The next commodities supercycle, a Super Bowl advert that's more than just an advert, and a clean energy-themed virtual vacation


Links in the chain

As auto companies firm up plans to manufacture more EVs, so the industry around them grows. It’s an opportunity for Canada in many ways. As I told Bloomberg, “The thing about (zero-emissions) transportation, in the context of Canada, is that this isn't just an emissions reduction plan; it’s also an economic plan.” New deals to make EVs in Ontario have already secured thousands of jobs. But the opportunities go much further in  the supply chain.

Canada is home to the metals and minerals needed to make electric vehicles, including in the oil patch. As a recent CBC article put it, “It may sound paradoxical, but electric cars could soon be an economic driver for oil-rich Alberta.”

And as the new U.S. administration touts its EV ambition, it opens the door for Canada’s abundant natural resources, many of which are already low-carbon or well-positioned to become so. A door that the prime minister appears to want to use, saying in an interview last week that, “The integration of our economies, of our supply chains... I think gives a real opportunity for us to really take some leaps forward.”

Something big is coming

The opportunity isn’t limited to North America. EVs are gathering speed around the world, driving speculation of a new commodity supercycle. Except this time, demand for sustainably sourced commodities (BMW just decided it will only buy aluminum made with solar power) could give Canada a real edge. After all, our power grid is already one of the cleanest in the world. 

Tailpipe tales

In another signal of shifting auto attitudes, automakers embroiled in a legal fight to maintain Trump-era tailpipe pollution regulations have dropped their support for the weakened standards. The U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency is expected to draft an interim version of the regulations based on those put forward by California, which are weaker than the original Obama-era regulations but stronger than Trump’s. Already a trailblazer in cutting tailpipe pollution, California also released its new zero-emission vehicle strategy last week. This is worth paying attention to as it impacts our own pollution-cutting efforts because tailpipe regulations in the U.S. are automatically adopted by reference in Canada.

EVs in the Super Bowl

Then there’s General Motors’ new Super Bowl advert featuring Will Ferrell on a mission to beat Norway at EVs (watch it below). In addition to the chuckles it will bring viewers as they tuck into their bag of chips, it also signals a monumental shift from the company that brought us GMC trucks and the Hummer, as they double down on their EV efforts.

"No way Norway"

Climate still top of mind

As the Biden administration approaches its third week on the job, climate action remains at the forefront of the agenda, with Prime Minister Trudeau reportedly discussing the topic on his first call with Vice President Harris last week. As my colleague Merran Smith told CBC’s The Current, the new climate-conscious U.S. wants clean, low-carbon products. “We're here next door to them and could be delivering them.” 

Range relief

Better technology is bringing relief to prospective EV owners with range anxiety. As this Weather Network piece put it, “The distance an electric vehicle can travel significantly increased in 2020.” Not only do new EVs have bigger ranges but there are more places to charge them. According to Electric Autonomy Canada, the number of public charge points across the country has grown 15% since the start of the pandemic

Public ahead of the call

Businesses in British Columbia could be eligible for up to $4,000 in funding for new charging infrastructure under a provincial government rebate system. According to our recent polling, six out of 10 British Columbians are interested in EVs, while a similar proportion would also prefer to see investments in clean energy over LNG. As economist Marc Lee said in a new piece about the polling, “I think the public is actually way ahead of the call (to move away) from fossil fuels.” 

Here comes the sun

Despite huge increases in rooftop solar installations in countries around the world, many of them less sunny than Canada, many Canadians are still in the dark when it comes to understanding and receiving the benefits of residential installments. But there are signs of change in Nova Scotia, where a newly launched energy efficiency program includes $5.5 million for rebates to homeowners installing solar panels.

Take a clean energy trip

You might not be able to travel, but here are two big clean energy destinations for a virtual vacation. A proposed new 120,000-square-metre “clean energy island” probably won’t appear in Denmark’s next edition of Lonely Planet, but it will host the infrastructure needed for an offshore wind expansion that aims to supply electricity for three million homes. And if an island in the North Sea isn’t for you, then try the “world’s biggest battery” (with 1,200 megawatts of capacity), which is set to be built in Australia.

Sailing strategies

BC Ferries, which operates one of the world’s largest ferry fleets, has big electric ambitions. Not only is it hoping to fully electrify its current diesel electric hybrid ferries, the publicly owned company is also seeking funding to expand the number of electric ships in its fleet. And, as a bonus, it would like them to be made here in Canada.

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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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