Keynote Address: The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) 2017 Spring Forum

Speech

The Honourable Jim Carr
Minister of Natural Resources Canada
Keynote Address
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) 2017 Spring Forum
April 5, 2017
Gatineau, Quebec

 

Thank you very much for that warm introduction and for reminding us that a career has many posts along the way. When I was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 1988, I was 36 and I had three young kids. And now, here I am in a renewed political career, at 65 with six kids who aren’t young at all, and the number of things that have happened to our country along the way will be the subject of lots of reflection over time.

But I’m particular happy to be here to acknowledge that we are on Algonquin territory. You expect politicians to make that acknowledgment, because it’s the right thing to do. But it’s more than that: it’s an acknowledgment of the historic relationship that, as humans, we share with the land, the air and the water.

We take it for granted. Indigenous peoples don’t take it for granted because it is very much a part of their identity, with generational responsibilities looking back to those who came before and looking ahead to those who will follow us. So it’s something that we all should reflect on — the importance of that relationship — as we talk about Canada’s energy future.

It’s been said that there are only three elemental sounds in nature: falling rain, waves on a beach and the sound of wind in a primeval forest. Throughout history, human kind has been fascinated by the movement of air, its ability to push clouds, stir trees, fuel a fire or churn an ocean. Eventually, we learned to harness it, to fill our sails, grind our grain or pump our water.

Today, this essential force of nature is central to tackling one of our most pressing global challenges: climate change.

I’m proud to say that, through your efforts, Canada is becoming a world leader in wind energy. Canada has almost 12,000 megawatts of installed wind generating capacity — the eighth largest in the world. When I was talking to Robert [Robert Hornung, President of CanWEA] as we were ragging the puck and killing some time until the introduction, he reminded me that when he arrived in 2003, there was 350 megawatts, and now it’s 12,000. Who can deny that the pace of change is accelerating more rapidly than people ever thought possible?

More wind energy has been built in Canada in the last five years than any form of electricity generation. Today, it’s providing enough energy to power more than three million homes, and in many communities it’s now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply. From Rivière-du-Moulin in Quebec to the K2 wind power facility in Ontario, and I think I could add St. Leon in my own province of Manitoba, Canadians are realizing the benefits of wind energy.

With plans for new facilities in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, it’s clear that wind energy time has come. We’re well under way, but we’re still scratching the surface of our potential in Canada.

My message to you today is that our government is committed to addressing climate change, and we know that wind power will play a critical role.

Since coming to office, our dedication to combating climate change has been clear and consistent. We signed the Paris Agreement on climate change. We joined Mission Innovation, an international commitment to double spending on clean energy technology. We’ve begun to phase out coal-fired electricity. And we signed the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, a blueprint to reduce emissions, spur innovations, adapt to climate change and create good jobs. That agreement includes putting a price on carbon — something that many companies, including energy companies, describe as the best way to reduce emissions, spur innovation and drive energy efficiency.

In a debate that’s often characterized, particularly in the House of Commons, by sharp-edged partisanship, we occasionally — particularly through the eloquent tones of my colleague, Minister Catherine McKenna — talk about Conservative leaders and Reform leaders who have in the past talked about market adjustments, market-based mechanisms, of which carbon pricing is one. This is not an ideological issue. It’s an issue that puts us on a long road to sustainability, and it doesn’t belong to any one political party.

While every province and territory will have its own approach to carbon pricing, they’re all looking for ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. For wind energy, that spells opportunity. Climate change may be one of the great challenges of our time, but it also offers great opportunity for us. The global market for clean technologies is already more than one trillion dollars per year and growing. These technologies are transforming traditional sectors and opening up entire industries. Our government is working had to make sure that Canadian companies like yours capture their share of what we believe will be a growth story of the 21st century.

This conviction has been evident not only in the agreements we’ve signed but also in the investments we’ve made. In our first budget, we established a $2-billion low carbon economy fund to foster innovation and spur new ideas in clean technology. As part of our innovation agenda, we’re investing more than one billion dollars to support clean tech, including in the natural resource industries, and to encourage businesses to adopt renewable energy, including bringing more of it onto the grid. And we expanded the capital cost allowance for clean energy investments.

We’re advancing regional cooperation in electricity with discussions already under way in Western and Atlantic Canada, and we’re continuing to work with our continental partners to look for ways to bring more renewable energy onto the North American grid. I spent much of last week in Washington, D.C., and I met for the first time face to face with Secretary Perry who now has been confirmed as the American Secretary of Energy. You know that he was governor of Texas for almost 15 years. What you might not know is that, as governor of that oil and gas state, he took Texas to become the leading jurisdiction of promoting wind energy. He was very keen to talk to me about that and also our understanding that the North American energy environment is integrated, with Canada, the United States and Mexico sharing so much.

