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The ThinkEnergy podcast features conversations that focus on the fast-changing world of energy. We explore through a communications lens, some of the coolest trends, emerging technologies and latest innovations within the energy sector. We seek to understand how these game changers bring their ideas to market and demystify their concepts.

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Jul 20, 2020

Compared to conventional methods of energy generation, like fossil fuels, greenhouse gases emitted from renewables are little-to-none; making them the cleanest, most viable solution to prevent environmental degradation. In this episode, we invite Brandy Giannetta, Senior Director at Canadian Renewable Energy Association, to discuss renewable energy and the realistic strategies for increasing its supply to permanently replace the remaining carbon-intensive energy sources in Canada.

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Transcript:

Dan Seguin  00:02

Hey, everyone. I'm Dan Seguin from hydro Ottawa. And I'll be hosting the think energy podcast. Are you looking to better understand the fast changing world of energy? Join me every two weeks and get a unique perspective from industry leaders as we deep dive and discuss some of the coolest trends, emerging technologies, and latest innovations that drive the energy sector. So stay tuned as we explore some traditional and some quirky facets of this industry.  Hey, everyone, welcome back. This is the ThinkEnergy podcast. We've all heard the saying 'it's not easy being green'. But when it comes through renewable generation, is that true? With all the scientific evidence out there, being a climate change denier is becoming more and more synonymous with being a flat-earther. It's clear that humans have been polluting our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions. NASA, the World Health Organization and the United Nations say we have to change the way we live, work and play. As we face our own extinction, what is the answer? Do we have the courage to be green? Are we okay with it not being easy. That brings us to renewable energy. How easy or difficult is it? How does it improve our health, environment and economy? Where is Canada at? And are we on track to becoming a global climate leader? Are we leveraging renewable energy within the electricity system. And do we have enough new renewable capacity to power our energy needs compared to conventional methods of generation like fossil fuels, greenhouse gases emitted from renewables our little to none, making them the cleanest, most viable solution to prevent environmental degradation. Renewable sources of electricity have powered Canada for more than a century. According to Natural Resources Canada, renewable energy sources currently provide about 17% of Canada's total primary energy supply, with wind and solar as the fastest growing in the country. So here's today's big question. What is a realistic strategy to increasing the supply of renewable energy so that we can permanently replace the remaining carbon intensive energy sources in Canada. And what would the global impact be? Joining me today is Brandy Giannetta. From the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, Brandy is a regional director responsible for promoting, communicating and advocating for adoption of the associations policies, with political representatives, members of government, media, and other key stakeholders and decision makers. Brandy, welcome to the show. Maybe start us off by talking about the Canadian Renewable Energy Association. its mandate and why it's important for Canada.

Brandy Giannetta  03:46

Sure thing! Well the Canadian Renewable Energy Association: We are a national Industry Association is we we see ourselves as the voice for wind energy, solar energy and energy storage solutions, here in Canada with the goal of powering Canada's energy future. So our association really works to create the conditions for modern energy solutions vis-à-vis stakeholder advocacy, public engagement at several different levels. So we are a multi Technology Industry Association and we are new. We are looking again to provide that unified voice for renewable energy as well as energy storage across Canada. So we're the product of uniting what was the Canadian Wind Energy Association with what was the Canadian solar industry association so CANWEA and CANSIA our well-known names as having had decades of advocacy in Canada on behalf of the wind sector in the solar sector in Canada. And now we're one new expanded Industry Association, so very exciting, which also now includes, of course, energy storage. So that's in recognition of that pivotal role that energy storage is going to play alongside those renewable technologies as we look to transform Canada's energy mix.

Dan Seguin  04:59

What is the Canadian Renewable Energy Association's role in transforming Canada's energy mix?

