Canada's energy technology priorities
The report notes that Canada is an energy producing-nation, blessed with natural resources in all of the major energy sectors, as well as science and technology expertise in emerging sustainable energy sources. Crude oil, natural gas, coal, hydro, wind, nuclear, and hydrogen, are all areas in which Canada possesses natural and human resources. In a world where energy is a vital economic and environmental issue, Canada’s enormous wealth in these areas will be a major factor in the country’s financial and geopolitical fortunes.
However, there are ‘masked difficulties’ which could undermine this position, and a strong, concerted science and technology effort is needed to establish and maintain leadership in secure, sustainable energy, warns the Panel.
There are three factors that are spurring the need for advancements in Canadian energy technologies, the report says. First, sustained higher energy prices will bring greater returns to energy companies but will stress other areas of the economy, increasing the need for energy efficiency.
Second, without domestic energy innovation, Canada will remain dependent on imported technologies and will need to rely on others to make breakthroughs and harness our own natural resources.
Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, says the report, the environmental issues that come with energy production and consumption, primarily greenhouse gas emissions, are becoming increasingly important.
The report makes recommendations in two key areas:
To improve the Funding and Delivery of Energy Science and Technology, the Panel recommends the following:
- A long-term (10 year minimum) commitment to energy R&D by the public and private sectors;
- At least doubling the federal and provincial governments’ energy research investment within the next decade;
- Raising the R&D-to-revenue ratio for the private sector to an average of 1.5% by 2016, with the long-term objective of matching the Canadian industrial average, which currently stands at 3.8%;
- $30 million from the federal government to leverage investment in a reputable and visionary private sector Canadian venture capital fund focused on energy technologies; and
- Dedicated public research funds to promising speculative areas for long-term research, including materials science and nanotechnology research for the development of high-efficiency solar photovoltaic materials, improved chemistry and materials for advanced fuel cells, novel approaches to hydrogen production and portable storage, and methane gas hydrates.
The priority areas are:
- Bioenergy, utilize Canada’s large waste biomass resources;
- Gasification of carbon-based fuels including biomass;
- Carbon dioxide capture and storage, taking advantage of geologically favourable conditions near fossil fuel resources, linked strongly to fossil-fuel gasification efforts;
- Electricity Transmission, Distribution and Storage, to improve efficiency and provide grid-access for emerging energy options, with coordination of provincial and federal strategies;
- Fuel cells, to retain and extend a leadership position in this knowledge-based sector; and
- Applied social science, to understand social barriers that hinder the implementation of new energy technologies and understand decisions by energy purchasers.