Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed a Joint Declaration of Intent, agreeing to co-operate towards a goal of shipping clean hydrogen fuel from Canada to Europe by 2025.
Germany, like many countries around the world, is seeking long-term energy replacements for fossil fuels to meet climate commitments and to ensure energy security. As has been well-documented lately, hydrogen does not emit any carbon or other greenhouse gases when combusted, making it widely viewed as a key pillar as we move forward with global decarbonization efforts.
The Canada-Germany agreement marks a significant turning point for renewable energy in Canada. Developing more renewable sources is no longer just about reducing our emissions and fighting climate change at home, it’s an opportunity and necessity to provide solutions globally.
As we work towards decarbonizing the economy through measures such as electrification and meeting commitments to deliver green hydrogen, the amount of renewable electricity produced needs to increase dramatically. To supply both domestic and global clean energy, Canada will need to focus on tapping into all of its renewable energy resources, including those from the ocean.
With the longest coastlines in the world, Canada’s marine renewable energy resources--tides, waves, and offshore wind—present major untapped potential. Tidal energy offers a predictable energy resource that can support the uptake of other more variable renewable resources in the electricity system. Offshore wind can be developed at a greater scale than onshore wind, making it uniquely positioned to produce green fuels for domestic use and export to markets like Germany.
These resources are both primed for development in Atlantic Canada. The Bay of Fundy is known internationally as being the best tidal energy resource in the world. While there have been historical challenges, tidal energy has made significant strides in Nova Scotia and is ready to contribute to decarbonization efforts. Earlier this summer, a floating in-stream tidal device was successfully deployed and is delivering clean electricity to the grid – a first in Canada.
Other areas off the coast of Nova Scotia are being identified as having offshore wind conditions that rival those in the North Sea, an area well known for attracting offshore wind development and investment.
The offshore wind industry is booming worldwide with approximately 55 gigawatts (GW) installed globally and a projected 370 GW in capacity to be built by 2031. To put this into context, one GW is enough energy to power about 750,000 homes. The capital and investment for offshore wind is available, and Nova Scotia offers hundreds of GWs of untapped potential, suitable conditions for both fixed and floating technologies, and a long history of offshore oil and gas that offers useful data and knowledge about the environment that could prove useful in enabling development.
Aside from the green fuel export opportunity and production of clean electricity, the development of offshore wind and tidal energy present another important opportunity in Atlantic Canada – jobs, innovation, and new opportunities for communities. We have decades of experience working in offshore and marine industries that can be applied and adapted to service and supply marine renewable energy projects. Already, activity to support early tidal energy projects has engaged over 500 suppliers and businesses.
We are not alone in recognizing the opportunity and what’s at stake. Other jurisdictions have attractive support schemes in place, and Canada needs to move quickly to establish predictable regulatory frameworks and enabling conditions to support development and investment decisions if we are to stay competitive on a global scale.
While time is of the essence, we must also move thoughtfully and responsibly. Working with regulators and ongoing and meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities, local residents, and marine users is vital to ensure we are maximizing potential while also taking the necessary steps to protect the natural environment. Federal and provincial governments need to create an environment and invest in infrastructure that supports and attracts private sector investment in marine renewables. Measures such as the tax credits could help lower the cost of the electricity produced and assist with the market competitiveness of green hydrogen and ammonia. Investment in major infrastructure such as offshore transmission would also benefit the industry as a whole by kickstarting projects and lowering the costs of electricity produced.
The hydrogen agreement signed in Stephenville signals a significant opportunity to harness Atlantic Canada’s unique strengths in marine renewable energy. The world’s sustainable future is fast approaching, and it is the decisions we make now that will determine what role Canada has to play in it.
Elisa Obermann is the executive director of Marine Renewables Canada.