Brandy Giannetta  05:08

Right? So Well, our new joint venture as one's association is really going to enable our members as well as the association itself to secure what we think is going to be a larger piece of the fat future energy pie that could normally have been achieved as single technologies or single entities. So our technologies having common interests in common characteristics will with respect to that policy, energy policy, you know, climate policy, different markets and regulatory frameworks throughout Canada, and really advocating within those commonalities to support the deployment of all of the technologies or solutions. So I didn't mention in the front that we have over 300 members within our association that represent that full scope of the sector. So we're really uniquely positioned to do that as an industry association, but I see some really sort of specific aspects of how we will do that. In what our strategy will entail. And I alluded to a little bit around the advocacy side, providing access to credible and timely information, and industry engagement. So that's an internal process, as well as an F front facing sort of public facing engagement role that will play. So as a national Industry Association, as I mentioned, we will be active at the federal level from an advocacy perspective, but will we're also present in multiple jurisdictions across Canada. So we advocate for policies that focus on that transition to a clean economy, but it's powered by renewable energy solutions. So that's really the key there. What are what are one of the things we'll be working toward is to create new opportunities, but also to remove the existing barriers that are stopping us from realizing those, those solutions and ultimately, that will enhance the deployment of our technologies throughout the country, and what we really consider to be safe and sustainable, environmentally friendly manner, but also a big part of that advocacy side and credible information and front facing side of what we do will be to increase public awareness of our technologies as they stand. But also, most importantly, the benefits that they provide that they're already providing to communities throughout Canada. And across the future, the potential to do even more. So federally, we have, you know, number one priority is to make sure that we're well positioned to contribute to economic recovery, particularly in a COVID situation that we're in right now. But also as a unified voice for the renewable side and energy storage, we're going to really try to help navigate Canada to an emissions reduction targets, we're going to create good jobs, we're going to stimulate the economy, you know, we're going to be present in urban centers and rural centers and indigenous communities. So we have so much value to offer. And as a collective effort, we're really going to try to influence those public policies that are really energy focused and economic stimulus focus to be able to do that. And we can do it because they'll probably say this a lot. We're a really scalable set of resources and when you put us all together, we're really well suited to power that transition.

Dan Seguin  08:03

How is your association positioned to deliver clean, low cost, reliable, flexible, and scalable solutions for Canada's energy needs?

Brandy Giannetta  08:14

Well, I'm glad you said it first, because I think I'll be repeating myself a lot, because that's the key. We're low cost, we're reliable. You know, we offer flexible, scalable solutions. So we have a headquarters in Ottawa, we're nationally, you know, present. But we also have people in the key regions across Canada from east to west and centrally and connect in Toronto. And we definitely look to influence regionally regional policies as well as national policies. And we definitely have a public facing communication side where we're advocating for energy solutions that will leverage the value proposition that renewables and energy storage provide together. So we're going to have what I talked about a little earlier with that internal forum for dialogue for our members that enables us to really collaborate provided opportunities for the stewardship of our technologies but also the growth of the industry across Canada and Canadian economies. So renewable energy and energy storage, as I noted, have a really important and central role to play as we transform our Canadian energy mix. And we see electricity markets adapting to these transformational demands to not only decarbonize, but as a result, electrify new sectors with clean electricity resources. So that reality has really been a huge driver in that tremendous new market opportunity for renewable energy and energy storage together. As we sort of get more comfortable with what that transition looks like and what it entails, our electricity system here in Canada is really going to need increased, actually, I would say significantly increased amounts of renewable energy, energy storage and at the utility scale. So our grids need to be powered by clean supply of renewables backed up by energy storage, and we need to make sure that they remain affordable, reliable, flexible, and scalable, as you noted, so that's going to mean, you know, large utility scale deployment of renewables and energy storage, but also a significant uptake and sort of mobilization of those behind the meter application. So distributed energy resources, for example. And putting that new collaborative framework in place like we've done at our association, is going to fully be able to allow us to fully leverage that opportunity.

Dan Seguin  10:23

Let me ask you this. Is the renewable energy industry primed to enter a new phase of growth driven largely by increasing customer demand and cost competitiveness? Are you seeing a culture shift?

Brandy Giannetta  10:38

Definitely, yes, there has been and it's, it's, I would say, Now more than ever, that we are realizing that culture shift and we're starting to see things materialize as a result of that shift. So ultimately, the needs and the wants of Canadian consumers have evolved but they're continuing to evolve. So you know, energy technologies: these aren't the only thing. It's markets that are innovating. The costs are coming down, as we all know, to a significantly affordable level. Business models as a result are also changing, not just here in Canada, but globally. So it's a global trend. It's not unique to Canada, we are well poised to follow those global trends and capitalize on the learnings and advancements of technology as well as the market and business structures that have evolved as well. So renewable energy and energy storage as solutions. Focused approaches are really increasingly contributing to those electricity grids and energy systems at a large scale, which in that what that means is that we're enhancing the reliability aspect and offerings, the flexibility of the technologies. And because we're super scalable, as I told you, I'll talk about that a lot, because it's certainly an attractive aspect of the advocacy side. The scalability of our energy production and use in Canada and abroad is really a factor there because we can do it at whatever scale needed for whatever system You know, is being sought. So a consciousness about the environment continues to grow alongside that. So we got energy policy and economic stimulus, but we also have environmental policy and the drivers for decarbonisation, and electrification of the sectors that aren't traditionally powered by electricity, like cars and transportation like but a large scale as well as buildings are really increasing the demand for energy solutions that are non-emitting affordable, scalable, flexible, and all of those great things. And that's something that obviously our industries can provide. So our vision really, ultimately is to ensure that renewable energy being solar and wind and energy storage on top of that are playing that central role as we transform the mix so that we can continue to provide those solutions across the board.

