Did you know that flipping a light switch on in Alberta generates ten times more CO2 than in Ontario, fifty times more CO2 than in British Columbia, and three hundred and twenty times more than in Quebec?!
The explanation has to do with carbon intensity. A province with a dirtier energy mix--where electricity is generated primarily by burning fossil fuels like coal--has a much higher carbon intensity than a province where electricity is generated via cleaner sources like hydro or natural gas.
Why should I care?
There is huge potential for carbon reduction impact in places where the current energy mix is dirtiest (tweet this). Clean energy is at its most powerful when it displaces dirty energy.
Each Canadian province has a different energy mix. How dirty or how clean comes down to topographical luck of the draw. Thanks to Quebec’s bountiful water resources, 99% of their power comes from clean hydro (although it is important to note that large-scale hydro often comes with other environmental challenges). Compare this to Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the bulk of electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, or the far north where off-grid First Nations communities get their power from diesel generators, and you can start to see where adding new clean energy, or saving energy, can have the biggest difference.
Nowhere is this clearer than in one of CoPower’s latest portfolios of energy efficiency retrofits in condo buildings across Ontario, BC and Alberta (one of the portfolios included in our upcoming Green Bond.)
When we first estimated the impact potential of this loan portfolio, we based our projections on Ontario and BC’s carbon intensity data. We did so simply because most of the condos were located in BC and Ontario. At that point it looked like the carbon reduction impact of the portfolio would be approximately 461 tonnes CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions avoided annually -- a solid, positive impact.
Before sharing news about the project publicly, we went back to calculate the exact impact adding in the Alberta portion of the project, and we were shocked by the difference.
After adding in the handful of condos in Alberta the impact jumped to 748 tonnes of CO2 avoided annually, equivalent to taking a total of 158 cars off the road.
In other words, 40% of the impact came from approximately 5% of the projects.
What does this mean for investors and for CoPower?
We still need to invest in both building clean energy and reducing energy consumption everywhere. Until the carbon intensity for each province is zero, clean energy is a worthwhile investment that reduces CO2, and CoPower will continue to finance projects across Canada.
Currently clean energy development is often catalyzed by favourable provincial policies like Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program. This is changing as provinces with higher carbon intensities like Alberta, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan adopt strong climate policies (e.g., Alberta’s recently announced plan to phase-out coal), and as more clean energy and energy efficiency projects become viable. For CoPower and our investors this translates into an exciting opportunity to increase our impact by focusing our clean energy and energy conservation efforts where they’ll count the most.