Liberals sweep in Canadian elections: are renewables back?

Canadian-election-1a

Liberals sweep to victory in Canada; Trudeau to become Prime Minister, pledging sharp increases in infrastructure investment and a renewed focus on clean technology. 

In Canada, the Liberal party, under the leadership of 43-year old Justin Trudeau, swept to victory in the Canadian federal elections. As of midnight Eastern time, the Liberals won or were leading in 189 ridings at midnight Eastern time — 19 seats more than needed to form a majority government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party won or were leading in 102 ridings, a loss of 57 seats, while the New Democratic Party has reeled in only 36 seats, a loss of 59. The Bloc Quebecois has won or is leading in 10 ridings, a gain of 8 seats, while the Green Party looks set to retain its one seat.

Just after midnight Eastern time, the Conservative Party announced that Harper had resigned as party leader.

How it happened

Canadian-election-2The Liberals swept Atlantic Canada in early voting, and racked up 79 seats in Ontario alone; in Québec, voters rolled back the NDP’s 2011 “Orange Wave”, and gave the Liberals 42 seats (up from 7 in 2011).

Strong results in the western provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta for the Conservatives could not offset the losses they racked up in Eastern Canada.

The new Government

Incoming Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged that his government will run a short series of budget deficits aimed at boosting infrastructure spending.

Renewable agencies that stand to benefit?

In August, we reported: “the SD Tech Fund and the SD Natural Gas Fund are now open for applications through October 14, 2015. On behalf of the Government of Canada, SDTC helps bring Canadian clean technologies closer to market, readying them for growth and export markets. The SDTC portfolio is currently composed of 269 clean technology projects with a total value of $2.5 billion, of which over $1.8 billion is leveraged primarily from the private-sector.

Leah Lawrence, President and CEO, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, said at the time, “Cleantech represents that double bottom line, bringing together environmental goals and economic activity in a way that generates jobs and opportunity across Canada.  And what an opportunity it represents for Canada: recent reports peg the Canadian cleantech market at $12 billion. We look forward to working with entrepreneurs and technology developers from all corners of the country to get their cleantech innovations closer to market.”

Another agency that is “on the biubble” and may benefit from a stronger focus on renewables is BioFuelNet Canada, whose network benefits from a $25 million grant over 5 years (2012 to 2017) through the federal Network of Centres of Excellence program.

BioFuelNet Canada is an integrated community of academic researchers, industry partners and government representatives who engage in collaborative initiatives to accelerate the development of sustainable advanced biofuels. BFN’s research is funded through a mix of government and private contributions, and is structured around the themes of feedstock, conversion, utilization, and social, economic and environmental sustainability.

At the same time, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada may stand to benefit from increased attention, after the group recently completed phase 1 of a project to assess the economic viability of the agricultural biomass to cellulosic sugar value chain in Canada. We reported in July that “the Cellulosic Sugar Production Project is designed to evaluate, develop and physically validate agricultural biomass to sugars and co-products conversion technologies for commercial scale-up application.” The agency had received $7 million in 2014 from the Harper Government, aiming to add value to the agriculture sector and respond to global demand for environmentally-friendly bioproducts.

A new direction for Natural Resources Canada?

In December 2014 we reported, “Natural Resources Canada failed to spend $298.6 million that was budgeted for biofuels, green energy, energy efficiency and technology plans last year, yet somehow spent more than $438 million on programs for oil and gas research and market development, including research on how to clean up spills. Of the total, $113 million went unspent on biodiesel programs because of “poor production economics and uncertainty around blending mandates and incentive programs in the U.S.,” said the Natural Resources Canada Performance Report.”

The Liberal platform on renewables

The Trudeau government is pledged to “Make “critical investments” in the clean energy industry, and “support clean energy and energy-efficiency projects to “help reduce climate change causing gases, and to add high-paying, cutting edge jobs”. Specifically, the incoming government is pledged to “quadrupling Canada’s production of renewable energy from sources such as solar and wind, by 2017” — and to investments in “renewable energy production such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass”.

The extent to which a Trudeau government will focus on transport and alternative fuels — as opposed to power generation — is as yet unclear. But the incoming government’s pledge to introduce a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions suggests that transport may be on the table — especially in that the party platform states that a Canadian cap-and-trade system must “cover all industries with no exceptions.”

The Liberal Party of Canada also supports Canada’s 5% renewable fuels standard for gasoline and 2% mandate for diesel.

Forestry and Agriculture

The incoming government is pledged to investments of up to $200 million each year to support clean technology in the forestry, agriculture and energy sectors — and specifically $100 million for the development of clean technology companies.

At a conference in Vancouver in June, incoming Prime Minister Trudeau said, “the environment and the economy go together like paddles and canoes. If you don’t take care of both, you’re never going to get to where you’re going.”

The Bottom Line

Last night, Canadians voted for a change of direction in government, and renewable energy policy is very much a focal point in that effort. Details will be forthcoming regarding the extent to which the new government will focus on electric power vs. the transportation sector — but the news of the change in control in Ottawa is bound to be exciting for those who have been calling for a more robust Canadian policy on greenhouse gas emissions and clean technology.

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