Dan Seguin  12:43

Randy, do you believe that renewables like wind and solar can help deliver the Clean Power jobs needed for sustainable economic delivery?

Brandy Giannetta  12:55

For sure, I mean, the calls for an economic recovery right now that are grind Clean Energy and Climate Action are increasingly growing and becoming more prevalent across the across the globe. We've got the International Energy Agency, for example, who called this a historic opportunity, you know, despite the fact that we're in a global pandemic, and there are many crises to manage. We're taking our cues from the International Energy Agency as a proper agency seeking, you know, recognition that we have an opportunity upon us that is historic and in its nature, the International Monetary Fund as well has its leadership has come out to say that we must do everything within our power to make it a green recovery. So right here in Canada, we in particular, are signatories to a public letter, which has asked Canadian governments to pursue a resilient recovery to the COVID situation in particular. So we've got hundreds of signatories representing over a you know, I think over 2000 now, Canadian companies that are right here, you know, headquarters here in Canada that have signed that letter seeking campaign. In order to pursue federal and provincial governments to commit to a clean recovery and resilience plan, so the the renewable energy sector as well as energy storage industries, we're making a case for those policies, energy policies, economic stimulus, packaging, recovery policies that are, you know, threefold, we need to make sure that they're economically timely and long lasting, so right time, right place, and that they are sustainable, making sure that they're environmentally sound. So there needs to be that environmental sustainability attached to those policies. And then eminently feasible, they have to be practical, realistic and actually implementable with a proven success here in Canada or elsewhere. So that we can capitalize on that and truly, you know, make that history that the International Energy Agency has referred to. So our federal government stimulus and recovery efforts in particular, I think our focus right now for us because we think that those efforts can create jobs, they can spur clean tech innovation. They will encourage economic diversification across many sectors, not just the energy sector, but also ultimately we're going to cut carbon pollution while doing that and why not because that illness causing you know, air pollution is something that we can tackle at the same time while we grow our economy. And really what we're looking to do is make Canada more resilient country, and we want to do it on the back of our energy sector. So we really believe that's important. And we do believe that those initiatives taken in support of economic recovery also allow us to address all those significant other challenges like climate change. So it's really important that we invest in wind energy and solar energy and in energy storage at appropriate scales and in appropriate locations, so that we can deliver the jobs, the economic benefits, making sure that today we're realizing those benefits, and then building out that longer term infrastructure that's sustainable, it's going to provide a really strong foundation for a lot more investment down the road. And again, jobs economic activities going to all spur as we as we build out those little as of tomorrow,

Dan Seguin  16:01

so climate adaptation and resilience stand out as rapidly emerging areas of employment as a result of climate change impacts, what types of careers are in demand? And at what rate are jobs in clean energy sector growing?

Brandy Giannetta  16:20

That's a great question because you know, the numbers are there. So we know the stats, and we can say it all those figures. And I'll talk a little bit about that. But the jobs are exciting. And there's no limit to the types of jobs one of the greatest stats that I love. And I check it out every year as the annual numbers come out of the US in particular is the wind turbine technicians and solar technicians that has continuously year over year over the past several years, ranked as one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States. So that's really exciting because that resonates here in Canada as well as we build out our industry. In fact, we did a wind energy supply chain study in Alberta, a few years back and it really detailed the breakdown of the jobs required just for a wind farm in particular And it was varied from the very, you know, technical and professional engineering requirements, geotechnical type requirements siting and negotiation of land agreements, and the regulatory advocacy work as well as environmental side of that. There's also, you know, the broader procurement construction side and you know, transportation logistics, you know, setting up a crane and having that that broader service industry attached to the evolution of the sector. So it's really a significant cross section of very technical and professional quality career type positions, research driven things from environmental sustainability, and then the, you know, the heavy lifting of the transportation and construction side of things. So there's a lot of, we're seeing offshoots of service jobs as well. And one of the large one of the aspects of the solar side, especially behind the meter, and that large uptake of solar installations behind the meter has created a lot of opportunities is very labor intensive. And we're seeing from the solar industry, significant numbers on manufacturing, sales, distribution and wholesale careers. We've got the installation community as well across Canada growing at an exponential rate, operations and maintenance will remain a significant portion of a sophisticated workforce. And then as I said, that offshoot service industry that supplies the services to those things. So as you can see, it's not a shortlist of jobs. It is, is a varied and like I said, extensive list of job opportunities that will continue to evolve and grow. Now, if you want to talk about statistics, the rate that it's growing at, we have already over 300,000 people employed in the clean energy sector in Canada. So that number has continued to grow by close to 5% every year, and it's slated to continue to do so which just to give you some perspective is about a third faster than Canada's economy as a whole and its growth rate, which is just under 4%. So by 2030, the projections that we're relying on today show us that there will be over a half a million Canadians employed and gainful full time lucrative careers in the clean energy sector, across the country. And that's going to be, you know, thanks in part to continued commitment to climate policies, to programs that are supporting robust clean economy type stimulus, and that growth rate will continue to evolve as a result. So it's very good news,

