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Low Carbon Countries

Transitioning to a low carbon economy offers Canada and all countries tremendous economic opportunities. The following provides fast facts and stats on how such a transition is benefiting countries in particular. It also provides information on Canada's current policy strategy on 'clean' energy. 

Please note that this is a growing list. We will add to it as we continue our research.










  • Renewable energy industries have experienced significant growth in the first decade of the 21st century. These industries boomed during most of 2008, with large increases in manufacturing capacity, diversification of manufacturing locations, and shifts in leadership. By August 2008, at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies worldwide had a market capitalization greater than $100 million. The number of companies in this category expanded significantly, from around 60 in 2005. The estimated total market capitalization of these companies in August 2008, prior to the late-2008 market crash, was more than $240 billion. http://www.ren21.net/pdf/RE_GSR_2009_Update.pdf

  • The solar PV industry continued to be one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Global annual production increased nearly sixfold between 2004 and 2008, reaching 6.9GW. Annual production in 2008 was 90 percent higher than in 2007. China usurped Japan to become the new world leader in PV cell production (1.8 GW not counting Taiwan), with Germany moving up to second place (1.3GW), followed by Japan (1.2 GW), Taiwan (0.9 GW), and the United States (0.4 GW). http://www.ren21.net/pdf/RE_GSR_2009_Update.pdf  

  • Regarding renewable energy, the following countries are leading the world in terms of new capacity investment, and wind power, solar power and solar hot water added: the United States (new capcity, wind, solar) Spain (solar, new capacity), China (wind), Germany (solar, wind, new capacity), Turkey/Brazil/France (solar water heater), India (wind), South Korea (solar), Japan (solar) and Italy (solar). http://www.ren21.net/pdf/RE_GSR_2009_Update.pdf

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  • For the second year in a row, Canada has been graded as a ‘D’ for the effectiveness of its solar policies. Canada’s D was the same as China and Britain, because it suffers from “a lack of incentives that are sufficient in size or scope to encourage meaningful growth,” according to the ‘Global Solar Report Card’ produced by Global Green USA. Germany was the only country of 16 evaluated to receive an A-. The ranking allocates a maximum of 30 points to the solar installed to date, and the remaining 70 points to drivers for future growth (56 for financial incentives, 12 for regulatory incentives and 2 points for educational and advocacy efforts). http://globalgreen.org/i/file/2009%20Solar%20Report%20Card%20FINAL_OPT.pdf

  • Canada's solar insolation is comparable to Germany's. Canada measures at 800-1400 kWh/kWp/yr (yearly average yield). Germany measures at 950. Germany competes with Spain as the largest solar market. Canada ranks near the bottom of countries that have installed photovoltaics. http://globalgreen.org/i/file/2009%20Solar%20Report%20Card%20FINAL_OPT.pdf. Close to 5,000 German solar companies employ 40,000 people in a 3.7 billion euro industry.  http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/Aussenpolitik/Themen/EnergieKlima

Federal Approach

  • The Government of Canada is committed to reducing Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. However, according to authors of the 2009 climate report The Copenhagen Diagnosis, by 2020 industrial nations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by around 40% below 1990 levels to secure a decent chance of avoiding dangerous human interference with the climate system. The Copenhagen Diagnosis authors used IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) projections as well as post-AR4 analysis to arrive at this figure. http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.org/press.html  

  • Canada also committed to the goal of having 90 percent of Canada's electricity provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, ‘clean coal’ or wind power by 2020. http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=72F16A84-1 (note: 'clean coal' technology has yet to be proven economically viable, or possible. See 'Clean Coal' and Carbon Capture and Storage).

