A new global ranking of countries’ renewable energy attractiveness is adding fuel to opposition parties’ criticism that the Conservative government’s prioritizing of oil and gas energy development has neglected alternative energy. The latest edition of Ernst & Young Global Limited’s renewable energy country attractiveness index was released March 2, and saw Canada slip into sixth place. Canada held on to fifth during 2014, moving up from its eighth-place score in 2013. The report ranks countries based on their attractiveness to investors. The score is based on a system that evaluates market attractiveness considering things like drivers of the energy market, investor climate, economic and political stability, prioritization and bankability of renewables, supply and demand, competitiveness, project attractiveness and technological maturity. The overall score for Canada was 59.8. The top score was given to China, at 75.6. The United States, Germany, Japan and India ranked second to fifth, respectively. Canada was outpaced by India because of its “significant policy, project and investment activity.” Canada’s natural resource critics have raised concern with the government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) “putting all their eggs in the natural resources basket.” It’s something they’ve all brought up during Question Period, scrums and in press releases, especially since oil prices plumetted in recent months. When asked about the government’s approach to energy, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) didn’t mince words. “The world is changing, but Canada is stuck in this demented time warp where we think our future is in bitumen. No other economy around the world is ignoring the opportunities in green fuel and green energy the way Mr. Harper is. When you look at the amount of money that’s been invested in solar and wind and geothermal and energy efficiency and conservation in the United States, in China, the EU, Canada is just lagging,” said Ms. May in an interview with The Hill Times. In his analysis of the ranking, Ben Warren, a global power and utilities corporate finance leader at Ernst & Young, highlighted the importance of energy diversification going forward, considering the volatile oil prices. He said for the countries climbing in the index, renewables are becoming an important part of their energy generation. As oil prices remain unstable, there has been a renewed call for the government to start shifting its priorities into further alternative energy development, but Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford (Kenora, Ont.) insists the federal government continues to adequately support clean energy. “Canada already generates a significant amount of its electricity from renewable resources. In 2012, 64.5 per cent of Canada’s electricity generation came from renewable energy, mostly from hydro, but also from wind, biomass, solar and tidal,” he said in an email interview with The Hill Times. Although the provinces have driven most of the developments in renewable energy, Mr. Rickford said the federal government has invested over $10-billion in green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies and the production of cleaner energy and cleaner fuels since 2006. “Innovation plays a key role in supporting Canada’s energy advantage. Along with our ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative that supports energy technology innovation to produce and use energy in a cleaner and more efficient way, our Government works through organizations such as Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to help the clean tech industry advance,” he said. The opposition argues that this investment is still disproportionate to the amount of money and subsidies the Conservatives have given the oil sector. According to environmental think-tank Oil Change International, the total value of tax breaks in Canada for energy companies is $928-million a year. “They’ve been solely focused on those to the detriment of the renewable energy… and to the detriment as well of Canada’s international reputation in terms of the way they’ve handled this and they way they’ve handled environmental policy,” said Liberal natural resources critic Geoff Regan (Halifax West, N.S.) in an interview with The Hill Times. According to NDP MP Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, Que.), his party’s natural resources critic, the way the government talks about energy indicates where its priorities are. “When the government expresses itself on energy matters, most of the time it’s always about either oil sands or about making sure we’re getting oil to market,” said Mr. Caron, in an interview with The Hill Times. “There has been very little talk and very little action of the government in actually stating the importance of developing the clean tech industry in Canada.” There are six main forms of alternative renewable energy in Canada: solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal and tidal. Solar, hydro and wind have dominated the scene in terms of prominence and production quantity. While biomass, geothermal and tidal are still relatively small players in green energy, typically with smaller-scale projects, and will require more investment to boost their portion of the playing field. The opposition parties would all like to see these sectors get more investment, research and policy support. The Green Party says it would like to see Canada begin a shift towards a “post-fossil fuel economy.” Ms. May said this would include maximizing the job potential in clean energy sectors, investing in energy efficiency to reduce waste and emphasize developing all alternative energy sources with the help of a carbon