On June 29, 2016 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Barack Obama, and President Enrique Pena Nieto announced their common commitment to a competitive, low-carbon and sustainable North American economy through their creation of “an ambitious and enduring North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership that sets us firmly on the path to a more sustainable future."

The Partnership is intended to build on the parties’ commitments under the Paris Agreement and recognizes that “our highly integrated economies and energy systems afford a tremendous opportunity to harness growth in our continuing transition to a clean energy economy.”

The leaders have committed to a common goal for North America to strive to achieve 50% clean power generation by 2025, to be accomplished through clean energy development and deployment, clean energy innovation and energy efficiency. Specific initiatives to support this goal include scaling up clean energy, collaborating on cross-border transmission projects, conducting a joint study on opportunities and impacts of adding more renewables to the electricity grid on a North American basis, sharing information relating to cross-border infrastructure and renewable energy resources, deepening electric reliability cooperation to strengthen the security and resilience of an increasingly integrated North American electricity grid, and supporting the adoption of the voluntary International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 50001 energy management standard, which supports the development of energy management systems (EnMS) in all sectors.

In addition to renewables, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage are identified as technologies which may assist in achieving the 50% clean power generation goal. Canada already surpasses this goal which includes large-scale hydropower. However, specific reference in the leadership statement is made to “Canada’s actions to further scale up renewables, including hydro.” This aligns with a number of recent reports, including the Canada West Foundation’s Centre for Natural Resources Policy’s June 2016 report “Power Up: The Hydro Option” and the Canadian Energy Research Institute’s January 2016 report, “An Assessment of Hydroelectric Power Options to Satisfy Oil Sands Electricity Demand” (PDF), which promote the use of hydroelectricity in Alberta for oil sands production.

In addition to the Partnership’s commitment towards advancing clean and secure power, other elements include:

  • reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 40-45% by 2025;
  • promoting clean and efficient transportation, with commitments involving the automotive, aviation and marine shipping industries;
  • protecting nature and advancing science, including collaborating with Indigenous and local communities and leaders to foster incorporation of traditional knowledge and gender responsiveness in decision making; and
  • global leadership in addressing climate change, including implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In order to meet their commitments, the parties have adopted an associated Action Plan which sets out the various activities that the three countries are undertaking to pursue these initiatives. It will be interesting to see what role hydroelectricity growth will play in Canada’s efforts to meet these commitments, particularly in Alberta where renewable energy developers and electricity market participants are awaiting the release of the Alberta government’s plans for its new Renewable Electricity Program (REP), following receipt of recommendations from the Alberta Electric System Operator at the end of May, 2016. The first REP competition is currently scheduled for Q4 of 2016.