  • The $2 billion allocated to protecting the environment through the Economic Action Plan is directed to the following: a $1 billion Clean Energy Fund which builds on Canada’s previous investments in Carbon Capture and Sequestration, as well as the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program ($205 million to finance up to 120,000 additional retrofits for Canadian homeowners); research & development for Environment Canada. The government has also invested in a $1-billion Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance in the forestry sector. http://www.actionplan.gc.ca/eng/feature.asp?featureId=4

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‘Clean Coal’ and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

  • The United States and Canada are investing in carbon capture and storage (CCS). The United States will draw from the $3.4 billion for carbon capture and storage demonstrations in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Canada’s Economic Action Plan establishes a $1 billion Clean Energy Fund which builds on Canada’s previous investments in CCS. The anticipated result of a strengthened U.S.-Canada partnership on CCS will help accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale, 'near-zero-carbon' coal facilities to promote climate and energy security. http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2433  

  • CCS technology would allow the CO2 from coal-fired power plants to be captured and injected into geologic formations such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs, unmineable coal seams, or saline aquifers. No coal-fired power plants currently employ this technology, but several commercial scale demonstration projects have been announced around the world. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Coal-power-in-a-warming-world.pdf  

  • Is CCS worth the investment? Although CCS has been the subject of considerable research and analysis, it has yet to be demonstrated in the form of commercial-scale, fully integrated projects at coal-fired power plants. Such demonstration projects are needed to determine the relative cost effectiveness of CCS compared with other carbon-reducing strategies, and to assess its environmental safety—particularly at the very large scale of deployment needed for CCS to contribute significantly to the fight against global warming. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/coal-power-in-a-warming-world.html  

  • The burning of coal releases more than 100 pollutants into the atmosphere. It is the largest source of sulfur dioxide emissions (which cause acid rain), the second largest source of nitrogen oxides (which contribute to smog and asthma attacks), and the largest source of fine soot particles (which contribute to thousands of premature deaths from heart and lung disease yearly). Coal plants are also the largest remaining source of human-generated mercury, which contaminates lakes and streams, the fish that live in them, and anyone who eats those fish. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Coal-power-in-a-warming-world.pdf  

  • Cooling and scrubbing coal plants requires copious volumes of water. Power plants in general are responsible for approximately 39% of U.S. freshwater withdrawals, second only to agricultural irrigation. While most of that water is returned to the source, the act of withdrawal kills fish, insect larvae, and other organisms, and aquatic ecosystems are further damaged by the return of water that is both hotter than when it was withdrawn and contains chlorine or biocides added to protect plant operations. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Coal-power-in-a-warming-world.pdf  

  • Coal mining and combustion both create wastes that must be disposed. Combustion results in more than 120 million tons of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and sludge from air pollution controls annually—roughly the same amount as all municipal solid waste disposed in U.S. landfills each year. Though uses have been found for some of this material, most of it goes into landfills and surface impoundments, from which mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other toxic constituents of this waste can leak out and contaminate water supplies. Mining wastes, particularly in the hundreds of coal slurry impoundments in Appalachia, also pose serious environmental threats. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Coal-power-in-a-warming-world.pdf  

  • Coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel. Even newer coal plants produce more than two times the CO2 emissions of a new natural gas combined cycle plant and over 50% more than the CO2 emissions of generating electricity with oil.CO2 emissions are the predominant human contribution to global warming, and coal plants represent the single biggest source (about one-third) of the U.S. share of these emissions— about the same as all of our cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, and boats combined. The final third of U.S. CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels used in natural gas- and oil-fired power. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Coal-power-in-a-warming-world.pdf  

  • For more on the problems associated with CCS and ‘clean coal’, visit The Myth of Clean Coal, by Richard Conniff in Yale Environment 360.

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Integrated Electrical Grid

  • The U.S. and Canada will consult and share information on the demonstration and deployment of smart grid technology, including installing smart meters in residential and commercial buildings, digitizing distribution systems, and employing information and measurement tools to manage the grid more effectively. http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2433

  • The U.S. will draw from the $11.01 billion for smart grid technology and transmission investment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To build a bigger grid, the United States and Canada will share analysis of new transmission options for integrating wind power and other clean generation sources and encourage development of a grid stakeholders group, building on the existing U.S.-Canadian collaboration among the States and provinces in the West, Midwest, and East. http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2433

