Canadian Manufacturing

Canada: energy super store or super power?

Nation needs to seize upon its opportunity to become a powerhouse

TORONTO—Canada has an opportunity.

With an abundance of energy resources and infrastructure to match, an association of engineering professionals says Canada needs to rediscover its roots as an innovator of mega-projects to become a self-sustaining powerhouse in the sector.

The Canadian Academy of Engineers says executing a number of resource and infrastructure projects—as well as rejuvenating a few existing ones—would allow Canada to make the jump from energy super store to energy superpower.

“If we stand still and continue to be a super store we will give … the future of our country away,” says long-time engineer and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) academic vice-president Richard Marceau.

Speaking as part of the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy’s policy engagement series, Marceau brings forward a number of mega-project ideas that he says would help Canada reinvent itself as a sustainable energy leader and rediscover itself as a public and public-private project pioneer.

From the rail lines that connect the nation from ocean to ocean to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the TransCanada pipeline network, Marceau, co-author of Canada: Winning as a sustainable energy superpower, says Canada was built on a history of mega-projects that were undertaken either publicly or in partnership with private entities.

But Canada began moving away from that strategy in the 1970s, and now each side puts the onus on the other to launch such significant projects.

“When government has a made a big project work … the role of government is either to sell it off as a Crown corporation to private enterprise or let private enterprise continue what it does and then move onto the next one,” Marceau says. “(But) we have not moved onto the next one for some time.”

Now, he says, it’s time to get back to such an innovation strategy and take advantage of what Canada has, rather than give it away.

Marceau and the Academy propose nine projects—with a goal of publishing at least six more by year-end—they say can put Canada’s mega-project strategy back on track.

In no particular order, Marceau says the projects include restoring the St. Lawrence Seaway; restoring the St. Lawrence River water level; replacing high greenhouse gas emitting thermal energy generation stations with hydro and tidal stations; constructing a national power grid; upgrading oilsands bitumen in Canada rather than the U.S.; implementing nuclear energy in Alberta bitumen recovery; exporting liquefied natural gas; widespread use of bio-energy; and phasing out coal burning in energy generation.

Marceau says these projects could start now and last through 2050, and could “change the face of Canada” as we know it, lowering the country’s carbon footprint while upgrading raw resources for world markets.

The St. Lawrence Seaway and River projects would cost an estimated $19-billion combined, and restore water levels and thousands of kilometres of shoreline while producing some 4,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity.

With an estimated cost of $52.2-billion, swapping thermal energy generation stations across Canada with hydro and tidal stations would replace 35,000 megawatts of high greenhouse gas energy with 35,000 megawatts of low greenhouse gas energy, according to Marceau.

Creating a national power grid would cost approximately $51-billion for the first phase of construction, according to Marceau, while connecting low emissions energy sources across the country to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint.

And Marceau says upgrading bitumen on home soil would generate an estimated $60-billion in economic activity in Canada.

These projects, as well as the handful of others, would also create what Marceau calls “an innovation ecosystem” in Canada, something that would perpetuate growth and technological progress during construction.

“If we want to be more than a super store of energy resources in the world we need to move on (to) creating value-added products from our raw natural resources,” Marceau says.

To learn more about the projects or download a free copy of Marceau’s book, visit the Canadian Academy of Engineering website.

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