TIME AND MONEY SHOULD NOT BE DIVERTED INTO THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLEAN AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
With a population quickly approaching 36 million, combined with an increasing usage per capita (World Bank), Canada’s energy demands have been higher than ever. Recent technological innovations have not only increased the efficiency of energy conversion, but have also increased the variety of energy options available. The merits of the use of renewable energy sources as opposed to those for the use of nonrenewable sources have been a source of debate these past decades. In spite of its benefits, it is evident that Canada should not invest its time and money in renewable energy, and should instead opt for both conventional and innovative types of finite energy sources.
The Canadian government has plans to invest substantial amounts in these new resources (National Observer). These contributions will cost the Canadian taxpayer enormously. Electricity is an essential resource that our society has grown to consume in large amounts, therefore it has become necessary to produce it as cheaply as possible. The cost of electricity predicted for 2020 in the United States by the Energy Information Administration ranks natural gas as one of the cheapest sources of energy: it only costs $72.60 per megawatt hour (MWh) using an advanced combined cycle, which is a large facility that burns fuel to convert into electricity and subsequently manages to trap additional heat to turn into steam, which maximizes electricity yield. This is monumentally cheaper than, for example, offshore wind and concentrated solar power which cost on average $196.90 and $239.70 per MWh respectively (EIA).
While there are cheaper renewable energy alternatives, they have proven to be extremely problematic. Though geothermal energy is the cheapest available energy source, costing under $50 per KWh (EIA), this requires a significant amount of volcanic activity, which is scarce on the West coast and non-existent anywhere east of British Columbia (Volcano Discovery). Still more expensive that natural gas, onshore wind farms, photovoltaic solar panels, and hydroelectricity all have ultimately compromising complications. Wind farms and solar panels rely respectively on wind and sun to produce energy, which isn’t always present given Canada’s climate. In addition, storing energy from these sources is often problematic, as the process requires the energy to either be immediately used, or be harnessed in immense, costly batteries (Scientific American). Harnessing and storing such energy are only a few of the logistical problems associated with using these renewable energy sources.
Quebec’s Robert-Bourassa hydroelectric dam is 53 stories tall, and is hence capable of producing large quantities of energy (Hydro-Québec). To build and maintain a facility of this magnitude, enormous amounts of space is required. A demand for such an expanse of land and specific operational requirements for a hydroelectric dam results in compromised ecosystems due to deforestation and river blockage. Furthermore, there are few regions that would be appropriate to construct reusable energy facilities. Again, they take up a significant amount of space and consume either valuable urban space or ravage the countryside’s wildlife. Such facilities similarly force the establishment of new energy transportation infrastructure. The time, money, and government resources required to enable such power harnessing would be astronomical. Why invest Canada’s time, money, space, and resources building such facilities when the government has already established alternate ways to convert natural resources into energy?
One of our nation’s primary economic sectors is located in the Canadian prairies, where crude oil is abundant. In office, Stephen Harper exploited this sector, turning it into a staple of Canada’s economy (Maclean’s). The time and money invested into refining this sector has been significant. Whether you have noticed it or not, Canada’s crude oil industry has strengthened our economy greatly. If we choose to ignore our oil’s local and global demand, we may significantly harm our relations with countries, such as China, that depend on these resources and have been negotiating with the Canadian government to enable trade agreements. Without being able to supply this demand, our economy will stagnate and the value of the Canadian dollar will plummet. In 2015, an estimated 175 billion liters of raw oil was produced by Canada and over 70% of it was exported to other countries (Canadian National Energy Board). Relying on renewable energy to maintain Canada’s export to foreign nations is virtually impossible due to the overseas electrical transmission lines required to move electricity (Edison Tech), assuming Canada managed to produce an excess amount of electricity.
This is not the only way we will change Canadian lives. Today, many people still rely on gasoline to operate vehicles and to power gas stoves and furnaces for example. We have become accustomed to rely on gasoline, having purchased over 42.2 billion liters in 2015 (Statistics Canada). The dependency on nonrenewable sources that we’ve developed in these past centuries cannot be undone instantaneously. Introducing fully renewable and extremely costly energy sources would simply be a consequential inconvenience for the people of Canada and its economy.
Presently, Canada should not invest in renewable energy. Until research progresses on finding the most economical and effective methods to capture, store and transport renewable energy, it is clearly simpler and more beneficial, because of existing advanced technologies used to extract and convert traditional sources, for Canada to carry on using these reliable energy sources.
Written by MWR writer Bryden Cheong, edited by MWR reviewer Camille Hamant
THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD DIVERT MONEY AND TIME INTO THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLEAN AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
With the Canadian government having pledged to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 (Mass, Cullen, 2016), concrete action will be needed to meet this goal, which is why the government should invest in clean energy. Furthermore, an investment in green energy would actually be in the government’s best interests.
Traditionally, the hefty price tag associated with clean power has been one of the main barriers to investing in green energy. However, the cost of green energy alternatives has actually dropped significantly in the past few years and is now in some cases actually cheaper to produce than non-renewable energy. In fact, the price of a solar module dropped 75% between 2009 and 2015 (Amin, 2015) and nuclear energy is on average more than three times more expensive to produce than wind, solar and small hydro in the Americas (Bloomberg New Energy Finance).
One of the main reasons the Canadian government should invest in the development of clean energy is the significant potential for job creation it brings along with it. Moreover, some of the biggest job opportunities are now in the renewable energy sector, and no longer in oil and gas. Europe has added 180,000 green jobs per year between 1999 and 2008 while China has created 1.1 million jobs in its solar sector (Dubitsky, 2014). This could be the opportunity for Canada to reinvigorate its stagnating tech sector.
Another reason for the government to invest in clean energy is the fact that most Arctic communities in Canada use expensive and highly polluting diesel generators for all of their power needs. Using renewable energy options could save communities such as Iqaluit as much as 10% of their energy costs, which adds up to about $2 million in savings over 10 years, according to a study done by the University of Waterloo. Thus, a government investment in green energy could be extremely helpful to these communities.
The final argument for a government investment in clean energy is to help mitigate climate change. Canada and other nations must act fast if they wish to keep the rise in global surface temperature below 2 oC and avert an environmental disaster.
Written by MWR writer Ila Ghoshal, edited by MWR reviewer Keyvan Mohammad-Ali