June 12, 2016 2:44 pm

Canada can transition to renewable energy in just a few decades, says Stanford University professor

WATCH ABOVE: A future without fossil fuels possible if Canada starts now: Stanford professor

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Canada can transition its entire energy infrastructure to renewables like wind and solar power by 2050, says an expert at Stanford University but it’s going to take immediate action from both governments and Canadian citizens.

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Mark Jacobson, a co-founder of Stanford’s Solutions Project and an engineering professor, spoke to the West Block‘s Tom Clark this weekend about how his team evaluated the wind, water and solar potential for all 50 U.S. states and 139 countries around the world, including Canada.

He maintains we can get rid of all fossil fuels within the next 35 years, and have them 80 per cent phased out by 2030.

“Canada has a huge wind resource. You can power the country on its own with wind many times over,” he told Clark. “The cost of wind right now, in the United States, it’s the cheapest form of electric power by far.”

WATCH: Alberta NDP updates plans to transition to renewable energy

 

At the moment, just 5 per cent of Canadian electricity comes from wind which means we have a long way to go.

Jacobson acknowledged that there’s also another challenge; namely, a lack of political will in a country that has relied heavily for decades on the oil and gas sector.

He noted that wind and solar generators are cheaper than fossil-fuel generators, but you need more storage and transmission because the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. In the end, Jacobson has calculated, the cost evens out.

“It’s about the same cost as a fossil fuel world directly to consumers, however you a have this huge savings in health and climate costs that are born.”

The Stanford team, which has the backing of Hollywood A-listers like Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio, also predicts a net increase of 125,000 Canadian jobs after the transition, but it needs to start now.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia confident in renewable energy target with or without Muskrat Falls

“All new cars that are bought should be electric cars, all new homes should have electricity for everything… and for industry we need all new technologies to be electric,” Jacobson said.

“Then we need, on top of that, effective policies put in place immediately to require transitions to a large-scale clean renewable energy … if we don’t start now, it’ll just drag on.”

Government will invest in clean energy: Carr

Ottawa is aware of the need for immediate action, according to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

“We know that we’re in transition, so it’s a process of moving at a pace the economy can handle to renewable sources of energy,” Carr said in response to Jacobson’s findings.

“We all know that the transition is not going to happen overnight, but it is happening now … and Canada will invest and work with the private sector.”

Asked why the Liberals have not set a firm target for the move to renewables, Carr said “we have a direction, and the direction is clear.”

Watch the full interview with Jacobson above, and see Carr’s interview here:

Here’s the Solutions Project’s proposed breakdown of Canadian green energy by 2050:

  • 58 per cent wind power
  • 22 per cent solar power
  • 16 per cent hydro
  • 2 per cent wave
  • 2 per cent geothermal

 

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