July 28, 2011
final report in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Saskatchewan series “Transforming Saskatchewan’s Electrical Future,” former Saskatchewan Cabinet Minister Peter Prebble outlines the public policies that will be required to truly transform Saskatchewan into a renewable energy leader.
"The Public Policies Needed to Build a Renewable Energy Society in Saskatchewan" observes that our province is blessed with a remarkable array of wind, solar, small-scale hydro and biomass resources for our population size. The time has come to fully utilize these resources to build a renewable energy economy. Not only could this be an important source of job creation and community based economic development, but it could also be part of Saskatchewan’s larger plan to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution, something every jurisdiction on Earth must do if dangerous climate change is to be avoided.
The experience of other parts of the world suggests that good public policy plays a crucial role in successfully developing renewable energy potential. In this newly released report, several public policy initiatives are proposed that could transform our province into a renewable energy leader. These include:
• The Provincial Government should adopt legislation requiring that Saskatchewan meet at least 40% of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2020. This would mean that the contribution of renewable electricity to Saskatchewan’s grid would more than double by the end of the decade.
• New mandates should be set for SaskPower and SaskEnergy that direct both Crown Corporations to give high priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy development
• The practicality of Saskatchewan moving towards a renewable energy economy is underlined by the fact that in the U.S. and Europe more than half the electricity installations in 2008 and 2009 were renewable energy technologies. In other words, installation of technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels and biomass generation plants outstripped all new nuclear power installations, new coal fired power plants and new natural gas generation facilities combined.
• Between now and 2018 SaskPower should work with local communities to install 600MW of wind turbines at a diversified set of locations, 125MW of small scale hydro and 125MW of biomass generation. During that same period SaskPower should invest in measures to achieve 300MW of electricity efficiency. It should also encourage more electricity co-generation projects in Saskatchewan, import more hydro from Manitoba and use feed in tariffs to encourage community based investments in solar power plant, biogas generation facilities and other renewable electricity projects.
• The incorporation of energy efficiency measures into Saskatchewan’s building code. For example, Energy Star (E-80) could become the energy efficiency standard for new home construction.
• New training programs are needed to help create a workforce with the skills and knowledge to lead the transition to a renewable energy economy.
• Coal fired power plants should be gradually phased out in Saskatchewan. Over the next eight years 400MW of coal fired power production could be shut down. Coal fired power plants are a major source of greenhouse gas pollution.
• New work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasizes that it is not the availability of renewable energy resources, but rather the public policies that are implemented, that will most determine the rate at which renewable energy develops in the years ahead.
The final section of the report updates the reader on the latest developments in the field of climate change. The report examines the relationship between rising greenhouse gas emissions and intense precipitation events, which lead to flooding. Last year floods and storms displaced 38 million people worldwide. As average global temperatures rise each decade, more parts of the world are also subject to drought. The amount of land in the world considered to be very dry has more than doubled since 1970.
The United Nations is warning that a continued failure to address greenhouse gas emissions and their consequences is putting at risk decades of progress in improving life for the world’s poorest people.
Given the very long lived nature of greenhouse gases and their rapid build-up in the atmosphere, human society now has only a short time left to sharply curb these dangerous pollutants or face catastrophic and irreversible effects. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has clearly shown that renewable energy technologies can play an enormous role in averting the climate crisis. Saskatchewan should act now to build a renewable energy future that will benefit all generations to come.