Canadian Electric Utilities Striving for Sustainability


 GLOBE-Net, August 14, 2013.  The Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) has released its 2013 Sustainable Electricity™ Annual Report, outlining the progress CEA Corporate Utility Members have made toward sustainability throughout the last year.  

CEA’s mandatory, industry-wide Sustainable Electricity program was developed to foster continuous member improvement in the areas of environmental, social and economic performance. 

CEA members submit specific metrics and indicators annually, which are verified by an independent, external third-party.  In addition, member performance is reviewed by a Public Advisory Panel, chaired by the Hon. Mike Harcourt, former Premier of British Columbia. 

The overall sustainable performance of Canada’s electric utilities is on a positive trajectory, but a number of challenges and barriers remain.

The electricity sector has made progress in several areas, including a 4.5% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions, a 11.8% decrease in nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions, a 35.1% reduction in the lost-time injury/illness frequency rate (lost time due to injuries per 200,000 hours), and an 18.8% increase in investments in new or refurbished generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure (over $12 billion total).  

There were also some areas for continued improvement including priority spills and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, which increased slightly by 5.2% and 3.5%, respectively.  These numbers are all relative to 2011 performance. 

“I am pleased to see CEA members’ ongoing commitment to sustainable business practices,” said Jim Burpee, President and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association. 

“To continue this momentum, utilities will need to work with governments, regulators and customers to ensure that the electricity system of tomorrow is reliable, sustainable and cost-effective.” 

The Report, titled Innovating for a Sustainable Future, confirms that the overall sustainable performance of CEA members is on a positive trajectory, but there are still a number of challenges and barriers utilities are facing to accelerating innovation, modernizing infrastructure, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and attracting skilled labour. 

Challenges Remain:

  • Innovating for Sustainability: Innovating for sustainability is one of the biggest emerging issues facing the  electricity sector. The sector is facing unprecedented risks including infrastructure renewal, regulatory and policy  changes, societal license to operate, and organizational human resource requirements. 
  • Infrastructure Investment:Infrastructure investment continues to be a crucial concern for the industry.  According  to a report by the Conference Board of Canada, “investment in electricity infrastructure from 2011 to 2030 will total  an estimated $347.5 billion (in current dollars).”
  • Regulatory Efficiency: As the electricity sector begins to renew its infrastructure, an efficient regulatory environment  is a prerequisite for success. While the federal government introduced several legislative amendments to existing environmental laws in 2012, electricity projects are often faced with a number of duplicative federal and provincial regulations. 
  • Climate Change: Climate change is a challenge for Canada’s electricity sector in two ways: first, the need to   reduce the sector’s carbon footprint; and second, the need to adapt to the physical effects of climate change on  its electricity system. 
  • Human Resources: Canada’s electricity sector has a major demographic challenge, with an aging workforce and  the looming retirement of a large percentage of its skilled and experienced employees. By 2016, about 45,000 new  workers (more than 40 percent of the current workforce) will be needed.

“CEA members have demonstrated that continual improvement is an essential part of doing business and meeting evolving stakeholder expectations,” said David Morrison, President and CEO of Yukon Energy Corporation, and the Chair of CEA’s Board Committee on Sustainability. 

“We must continue to prioritize and implement innovative business practices to ensure that we have a positive impact on the environmental, social and economic spheres of our operations.” 


Click here to access the 2013 Sustainable Electricity Annual Report. 

Click here to read the Executive Summary of the 2013 Sustainable Electricity Annual Report.

GL14 Community Energy: Are the Days of Big Utilities Numbered?   will be a major issue discussed at GLOBE 2014, the next in the celebrated GLOBE Series Conferences on the business of the environment taking place in Vancouver  Canada, March 26-28, 2014.   Reserve your place now. Check here for more details


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