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Watt's Happening: Is the energy transition a war effort?

Around the world, it is becoming very clear that moving to clean energy generated locally and regionally, will provide not only climate security, but also national security and global security.
SolarArray-DonPettit
The growth of clean energy has outstripped all predictions, including in Northern B.C. and Alberta.

don​In the face of looming catastrophic climate change, many of us continue to wonder: when will this promised transition to clean energy ever actually happen? After more than 30 years of dire warnings, politicians have failed to mobilize.

And as many have pointed out, this energy transition is so huge, so global, and has to happen so quickly now, that a war-like effort is absolutely necessary. Well, now we have the war, a war that some are calling a fossil-fueled war. And now there is, finally, some real action starting to happen.

Around the world, it is becoming very clear that moving to clean energy generated locally and regionally, will provide not only climate security, but also national security and global security.

Freedom energy

Germany is now calling everything from heat pumps to solar panels and wind turbines “freedom energy.” Germany had already set the goal of producing very close to 100% renewable electricity within 15 years, but now that goal is being rapidly accelerated.

The EU’s new energy plan proposes to further boost their already aggressive adoption of renewables. Now they intend to quadruple their current 2030 targets for green hydrogen as part of their strategy to cut the EU’s reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of this year. Green hydrogen is made by electrolyzing water, that is, breaking it down into hydrogen and oxygen, with clean zero emission energy, like solar or wind.

Can Canada help?

Europe is scrambling to find ways to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, but according to our energy minister Steven Guilbeault, Canadian infrastructure just isn’t there to transport it and European refineries aren’t generally able to process Canadian heavy crude.

“Canada cannot realistically help Europe replace its Russian oil imports with Canadian crude or natural gas, but it can and is looking at ways to export renewable energy such as hydrogen.”

There are many ways of making hydrogen, such as splitting it out of methane (natural gas). But it’s green hydrogen Europe wants, nothing less.

Global markets respond

Global energy markets are responding accordingly, with renewable stocks surging like never before: some solar manufacturing share prices jumped by 23% last week. Clearly, renewables will be getting a lot more attention, as the link between energy security and the energy transition both point in the same direction: more clean energy, now!

Drivers are responding too. With gas prices soaring, electric vehicles are now an even better deal. Dealerships across Canada have seen an increase in EV demand, with more and more motorists eager to skip the gas pump completely. Forever.

B.C. is already a leader in the EV transition, requiring 90% of new passenger vehicle sales to be zero emission by 2030. The way things are going, that goal will be easily reached.

Some big Canadian companies are lining up to buy Alberta wind power too. Shopify, the Royal Bank of Canada and Bullfrog Power are set to buy a combined 90,000 megawatt-hours of electricity a year from a new wind farm near Medicine Hat that will start making zero emission green energy this May.

EVs don't need gasoline

Ford Motors has recently announced that it is aiming at the clean energy market too. It now plans to separate its EV and gas engine businesses to “compete and win against both new EV competitors and established automakers.” After the announcement Ford shares shot up by more than 8%.

Sony and Honda are teaming up to make EVs too, aiming to sell their first model next year. Honda will do the manufacturing, Sony the “mobility service platform.” Expect to see something very interesting from this combo!

Finally it seems the world is waking up to the fact that the path to reducing carbon emissions is the same path that will lead us to global military security and global energy security, not just global climate security.

Perhaps this is our final wake-up call, our last chance. Perhaps this is one really good thing that will come out of this terrible, terrible war. Let us hope and pray that it is so.


Don Pettit is a community columnist living in Dawson Creek and Executive Director of the Peace Energy Cooperative.