targets, and how renewables stocks beat fossil fuels three times over


Canada enters the global battery race

The governments of Canada and Quebec announced last week that they are investing $100 million in a new battery assembly plant north of Montreal for Quebec-based EV manufacturer Lion Electric’s buses and trucks. The facility, which is expected to be fully operational by 2023, is set to employ 135 people.

It’s a big step forward for Canada’s plans to join the global battery race, which is already moving fast. Only last week, Volkswagen announced it will open six new battery factories in Europe to ramp up battery production and bring down the sticker price of its EVs. The move comes as the company rolled out its strategy to beat Tesla saying it wants to be the Android to Tesla's Apple

But despite these steps forward, China is still arguably the strongest global battery competitor with over three-quarters of the world’s battery cell manufacturing capacity. And to that point, Chinese-owned Geely Motors (the 18th-biggest automaker in the world by revenue, ahead of Volvo and Subaru) announced last week that it will invest US$5 billion in a new battery facility in China. 

The battery afterlife

With millions more batteries being made, finding solutions for their end of life is increasingly important. So it is great to see Hyundai strike a deal with Quebec-based battery recycler Lithion to implement a recycling and recovery program for its EV batteries. Lithion’s technology can “recover up to 95% of spent battery materials, which can then be used in new batteries.” 

A hydrogen handshake

The Canadian government has signed an agreement with Germany to work together on the energy transition, with a particular focus on clean hydrogen. As Germany’s ambassador to Ottawa put it, “Germany is probably the world’s most interesting market for hydrogen right now, and Canada is potentially a very big power in its production.” At the same time, Europe’s largest economy is signalling that it is most “interested in importing 'green' hydrogen, which is derived from non-fossil fuel sources.”

Window of climate opportunity is closing

A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency has found that the world needs to step up its deployment of renewables with investments of US$4.4 trillion needed annually until 2050. The agency’s director general highlighted that the “window of opportunity” to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement was closing fast.

Friendly climate competition

Now that the U.S. is back in the climate fight, it is time for Canada to up its game, according to a new op-ed by authors from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute. As the op-ed reads, “Canada should be proud of its progress on climate in the past four years without a U.S. partner, but now the ambition of the Biden administration has raised the bar (and) we should seize the opportunity.”

U.S. looks Canada for minerals to build batteries

In other good news for Canada's place in the battery race, the U.S. department of commerce held a closed-door meeting last week with miners and EV manufacturers, including Tesla, to find ways to boost Canadian production of battery materials. Officials reportedly stressed the need to “act now to build a U.S.-Canada EV supply chain, much like Europe has been doing and Asia has already done.”

EVs accelerate faster

Demand for EVs in Canada is showing no signs of slowing, with a new KPMG survey finding that 68% of Canadians are likely or very likely to buy an EV for their next car. As one headline put it, electric vehicle use is set to “skyrocket” even in provinces like Alberta where residents are slightly less inclined to go electric (54% of Albertans are likely to buy an EV). Meanwhile, demand in P.E.I. is set to increase after the provincial government said it will introduce a rebate of $5,000 for new and used EVs.

Geothermal heating up

Canada’s geothermal industry is heating up following two big announcements in as many weeks. Last week, the developer of a geothermal project in Alberta revealed it has found the underground temperatures required to create power, a “significant milestone that could shape the future of energy in the province.” The Alberta news follows a big step forward for a new geothermal project operated by the Fort Nelson First Nation in B.C., which is expected to produce enough electricity to power 14,000 homes.

U.K. updates

The U.K. announced last week that it is halfway to meeting its net-zero commitment, thanks in large part to a pandemic-related fall in emissions. As this analysis puts it, this milestone illustrates the progress made to date, but the nature of the decline in 2020 also highlights the challenges ahead. One of those challenges, industrial emissions, is being tackled in the government’s new Industrial Decarbonization Strategy, which was released last week and aims to slash industrial emissions by two-thirds over the next 15 years. 

The rise of renewables

Renewables continue to shine in the world of energy financing, with global renewable power stocks posting a whopping 426% return since 2010, beating fossil fuels by more than threefold. The news isn’t just good for existing renewable investors but for the whole industry. According to analysis by the International Energy Agency and Imperial College, “Superior returns from green power could help push investors to provide the capital necessary to scale up low-carbon power sources in the coming years.”

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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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