Dan Seguin  19:21

Brandy, in a world where distributed energy resources are increasingly valued. I'd love to hear your views on both the wind and solar value proposition as compelling options and how customers can more actively manage their demand.

Brandy Giannetta  19:39

Right? Well, I have to go back to the old you know, the the reference to scalability, wind energy, solar energy, even energy storage - extremely scalable. What that means, as I as I noted earlier, is that these technologies, you know, they're well positioned to transform our energy system, but they can provide solutions at a micro level or a macro level. So at the micro level, distributed energy resources can be deployed in a number of ways to empower the customers that are seeking those technologies. And then of course, then scaled according to a very unique set of needs as defined by the customers themselves. And they're affordable. So more and more energy customers of all types, as I think I said this already, or they're seeking, you know, clean, affordable, safe, all of those all of those buzzwords and properties and principled approaches to pursuing these technologies as solutions. And ultimately, they're less and less focused on a single technology to provide it. Is it smart? Does it make sense does it fit all those boxes being checked, you know, whether that's wind, solar or storage at the scale that's required. That's really that's the value of that as a solution of these technologies as a solution option, and they're multifaceted. So I think that really there's definitely clear public desire, obviously for clean and affordable as we've noted many times, but those solutions behind the meter, so smaller scale applications, Like rooftop solar panels, personalized home energy storage systems, things like that are going to continue to evolve and provide those solutions at other larger rate. And the innovation behind those distributed energy resources is really what's, you know, allowing us to be poised to meet the demands of today's customers, but we evolve those offerings for the future needs and wants as well. So that transition again, clean, renewable sources, is very important. And the impact for the consumer and ultimately, our economy and environment are what's really driving the value proposition there.

Dan Seguin  21:33

As solar and wind power come closest to meeting three key energy consumer priorities—cost-effectiveness, decarbonization, and reliability—what role will they play with microgrids and self-sufficiency?

Brandy Giannetta  21:50

Oh, great question. Again, all those buzzwords but important ones right. They're really principled realities and, you know, criteria that we're aiming towards So the successful and enhanced uptake of micro grids and self-sufficiency will be motivated as long as we continue to meet those principles and those criteria. So remember flexible, scalable, and portable. So we've got a micro level, you know, distributed energy resource, and we can deploy it in a number of ways. So I talked a little bit about in the previous question about, you know, based on what the customer's needs and wants are. So, you know, some really, you know, tangible examples of that are converting remote communities that aren't grid connected, so they have no wires and no transmission access. And they've been running on diesel generators for decades for generations really. And we're going to convert those to sustainable micro grids, we're going to use solar panels, we're going to use industrial size storage, whether that's batteries or otherwise, and maybe even a wind turbine or two, if it makes sense. You do it to scale. And now you've got a remote community that's self-generating, you know, non-emitting, and it's quite independent. And that's, that's a success story in and of itself. Distributed energy resources, can really promote increased energy self-sufficiency. And through other examples that are a little simpler even like deployment of rooftop solar in neighborhoods, you know, we're going to use it to heat your house your water instead of the electrical or gas hot water heater, maybe you're using it to heat your pool. So you're not running you know, another gas line or gas system in your urban areas, but also providing electricity more broadly like bigger installations on hospitals and colleges and universities and schools like that municipal buildings, all of those are all you know, fall into the bucket of distributed energy resources which promote self-sufficiency and ultimately, renewable energy powered things like charging stations for electrical vehicles is enhanced. You know, I would say ultimately, self-sufficiency, proper and enhanced reliability go hand in hand because you can couple that with energy efficiency, electric vehicles, charging as well as discharging and smart grids and even certain demand response measures. So the list goes on and on. You know, we can unpack them but though it's quite, I would say quite lucrative. And again, it all comes back to the fact that scales scalability.

Dan Seguin  24:09

Brandy, can you help me understand what the role of storage plays in the deployment and advancement of renewable energy?

