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The David Suzuki Foundation has released modelling research that, it claims, demonstrates that Canada’s electricity system can be GHG-emission free based largely on wind generation and in the face of an economy that is electrifying. The model results indicate that Canadian solar and wind capacity will have to increase 18-fold by 2050, as part of a tripling in the capacity of Canada’s electricity system. The modelling suggests that conventional existing generation would be phased out by 2035 or shortly thereafter.

The report says that the investment necessary, although substantial, is not unrealistic. For example, it is reported that in British Columbia, 8410 wind turbines will have to be constructed between now and 2050. Over the same period, solar farms covering 800 hectares per year will be needed. The development will be significant. The total area to be covered by solar farms between now and 2050 would be 232 square kilometres, or about 70% of the area of Prince Edward Island.

The Suzuki Foundation study’s output is not without its critics. Other researchers in institutions researching and promoting sustainable energy question whether some of the non-quantifiable assumptions in the model are reliable. For example, commentators have noted that currently Québec and Ontario have commitments to hydropower and nuclear capacity expansions that they are unlikely to abandon. Also, the model assumes provincial cooperation in integrating a national electricity grid – an idea that has been discussed for some time, but has never been backed by sufficient political will to bring it about.

Whatever its shortcomings the report contributes to the national discussion of how to reduce or eliminate GHG-emissions from Canadian energy production.