The missing ingredient for Canada's critical mineral industry, the problem with Ontario's approach to EV manufacturing, and some 'postcards from a world on fire'


A new mandate

The prime minister has sent mandate letters to his ministers, mapping out plans for his upcoming term. And there are plenty of climate-related directives to dive into.

We were pleased to see mentions of a zero-emission vehicle mandate—for both passenger and heavy duty vehicles—included in the letter to the minister for environment and climate change. The letter also reiterated the government’s commitment to reaching 100% clean electricity by 2035 and to cap oil and gas sector emissions at today’s levels.

The minister for natural resources also received instructions to build out Canada’s battery supply chain, including introducing a Critical Minerals Strategy and launching a Canada-U.S. Battery Alliance. This was coupled with directives to improve EV charging infrastructure and support “the production, distribution and use of clean fuels, including low or zero carbon hydrogen."

Buying clean 

It was also encouraging to see mentions of “Buy Clean” in the mandate letters, a strategy to use the buying power of the government to prioritize low-carbon goods, although it was not clear which ministry will take the lead. Buying clean is key to protecting and growing the low-carbon industries that will ensure Canada stays globally competitive. As I wrote in a new op-ed (co-written with leaders from several industry and labour associations), “Keeping high-paying jobs in Canada that will also help us meet our climate goals must be a top priority for the re-elected government—something that resonates across the political spectrum.” 

The EV supply crunch

Consultancy firm Dunsky has released an up-to-date survey of Canada’s EV inventory, which comes amid a global auto supply crunch. The report found that EV inventory levels increased compared to previous reports, suggesting automakers were starting to catch up with demand in late 2020 and early 2021. However, EVs are still unevenly distributed between provinces, with inventories focussed on Quebec and B.C.—the two provinces with strong EV policies in place. Yet another reminder that Canada needs to get the wheels turning on the promised zero-emission vehicle mandate.

Strategy needed

It’s increasingly clear the world is going to require a lot more metals and minerals on the road to net zero. Canada has many of them but is in need of a strategy (something we were pleased to see make an appearance in the mandate letters) to fully seize the economic opportunity. As I told the Canadian Press, Canada “needs to have a strategic focus about where we can win… We have finite resources, and so you want to make sure that you’re putting those finite resources in the place that can have the biggest impact.”

Fording the EV transition

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has had a love-hate relationship with electric vehicles during his time in office. After slashing funding and deleting EV policies early on in his tenure, his government is now making efforts to plug into the EV manufacturing opportunity. But as my colleague Joanna Kyriazis told the Narwhal and the Canadian Press, Ford is still missing half the equation: helping Ontarians actually drive electric vehicles. “Without more work to encourage domestic sales, most of the electric vehicles eventually produced in Ontario would just be shipped elsewhere.”

‘Buy local’ applies to EVs

Indeed, the concept of “build where you sell” is especially important for electric cars. As Joanna also pointed out in another Canadian Press story, "The batteries for EVs are… heavy and expensive and logistically challenging to transport over long distances. So we are seeing more regionalization or localization of supply chains." And with the U.S. still deliberating a protectionist approach to EV making, it’s more important than ever that Canada grows and maintains its EV building capabilities.

The other CER sees sense

As I wrote in last week’s CER (Clean Energy Review), the other CER (the Canadian Energy Regulator) failed to include a net-zero scenario in its recent energy outlook. As the National Observer points out, “In so doing, CER has understated risks to Canada’s economy and failed to inform looming policy decisions.” However, under direction from the new minister for natural resources, the regulator has course corrected, saying it will include such a scenario in next year’s outlook.

Rivian is going big

Electric vehicle startup Rivian Motors is no stranger to big dollar amounts. The company raised a massive US$12 billion in financing from an initial public offering earlier this year that saw its valuation soar to over US$100 billion. Now the automaker says it will build a huge US$5-billion battery and assembly plant in the state of Georgia that will employ 7,500 people. The facility could reportedly grow to 10,000 workers over time, making it one of the biggest in the country.

Untapped lithium supplies

For anyone following the global rise in demand for lithium, here’s a new Bloomberg story on the subject. Two miles under the Black Forest in Germany “is enough lithium for at least one million electric vehicles a year, and one miner says it can tap those reserves at roughly half the cost of competing sources and without discharging greenhouse gases.”

'Postcards from a World on Fire’

For some slightly sombre (but still incredibly worthwhile) reading to kick off your holiday week, don’t miss this new interactive story from the New York Times titled “Postcards from a World on Fire.” It offers a country-by-country snapshot of how climate change is affecting every corner of the globe, from flooding in Senegal to cyclones in Vanuatu to wooden skyscrapers in Norway. 

Happy Holidays

The Clean Energy Review is taking a break for the holidays. We hope you have a healthy and restorative festive period. Rest assured we’ll be back in the new year with the latest clean energy news.

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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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