Brandy Giannetta  24:17

Oh, sure. Well, on a larger scale like utility side, the technologies renewables can be deployed in complimentary ways to supply and support our broader electricity grids. Or they can be used as a co-located or hybrid resource with facilities like wind projects, wind farms and solar projects. Adding energy storage in order to firm that utility scale offering of energy to the grid, so firm power, or capacity, if you will, but by working together, the renewables and energy storage present a broader and more diverse range of not just firm energy offerings, but for customer seeking other things that diversity in tech technology provides scale grid services and other products for lack of a better word to the grid operator. And then ultimately, if you're looking at a smaller scale to the customer, as standalone efforts to enhance the needs that they have identified, sometimes that's offsetting their peak demand use and other aspects and applicability of the energy storage component can be used that way. So, the scale varies large scale utility grid offering to smaller scale behind the meter solutions is a really energy storage in particular, as a technology has a central role to play in that in that transformation to be able to make those solutions tangible and affordable and implementable.

Dan Seguin  25:48

Now for the million dollar question, how is Canada faring as a global climate leader? In your opinion, what is the low hanging fruit and what has the potential to have the biggest impact to the industry and maybe the world?

Brandy Giannetta  26:06

Well, sure, Canada is in a great position already, because we are starting from a spot of having strong renewable and non-emitting electricity base. So there remains also a massive untapped potential for wind, solar and hydro resources to continue to be developed. And so I would say that we're as one of the best countries or countries best position to eliminate our fossil fuel use any electricity generation in particular. And then the abundance of our resources means that we're then also well positioned to support significant increase in non-emitting or renewable electricity supply to power those other fossil fuel intensive industries, like I mentioned earlier transportation and buildings. So we do need to move away from fossil fuels for those other industries as well. And we can do it on the back of the electricity sector in Canada, as it currently stands, but we can also evolve that significantly because we already have the resources. And I think the number is associated with deep decarbonisation and vision that we need to increase our electricity production by two or three times to reach our sort of net zero GHG emission targets. And we already, like I said, have all of those resources available to us to do that. So it's a matter of the will and, you know, transitioning to that, as a global leader, we can really, I think, step ahead of the crowd and shine.

Dan Seguin  27:26

What is exciting you about the renewable energy industry right now?

Brandy Giannetta  27:33

Well, we're on the right side of history, we always have been but now more than ever, I think the stars are really aligning, you know, we've got decreasing costs, our customer demand and knowledge is growing at a rate. I don't know that any of us could have predicted a few you know, a decade ago, that emissions free zero marginal cost fuel, it's never going to go away. It’s here to stay. It’s scalable, it's flexible, and it’s decentralized. All of those buzzwords, which we can unpack any single one of them. That's exciting. But really put them all together. And I don't know, how exciting is that? Like, I don't know if I'm if I'm making the assumption, but I think it speaks for itself, like we are in a really good place right now, for all those reasons, and we need to be excited about it.

Dan Seguin  28:15

Here's my last question, Brandy. What keeps you up at night?

Brandy Giannetta  28:21

Well, you know, I think governments across Canada, you know, they need to take the politics out of the energy sector. And the decision making processes really need to be based on fair and transparent competition. You know, we've all, you know, leveling that playing field for us all and taking the politics out of it, because that decision making process really needs to be aimed at providing the best solution to clearly define problems without the politics and that's not to say there's not a role for governments and energy policy. There certainly is, but sound policy, stable investment signals, those things need to outweigh the politics in order to realize that, you know, progress and innovation it’s so ripe for the picking. And I think our good friend Geddy Lee, a Canadian icon, says it best when he said "progress has no patience, but something's got to give." So those are the things that I stay up at night thinking about.

Dan Seguin  29:11

Brandy, we've reached the end of another episode of the thick energy podcast. How can our listeners learn more about you and your association? How can they connect?

Brandy Giannetta  29:23

Well, like I said, we are new. So we've got a brand new shiny website up and running. It's renewablesassociation.ca. We're active on Twitter and LinkedIn, mostly, we've got Facebook and maybe a couple of other social channels. But we're going to continue to be evolving those sites over the summer in both English and French, which is very exciting and very important to us as a national Industry Association to be fully bilingual. So I would say that your best efforts reach out vis-à-vis our website. We're a small but mighty team, and so we're listed there and you can contact us centrally through the website is probably your best bet.

Dan Seguin  29:57

Again. Thank you so much for joining me today, I hope you had a lot of fun.

Brandy Giannetta  30:02

I sure did. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Dan Seguin  30:07

Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website hydroottawa.com/podcast. Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Cheers, everyone.