So I took away from that conversation and many others I had with decision-makers in Washington that we will find alignment between our three countries. Our recent budget built on these investments, providing — there are a lot of numbers, I apologize for them, but sometimes numbers tell a story, and I kind of feel happy to pass them on to you:

  • $21.9 billion for priorities in green infrastructure, including clean electricity and mart grid-to-grid interconnections
  • $220 million to support renewable energy technologies established abroad but not yet in Canada, such as offshore wind and geothermal
  • $220 million to reduce the reliance of northern and remote communities on diesel fuel by supporting clean, renewable energy infrastructure
  • $100 million for smart grid deployment and demonstration, a critical step to expanding the reach of renewable energy 
  • $12 million for a clean growth hub that will improve access to federal resources and labs for entrepreneurs and innovators

We’ve also committed to creating a national infrastructure bank, which will transform the way infrastructure is planned, funded and delivered in Canada. Significantly, one of its priorities will be electricity grid interconnections.

The budget also provides $1.4 billion to help promising firms grow their companies. The Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada will receive significant new funding for equity financing, supply working capital and investment in early-stage technologies.

Budget 2017 targets $11 million to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation, a critical part of our goal of generating 90 percent of Canada’s electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030. We’re at 80 percent now and we signed an agreement with Mexico and the United States to reduce emissions to 50 percent. We were already at 80 percent, so we didn’t have a lot of skin in that game. It won’t be quite as easy for the Americans and for the Mexicans, but we’re showing the way.

I mentioned a moment ago that we’re still only scratching the surface of wind energy’s potential. One of the keys to growing your industry is expanding your markets. Budget 2017 provides $15 million to foster an international development strategy aimed specifically at helping Canadian clean tech companies conquer new markets.

Expanding markets is a very important ambition for the government of Canada. Through the natural resource sector, what percentage of our oil and gas exports goes to the United States? 99 percent. Now you know why we approved the TransMountain expansion project: so that we can find ways of taking Alberta crude to the West Coast to open up Asian markets. Now you know why we’re concerned in the softwood lumber file that 99 percent of Quebec exports of softwood lumber goes to the United States. In British Columbia, they’ve been more successful in expanding export markets in Asia. This is a trend that we want to encourage.

No international market is more important to Canadians than the one south of the border, and we’ve been busy engaging our American friends at every level. And when I say every level, I mean president to prime minister, legislator to legislator, union to union, CEO to CEO, mayor to mayor. The integration of our economies is so complete across every aspect of our lives that we have to make friends and we have to make arguments. We make arguments, and we hand them to our friends and we say to them, “Please pass them on,” and I challenge you to do the same thing.

How many of you have important relationships in the United States? Just put up your hands. More than half of you. I mean, we marry each other, we go to each other’s schools, we work in each other’s businesses, we shop at each other’s malls. And all of us have a role to play as we work our way through this evolving relationship with the new administration.

So I see wind energy playing an important role in combating climate change and generating jobs. I also see it providing opportunities and options in Indigenous communities. As the Prime Minister has said many times, there is no relationship to the Government of Canada that’s more than important than the one with Indigenous people. In my role as minister of Natural Resources, I’ve made it a priority to ensure that we meaningfully engage with Indigenous communities as part of any major project. And it’s encouraging that many of last year’s new wind projects included significant ownership by Indigenous communities and these projects provide jobs and the opportunity for real economic development — because, make no mistake about it, we must share our prosperity in Canada.

Our government understands that economic prosperity and environmental protection go hand in hand. But the jobs of tomorrow will be found in industries such as yours, and we should be prepared to capitalize on these opportunities afforded by the clean growth economy. Later this month, I’ll be announcing a major new initiative to engage Canadians in charting a course towards our energy future. A few months after that, we’ll bring interested parties together — including you, I hope, experts, academics and others — to turn the input we’ve received into plans we can implement, and I will invite all of you to participate.

As we look ahead to both the challenges and the opportunities of moving to a lower-carbon future, I’m reminded of something that Jeff Bezos of Amazon once said: “What we need to do is always lean into the future. When the world changes around you and when it changes against you, what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind. You have to lean into that and figure out what to do, because complaining isn’t a strategy.”

CanWEA understands the importance of leaning into the future. Of offering strategies and solutions. And of turning wind — from whatever direction — into a force that can shape our future.

In these efforts and all of your efforts, I wish you every success.

Thank you. 

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