tax that would help further reduce the cost of renewables. She also would like to see Canada join the Renewable Energy Agency, reinstate the ecoENERGY retrofit program, and introduce electric vehicle rebates. The Liberals have remained mum on the details of their plans for clean energy investment priorities but have been speaking with representatives from within the industry about what they’d like to see. Mr. Regan told The Hill Times that R&D and infrastructure will be focuses, because developing green energy technology would bring more well-paying jobs to Canada, boost our exports and lower greenhouse gas emissions. “There needs to be a federal partner that’s truly interested in more than just one industry,” he said. The New Democrats say that encouraging alternative energy will be part of their election platform, with an emphasis on funding “fundamental” research and development, or R&D, not solely the applied research the government has been prioritizing. Mr. Caron said the NDP wouldn’t be investing in the private sector but mentioned universities as a place he sees as being where the “discoveries that will benefit our own industry in Canada,” could happen. He said there isn’t one form of alternative energy generation that the NDP sees as the clear winner. “We need to encourage all sectors’ research and see what’s more promising and then actually being able to invest in those type of energies that are actually ready to make that step forward,” he said. email@example.com The Hill Times Alternative energy A rundown of Canada’s alternative energy sources: It’s unlikely that Canada will depend on just one form of alternative energy. The way the industry has been growing is supportive of a diverse mix of energy sources, says Dan Woynillowicz, policy and partnership director at Clean Energy Canada. The organization is an initiative that collaborates with industry and governments to fast-track the transition to a low-carbon economy. He said that once the renewable industry gets over the initial cost curve of developing technology for alternative energy generation, the costs will continue to decrease, making renewables an appealing alternative to natural gas or oil, whose prices will always fluctuate in response to market volatility. To get a sense of what’s ahead for clean energy, this is where the country’s renewable alternatives stand now: Solar energy is considered to have the best long-term growth prospects out of the current alternative energy sources in Canada. “When we look at the rate of growth in investment, solar has been seeing the largest increases year over year,” said Mr. Woynillowicz. The cost of solar panel technology is decreasing and some provinces like Ontario have introduced incentives. It’s an adaptable alternative that can be used to collect energy virtually anywhere, from the roof of a house to rows of panels in a farmer’s field. According to Clean Energy Canada, in 2013 solar in Canada was operating at a renewable capacity of 146 gigawatts (GW). According to the Ernst & Young (E&Y) March 2015 rankings of 40 countries’ renewable energy technology, Canadian photovoltaic solar was ranked 12th and concentrated solar power was ranked 23rd. Wind has been established as a leading source of renewable energy in Canada in terms of the amount of money being invested and the addition of new electricity capacity, according to Mr. Woynillowicz. Ontario and Quebec have strong wind sources, and windmills are often thought of first when Canadians think of renewable energy. According to Clean Energy Canada, in 2013 wind in Canada was operating at a renewable capacity of 309 GW. The E&Y ranking for onshore wind energy technology was 4th, and came 11th for offshore wind energy technology. Traditional large Hydro has made strides in mitigating its social and environmental impacts, and is the most significant contributor to clean energy in Canada, says Mr. Woynillowicz. It “pairs well” with solar and wind, acting as a battery or backstop for those sources. The smaller-scale version of hydro is “run of river,” which is when water is diverted from a river and put through a turbine before being put back into the river. It’s a form that has good potential to grow, as the projects are smaller-scale and less expensive. According to Clean Energy Canada, hydro was bringing in 1000 GW in 2013 and was ranked 5th by E&Y this month. Bioenergy covers a wide range of methods, including burning forest waste to manufacturing biomass pellets to create steam that turns a turbine. There are questions about its benefits from a greenhouse gas perspective, whether it’s only using waste, or cutting down trees to burn, said Mr. Woynillowicz. According to Clean Energy Canada, bioenergy brought in 77 GW in 2013, and ranked 13th on EY&’s latest ranking. Geothermal is currently most prominent on the west coast of Canada. Although there’s a good understanding of the source, there has been no real commercial development as it’s expensive and comes with a degree of uncertainty. Much like oil, drilling for geothermal could also hit a “dry well.” However, unlike oil, there is no financial write-off for geothermal companies if that happens. According to Clean Energy Canada, in 2013 it contributed 12 GW of renewable energy to Canada, and is currently ranked 18th by E&Y. Tidal energy is still in its infancy in Canada, but there are some pilot projects underway in Atlantic Canada, with some support from both the provincial and federal governments. Because of Canada’s extensive coastline, there is potential for tidal energy to grow once we understand how to better harness the energy’s capacity. According to Clean Energy Canada, tidal contributed 0.5 GW in 2013, and scored 6th on E&Y’s ranking.