Provincial Approaches

  • Key policy actions from the BC Energy Plan include ensuring clean or renewable electricity generation continues to account for at least 90 per cent of total generation, without introducing nuclear power; eliminate all routine flaring at oil and gas producing wells and production facilities by 2016 with an interim goal to reduce flaring by half (50 per cent) by 2011; set an ambitious target, to acquire 50 per cent of BC Hydro’s incremental resource needs through conservation by 2020; implement energy efficient building standards by 2010. http://www.energyplan.gov.bc.ca/PDF/BC_Energy_Plan.pdf

  • BC has a projected goal to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2016. It plans to make small power part of the solution through a set purchase price for electricity generated from projects up to 10 megawatts. It is also establishing an Innovative Clean Energy Fund of $25 million. http://www.energyplan.gov.bc.ca/PDF/BC_Energy_Plan.pdf

  • British Columbia’s carbon tax came into effect in 2008 at $10 CDN per tonne of carbon emissions, rising by $5 per year until 2012. The tax is applied to the purchase of all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel and natural gas. BC has priced over 75% of its emissions derived from fossil fuel combustion.  http://www.gov.bc.ca/copenhagen/attachments/bcstories_carbon_tax%20drives_green_economic_growth.pdf

  • By law, every penny collected through the carbon tax must be returned to British Columbians through personal and business tax reductions. As a result of tax cuts funded through the carbon tax, the government of BC states that the province will have some of the lowest corporate taxes in the G7 countries, and the lowest personal income tax rate anywhere in Canada. http://www.gov.bc.ca/copenhagen/attachments/bcstories_carbon_tax%20drives_green_economic_growth.pdf

  • The BC carbon tax is an incentive for British Petroleum, which is embarking on a $1-billion natural gas project in northeastern BC, to use new technology to reduce emissions by 80%. By so doing British Petroleum will avoid more than $2 million in carbon tax annually. http://www.gov.bc.ca/copenhagen/attachments/bcstories_carbon_tax%20drives_green_economic_growth.pdf

  • In 2009, Ontario gave Royal Assent to its Green Energy Act, a first of its kind in North America. The purpose of the Act is to boost investment in renewable energy projects and increase conservation, creating green jobs and economic growth to Ontario. http://www.mei.gov.on.ca/en/energy/gea/

  • Through the Green Energy Act, Ontario anticipates creating 50,000 jobs for Ontarians in its first three years. Highlights of the Act include creating a Feed-in Tariff that guarantees specific rates for energy generated from renewable sources (to attract investors); establish the right to connect to the electricity grid for renewable energy projects that meet technical, economic and other regulatory requirements; establish a one stop streamlined approvals process, providing service guarantees for renewable energy projects that meet regulatory requirements; implement a 21st century “smart” power grid to support the development of new renewable energy projects, and prepare Ontario for new technologies like electric cars; make energy efficiency a key purpose of Ontario’s building code; make energy efficient products more available to more consumers. http://www.mei.gov.on.ca/en/energy/gea/

  • Ontario has already brought more than 1,200 megawatts of new renewable energy on-line since October 2003, representing a total investment of over $4.6 billion. http://www.mei.gov.on.ca/en/energy/gea/

  • The Green Energy Act builds on the Ontario government’s earlier initiative to eliminate coal from the power supply. Coal-fired generation is the single largest source of air pollution in Ontario and eliminating it from the supply mix will be the largest climate change initiative in Canada. The plan is to shut all coal-fired generation plants by 2014.   http://www.mei.gov.on.ca/en/energy/gea/

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Carbon Tax

China is planning to implement a carbon tax by 2012.




