How Canada could be a global battery leader (and why we need to act now), Canada's best-selling vehicle goes electric, and why industrial policy's priorities are changing


The road to net-zero

Last week saw the release of the International Energy Agency’s landmark report, Net Zero by 2050, which maps out a pathway for the world to hit net-zero emissions by 2050 “while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth.”

The report is clear: for the world to reach net zero by 2050, global oil demand must have already peaked and gas demand will peak before 2030. As Clean Energy Canada’s Merran Smith said in a statement, “growing Canada’s oil and gas sector is inconsistent with a net-zero 2050. Canada must prepare for a future where oil is no longer our largest export.”  

In the IEA’s own words, “by 2050, the energy world looks completely different.” The good news is that we have what it takes to prosper in this different world. As the report notes, we already have all the technologies needed to reach our 2030 climate goals. And with a clean electricity grid, access to U.S., EU, and Asian markets, mature industries, and a skilled workforce, Canada is well-positioned. We need only choose to deliver our best and cleanest solutions.

Total energy supply in the net-zero economy:

Canada’s big battery opportunity

And speaking of our best and cleanest solutions, last week also saw the release of a new Clean Energy Canada report on how Canada can build its battery supply chain. The report was informed by stakeholders across the electric vehicle supply chain, including General Motors Canada, Lion Electric, the Mining Association of Canada, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, Unifor, and many others. As this Globe and Mail piece on the report points out, the “global race to develop industries around electric vehicle production just keeps heating up.” Canada has the right ingredients to be a global leader. With its known deposits of critical metals and minerals, automotive heritage, plenty of clean electricity (to power operations), and access to a well-integrated North American market, Canada could be a top supplier of sustainable batteries. But the window to act is closing and, as the report elaborates, action is needed. 

The new electric F-150 is here

Ford released its answer to electrifying North America’s roads last week: the new all-electric F-150 pickup, branded the F-150 Lightning. The gas-powered F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in Canada for 11 years in a row, and so it bodes well that Ford has said the new electric version will be priced similarly to its gas model. While there have been few reviews so far, President Biden was able to offer his opinion after he took the prototype for a spin, saying “this sucker's quick.”

Another car maker goes electric

In other auto news, this time in the supercar market, Lamborghini has announced that its entire lineup will be made up of plug-in hybrids by 2024, with an all-electric model following afterward. According to Lamborghini chief executive officer Stephan Winkelmann, the company is aiming to “keep the DNA of the brand unchanged” but hopes to reduce its emissions by at least 50% from 2025.

Industrial policy is changing

President Biden’s approach to building a clean economy is changing industrial policy, with implications for Canada’s exports. As the director of technology at the U.S.-based Center for Automotive Research put it, America’s industrial policy “had been that low-cost energy wins. [Biden] is shifting that to carbon-free energy is the industrial policy.” And as one UBC professor put it, “when the U.S. ‘does get ambitious’ it pressures all of its trading partners to ‘get moving as well.’” 

The value of low-carbon

This value shift from low-cost to low-carbon is good news for many Canadian industries that, thanks to Canada's largely non-emitting grid, are often cleaner than international competitors. But Canada isn’t always playing to its own advantage. As this piece in the Financial Post points out, the contractor building the new Pattullo Bridge in B.C. opted to source cheaper steel from abroad instead of Canada’s comparatively low-carbon version. Embracing our low-carbon industrial opportunity would have given Canadian suppliers a competitive advantage. 

Keeping up with the auto sector

Federal economic development agency FedDev Ontario is supplying $7.5 million toward the creation of Canada’s first auto mobility accelerator to help the region stay competitive in a “rapidly changing auto market.” According to the Windsor Star, the five-year plan will “provide programming, training and facilities to support the up-skilling of 1,350 auto mobility entrepreneurs and scaling firms” and will focus on, among other things, battery production and establishing an electric powertrain commercialization centre.

Assisting with the shift

The EU has approved a €17.5-billion fund to help its most coal-dependant regions shift to clean energy. As the member of the European Parliament who led the initiative said, people don’t “want to choose between climate protection and jobs.” The fund will help finance investment in renewables, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, and digital innovation. 

New tool helps towns set targets

A Nova Scotia MP has unveiled an online tool that helps municipalities across the country cut emissions. The system uses a database to gather information about localized energy use and helps users identify their emissions and set targets to reduce them. Creating such an inventory and plan would typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, and so the database removes the financial barrier for smaller municipalities.

Fuel for thought

If you’re looking for some low-carbon “fuel for thought” this week, why not tune into this discussion on Thursday hosted by the Empire Club of Canada featuring Clean Energy Canada’s Merran Smith. The panel, which also includes Suncor executive vice president Kris Smith and ARC Energy Research Institute deputy director Peter Tertzakian, will discuss the role of Canada’s transportation sector in a low-carbon future.

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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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