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The David Suzuki Foundation’s report “Zeroing in on Emissions: Canada’s clean power pathways – A Review” presents a review of a set of theoretical possibilities for reducing emissions from fossil fuels based primarily on the notion that everything powered by fossil fuels today can be electrified using a connected power grid of hydro, wind, solar, tidal, batteries, and geothermal. It is concerning that much of the content of Canada’s Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance echoes many of the unrealistic proposals of the Suzuki report.  There is a deeply concerning disconnect between concept, cost-benefit analysis and implementation of proposed technologies. Practically speaking, the world runs on oil, natural gas and coal – all ‘renewable’ forms of energy require these to exist and to function on the power grid. There is no magic replacement.


The scenarios set out in the Suzuki paper are just that – imagined possibilities crafted by people who would like to see technological and economic developments that have not happened to date. The report offers a list of ten simple slogans of three to five words, wrapping up with ‘bring everyone along’ – claiming “Together, these strategies are a litmus test for a credible climate plan.”  The technologies promoted like wind and solar can complement a conventional power grid, but not replace it.  They have long been dismissed as unable to address climate change, and in terms of energy return on energy invested, wind and solar are unable to support basic society. Due to their weather-dependent nature, wind and solar are especially unsuited to a cold, vast, snowy, often overcast country like Canada.


Furthermore, the energy generation options that do show promise, such as Small Modular Reactors, are not yet market ready. Based on historical trends in energy transition, their introduction will take decades. Innovation is certainly worth pursuing, but that is not a sound basis for public policy or a major shift in investment.


What is problematic is that all of the changes in Canada’s energy supply and demand system that the Suzuki report envisages and advocates for depend not upon the free choices of producers and consumers but upon massive intervention, subsidization and regulation by governments. Government central planning never has worked as well as free, competitive markets, and there is no reason to believe that will happen soon.


Making dramatic changes to the electrical grid often has extremely dire, unexpected consequences.  Germany and the UK have experienced a huge rise in heat-or-eat poverty and premature deaths due to the introduction of expensive wind and solar and related transmission line/natural gas back-up costs. The Suzuki “Zeroing…” report excludes mention of the additional physical infrastructure costs and socio-economic implications.  Poverty is not a way to ‘bring everyone along.’


This report, “Shocking Reality: Electrification and Decarbonization” shows that “Net Zero” is a pathway to economic and energy catastrophe.  We provide some cautionary real-world examples to inform the public and policymakers.  The greatest risk is that, based on an incomplete assessment, certain parties may begin some of these major transitions, only to then find ourselves ‘stuck’ as the costs of additional, unaccounted for infrastructure bloom while the economy staggers under the burden; that grid reliability may be put at risk – or that industry, faced by rising costs and regulation, may abandon Canada for greener, free market pastures.


“Do you guys on Wall Street have something in your desks that makes steel? Where is fertilizer, cement, plastic going to come from? Do planes fly through the sky because of some number you put in a spreadsheet?… The idea that we have the current tools and it’s just because these utility people are evil people and if we could just beat on them and put (solar panels) on our rooftop—that is more of a block than climate denial,” Gates said. “The ‘climate is easy to solve’ group is our biggest problem.” – Bill Gates (11:42)