Canada-US Clean Energy Dialogue Smart Grids in the North American Context: A Policy Leadership Conference

2011/16

Notes Remarks by

The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources

to the

Canada-US Clean Energy Dialogue
Smart Grids in the North American Context:
A Policy Leadership Conference

Waterloo, Ontario
January 25, 2011

Check against delivery


Introduction

Thank you very much. I’m very pleased to be here to welcome everyone – especially those of you visiting Waterloo for the first time.

I want to welcome the delegates from the US who have travelled here to share their experiences and expertise.

This city is the ideal host for your event. The Waterloo region is often called the Silicon Valley of the North.  BlackBerry maker Research In Motion and business software development company Open Text Corp. have headquarters here.  And Energent Incorporated is a leading provider of Energy Informatics solutions.

It’s also the home of the new world-class Energy Research Centre which the Government of Canada is proud to support. The centre was opened at the University of Waterloo campus last October.

So, in many ways, Waterloo is an ideal location to have a discussion about a smarter electricity grid, a vision of a modernized electricity system that will require continuous innovation for many years to come.

Before I begin, I want also to thank the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator, the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Centre for International Governance Innovation for co-hosting this conference with Natural Resources Canada.

This forum is an example of the anticipation and optimism that abounds around the future of a smarter grid.

It’s also an occasion to share notes on the opportunities and challenges for realizing the potential of smart grids as we go forward.

Developing and expanding smart grid technologies will lead to green jobs, put more renewable energy into the system, help consumers reduce their consumption, and also help to address climate change.

I think most in this room would agree the first steps towards the deployment of smart grid technology are already underway in Canada and the U.S.  

 One of the major factors powering this conversion is a growing recognition by government leaders of the potential of the smart grid to achieve a wide range of energy policy objectives. Certainly this is the case for the Government of Canada, which sees smart grid technologies as key to a brighter, greener economic future.

This is why President Obama and Prime Minister Harper explicitly recognized smart grid technology as a key theme for Canada-US collaboration when they announced the Clean Energy Dialogue in Ottawa two years ago.

As the Prime Minister noted in August of last year, “as generating electricity from fossil fuels becomes more costly, and concerns mount about the environmental impact of doing so, our Government is actively supporting research into vital new technologies.”  A smarter grid will be key to achieving this vision.

ECONOMY

I want to turn to the economy for a moment. You all know that the past two years have been challenging. Canada’s Economic Action Plan responded directly to this economic crisis by putting much needed investment to work to stimulate the economy and create jobs across the country. 

While the economic picture is now brighter, it’s important to remember that the global economic recovery remains fragile.

That’s why our Government is continuing to focus on the economy and on creating jobs and growth.

Now, that said, Canada has fared better than any other G-7 country.

Over 460,000 more Canadians are working today than in July 2009. Growth has returned to the economy.  Our banks are sound and investment is up.

But there’s more to do – that’s why all through January, my fellow Cabinet colleagues and I have been going across the country and meeting with Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs.

We will continue to meet with Canadians this month, after which we will bring forward the next phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

And I can assure you that we will continue to focus on protecting the financial security of hardworking Canadians and their families.  And, we will continue to ensure our economic policies reflect the values and principles we share with the families across the country, including right here in Waterloo.

CLEAN ENERGY DIALOGUE

As we look to the future, it is clear we need to focus on continental cooperation in order to reach our goal of modernizing the North American electrical grid.

As you know, energy is a key part of our trading relationship with the United States. It accounts for one-third of the trading activity between our two nations.

This is largely because of the market orientation that we share and because we basically use interconnected infrastructure – the pipelines and transmission networks – to bring that energy to market.

The North American electricity system is deeply integrated and what we call “the grid” is probably our most important piece of shared infrastructure.   There are more than 30 major transmission lines between our two countries.

The fact that we share this important infrastructure means that Canada and the US have a number of mutual interests, including a common interest in establishing conditions that can promote investment in grid modernization.

SMART GRID IN THE CONTEXT OF ENERGY POLICY

But “smart grid” can mean different things, largely because the drivers toward smart grid are diverse. It might mean demand reduction and consumer engagement; climate change and environment; or improving asset utilization.

In general, the concept of a smarter electricity grid tends to be used interchangeably with the technologies that will enable it. 

From a technological standpoint, I think what we are really talking about with the smart grid is the application of technologies pioneered in the telecommunications sector across the entire electricity supply chain.  This enables better communication in real time – from generation to transmission and distribution.

The Government of Canada’s approach towards the future for smart grid is focused through an energy policy lens. More specifically, in electricity, we talk about smart grid in the context of three core policy objectives: ensuring reliability (which includes security), adequacy and environmental performance.

In simple terms, reliability means keeping on the lights and the power. Even minor power outages can be tremendously costly for many industries.  The 2003 Northeast blackout caused estimated economic losses of $10 billion in Canada and the US.

A smart grid would improve real-time knowledge of what’s happening on the system in order to improve response time to outages.

Of course, a reliable system also has to be secure, which requires solid standards and operating protocols.

This is a key objective for governments in Canada and the US, and that is why my Department has put in place a Smart Grids Standards Task Force.  This unit will contribute to work being undertaken by the U.S. Smart Grid Interoperability Panel which aims to accelerate standards development for the smart grid.

The second energy policy objective of adequacy means having sufficient infrastructure across all aspects of the electrical system to meet customer loads. Smart grid will enable increased use of renewable energy, allow increased demand management and therefore ensure that assets are used efficiently.

And thirdly, by allowing customers to purchase cleaner, lower-carbon-emitting generation and manage their own energy consumption, and by helping to better integrate renewable energy sources, a smart grid will contribute to our goal of improved environmental performance by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

SUPPORTING SMART GRIDS

In sum, the Government of Canada envisions a smart grid that is more responsive, more dynamic and provides customers with real options to manage their electricity usage and costs – a system that will also enable more renewable energy to be connected to the grid, a more secure energy supply and a reduced environmental footprint.

However, we recognize having a vision is not enough. Work must be undertaken to ensure the ideal becomes reality. I’ve already mentioned how Canada and the United States are working together to help facilitate smart grid development.

The federal government is contributing to this process by leading discussions with stakeholders around the issue of standardization.

And, while much of the innovation to deploy the smart grid will be driven by industry, governments also have a clear role to play in facilitating research and development and in aiding in the commercialization of promising new technologies.

The Government of Canada is taking steps to support promising demonstration projects under the Clean Energy Fund to spur the kind of technological changes that will help deploy the smart grid.

For example, in British Columbia we are supporting Power Measurement Ltd. as they develop and demonstrate smart grid technology.

And we are supporting four Maritime utilities led by New Brunswick Power Corporation as they integrate smart grid technologies, customer loads and intermittent renewables in a region with potentially significant renewable electricity capacity.

These examples are just a small part of the more than $10 billion our Government has invested since 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build a more sustainable environment and support the creation of jobs through investments in green infrastructure, clean energy technologies, the production of cleaner fuels, and energy efficiency.

CONCLUSION

Ladies and gentlemen, you have the knowledge and expertise to help make the most of the unprecedented opportunity to transform the electrical grid.

I look forward to the outcomes of this conference and ideas to accelerate smart grid development.

Again, I’m delighted to join you here today, and to be speaking at another conference as part of the Clean Energy Dialogue.

I wish you very productive discussions. Thank you.