We need a diversified energy future

We need a diversified energy future

Energy affects the price of everything. 

It’s a fact we can’t ignore—surging gas prices increase the cost of transportation.

And, anything that needs shipping gets more expensive, too. To keep up, companies end up charging more for less product.

People driving long distances to work may also demand higher compensation to offset the increase in their transportation costs. 

The result? The cost of everyday items skyrocket, and consumers feel the impact.

Price increases force us to re-evaluate our choices

Affordability drives our decisions as individuals and as a society. In other words, if an item or service exceeds our financial capacity, it is most likely we will substitute it with a cheaper option.

As an example, let’s say your favourite brand of crackers now costs the same, only for a much smaller box. It’s easy enough to decide to stop buying them or buy them less often or find a cheaper alternative.

But what if out of nowhere, your electricity bill costs you three times more? This is more difficult. Especially when you have no other choice. There’s only so much we can adjust our habits to offset such an increase. 

How would you maintain your standard of living in this situation? What sacrifices would you be able to make? 

While for some people It might just be as simple as choosing not to buy a box of crackers but for many others, it could mean more drastic changes such as less food to eat. 

And it doesn't stop there - higher energy costs mean higher production costs - higher transportation costs - higher supply chain costs. And all these rising costs are ultimately passed on to consumers.

Despite their simplified perspective, these examples show the trickle-down effect of energy costs. When the price of anything increases, we seek out other options—for better or worse.

This underscores that affordability is a key component to achieving a sustainable future. 

Our escalating reliance on electricity 

Electricity is having a moment right now. We’re experiencing this unprecedented surge in electricity demand for a few reasons: 

  • Technological advancements
  • Widespread smartphone ownership
  • More power consumption due to remote work
  • Increasing popularity of electric vehicles 
  • A push towards sustainability

From our homes to public transit, we’re seeing a cultural shift and a political push to electrify every aspect of our lives. Well-funded marketing campaigns portray electricity as the efficient, eco-friendly, wave of the future. There’s a push to make us believe if everything was electric, life on earth would be better. 

But, as with most things, it’s not that simple:

  • Increased demand means higher costs
  • Increased reliance means more risks when there are outages
  • The environmental impact of electricity isn’t always as low as advertised 

The consequences of an electricity-only future

Before we go too far, let’s acknowledge that electricity is amazing. That doesn’t mean we should depend on it as our sole energy source. 

Here’s why:

Escalating energy costs 

Electricity is already expensive. 

According to the Canada Energy Regulator, Canada’s residential electricity rates have gone up 3% per year on average in the past decade. According to the Canada Energy Regulator, Canada’s residential electricity rates have gone up 13% on average, since 2015i. Also, costs can vary by region depending on how utilities generate power. 

In Ontario and Quebec, electricity comes from using a mix of hydro, gas-fired, and nuclear power. A diverse energy mix to generate power helps keep costs lower. 

In Northern Canada, there are fewer options. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (NWT) generate most of their electricity with diesel and fuel oil. This comes at a much higher cost.

In both cases, increased demand would mean more regular grid maintenance and upgrades. Consumers and industry would end up paying the price on their utility bills.

Heightened vulnerability and reduced reliability

Today, we rely on our energy grid more than ever. For news, internet access, remote work, powering our homes and businesses, etc. 

Unfortunately, system failures can happen for all kinds of reasons. Natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or technical glitches can sometimes disrupt the electricity supply. Even a strong gust of wind can leave communities without power for extended periods.

According to the Canadian Electricity Association, 2021 had ~1,300 reported power outages that affected over 2.4 million Canadians. 

Disruptions to our electricity are more than just inconveniences. Blackouts and the circumstances surrounding them can pose significant risks to public safety. 

When hospitals lose power for extended periods, people can die.

Depending on electricity alone would make our energy infrastructure even more vulnerable, leaving individuals, who need energy the most, at greater risk. 

We need fail-safes and backup systems in place for when things go wrong.

That’s why it’s important to have other options. As humans, it’s in our nature to have a backup plan for everything—so why not for our energy needs? 

Stifling innovation in gaseous energy

Electricity as the only option sidelines potential innovations in alternative energy sources.

Canada’s robust natural gas infrastructure is already a testing ground for innovation. We’re integrating renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen into the system. 

These technologies have the potential to transform our energy landscape for the better. But not if they’re shut down.

It doesn’t make sense to neglect the development of more efficient gaseous energy. We’d be missing opportunities to reduce emissions on a global scale.

How do we reduce emissions, keep energy costs down, and maintain a reliable energy system?

If you’ve made it this far, you understand that electricity can’t meet all our energy needs on its own. 

So, what’s the solution? How do we balance affordability, reliability, and sustainability?

We need to embrace a diversified approach. An approach that builds reliability into our energy mix, where we can leverage natural gas and all the innovations making it more efficient.

Let’s explore why.

Mitigating energy costs

Integrating natural gas into our energy mix helps reduce energy costs for consumers. Its affordability means that electricity produced with natural gas helps keep costs down.

By diversifying, we also reduce our reliance on a single energy source. When prices fluctuate, the reliable availability of natural gas helps keep energy prices stable.

Universal energy accessibility

Natural gas provides crucial energy access to regions without reliable electricity grids.

It can also help developing economies transition towards cleaner energy sources. In regions that rely on coal, oil, and propane, natural gas offers a better alternative. 

Sharing natural gas gives more people access to affordable, reliable energy. This promotes economic growth and social development.

Leveraging existing infrastructure

One significant advantage of natural gas is the extensive infrastructure already in place. Canada has a well-established network of pipelines and distribution systems already integrated into our energy system. 

Using existing infrastructure means fewer costly, time-consuming infrastructure development projects. Easy integration of RNG and hydrogen into the existing infrastructure makes the system even more efficient.

Enhancing reliability

Natural gas in our energy mix means a more reliable, resilient energy system. Depending on one energy source increases the risk of blackouts. Natural gas ensures a more stable power supply for critical services and industries. 

It protects us from disruptions, safeguarding our communities and businesses.

Fostering innovation

Diversified energy options enable continued innovation across the entire energy sector. Developments in gaseous energy contribute to a more sustainable energy future for Canada:

  • Improved extraction techniques have unlocked vast, once inaccessible reserves of natural gas. These advancements increase our natural gas supply, our energy security, and economic opportunities.

  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are reducing the environmental impact of natural gas. CCS prevents emissions from natural gas power plants from entering the atmosphere. Further implementing CCS will help mitigate the effects of climate change.

  • Renewable natural gas (RNG) harvests emissions from waste, preventing them from polluting. Reintegrating the captured methane into our natural gas system, reduces energy waste.

Canada’s future needs natural gas

A sustainable energy future will be a challenge no matter what. By now you know that no one energy source can meet our needs alone. 

We can’t ignore the costs and vulnerabilities of an electricity-only future. Instead, we need to plan a diversified energy system. One that includes natural gas.

A diverse mix is the way to build an energy future that’s reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable. If we embrace innovations and stay open-minded, we’ll find balance.

Do you believe in the importance of sustainable, accessible, and affordable energy? It’s time to raise your voice.