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Economic Activity & Energy Diversification

  • After the oil crisis in the 1970s, Denmark launched an active energy policy to ensure the security of supply and to reduce its depency on imported oil. In 1973, more than 90% of all Danish energy supply was from imported oil. Denmark chose early on to prioritize energy savings and a diversified energy supply that concentrated on increased use of renewable energy (even with the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea). Focus included: cogeneration (combined electricity and heat production), municiple heat planning (district heating), a nation-wide natural gas grid. Denmark extensively improved efficiency of the building mass, and launched support for renewable energy, research and development of new environmentally friendly energy technologies as well as an ambitious use of green taxes. Through these efforts, in addition to national oil and gas production, Denmark became energy self-sufficient by 1997. http://www.ens.dk/en-US/Info/news/Factsheet/Documents/DKEpol.pdf%20engelsk%20til%20web.pdf

  • Since 1980, the Danish economy has grown by 78%, while energy consumption has remained more or less constant, and CO2 emissions have been reduced. This development reflects an increase in energy and CO2 efficiency. From 1990 to 2007, economic activity in Denmark increased by more than 45%, while CO2 emissions were reduced by more than 13%. http://www.kemin.dk/Documents/Publikationer%20HTML/The%20Danish%20Example/pdf/978-87-92555-02-1.pdf

  • Denmark today is a leading player in wind turbine production, and covers about one-third of the global wind turbine market. In total, Danish exports of energy technology increased to about DKK 52 billion in 2007. From 1996 to 2007 this figure more than trebled, and exports of energy technology now account for more than 9% of total exports. http://www.kemin.dk/Documents/Publikationer%20HTML/The%20Danish%20Example/pdf/978-87-92555-02-1.pdf

  • Denmark is among the top ten most prosperous countries in the world. Denmark has a GDP per capita that is higher than the EU15 average and Danish unemployment is lower than the EU15 average. http://www.kemin.dk/Documents/Publikationer%20HTML/The%20Danish%20Example/pdf/978-87-92555-02-1.pdf

  • Environmental and energy taxes in Denmark have been contributing factors in making the price of consuming energy better reflect the environmental costs of production, use and disposal. http://www.kemin.dk/Documents/Publikationer%20HTML/The%20Danish%20Example/pdf/978-87-92555-02-1.pdf

  • Through a persistent and active energy policy, Denmark has drastically changed the energy system towards greater efficiency and focus on renewable energy. The changes have satisfied concerns for security of supply, the environment and climate, and created the basis for growing exports of energy technology and job creation.


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Renewable Energy

Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions

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  • Germany plans to increase renewable energy (sun, wind and water) to at least 25 to 30% of its electricity supply by 2020. http://www.dena.de/en/topics/renewable-energies/

  • While the German government has reached an agreement to completely phase out hard coal subsidies by 2018 (and shut down the remaining eight plants), annual subsidies for coal remain on average at the €2.5 billion level (about a 50% cut from late 1990’s levels). Germany also has plans to phase out nuclear power. All nuclear power stations should be out of service by 2022. http://globalgreen.org/i/file/2009%20Solar%20Report%20Card%20FINAL_OPT.pdf

  • As the most mature solar market, Germany continues to lead the way with well-engineered incentives that are incrementally improved to create long-term predictability and certainty. Germany’s market is such that the government does not need to offer grants and rebates to encourage adoption of solar; instead, policies focus on long-term incentives (a robust feed-in tariff and subsidized loans) to attract new investors. http://globalgreen.org/i/file/2009%20Solar%20Report%20Card%20FINAL_OPT.pdf

  • About one quarter of the solar cells installed worldwide has been produced in Germany, the German Federal Association of Solar Energy , Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW)  has calculated. Five years ago, German solar cells made up less than 10 per cent of the world market, the BSW says. http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/Aussenpolitik/Themen/EnergieKlima

  • Germany's about 5,000 solar power companies recorded a turnover of about 3.7 billion euro. About 150 factories produce photovoltaic equipment for the production of heat and energy from solar power.http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/Aussenpolitik/Themen/EnergieKlima


  • India emerged in 2008 as an aspiring producer of solar PV. Both national and state governments announced new policies to support solar PV manufacturing in special economic zones, including capital investment subsidies of 20 percent. These policies led to $18 billion US in new solar PV manufacturing investment plans or proposals by a number of companies. http://www.ren21.net/pdf/RE_GSR_2009_Update.pdf  

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