Ontario saw its first in-person electricity transformation conference in over 18 months when Electricity Transformation Canada united companies from all across Canada, Asia, Europe and the Americas and beyond. The environment took centre stage, as expected, but as much as it was about the technology that will revolutionize the way Canadians think of the environment and consume energy, it very quickly became about the people who are at the forefront of this change.
Wind and solar got a kinetic boost from each other as they shared the stage for the first time at a conference and a lot of people hope this practice continues. The sector brought out a lot of heavy-hitters in their respective industries and was well represented with wind turbines, solar panels, electric transportation, battery storage as well as the complementary technology companies and those of us supporting all of them.
The conference also attracted representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, associations such as the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, environmental, social and governance (ESG) champion AMNIe and other key stakeholders. Sessions included a wide range of topics including carbon tokens, ensuring top-down leadership approaches to ESG, the impact on indigenous people and their land to habitat disruption and development of recycling strategies for the green products that are supposed to be making our planet greener. Thought-provoking industry leaders participated in panel discussions encouraging companies to get behind the environmental, sustainable and governance movement with an emphasis on the now future as the time to act rather than the near future.
Timing-wise, the conference was serendipitous as it coincided with the North American Leaders Summit in Washington DC with the prime minister in attendance. The agenda stayed heavy in the ‘green’ weeds as talks continued between Prime Minister Trudeau, US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador around electric vehicle manufacturing and other renewable resources throughout North America.
And all this talk about how unsavoury Canada’s GhG emissions are and just how they stack up against other G7 nations isn’t great for the government but the mandate to reduce emissions and the demand to further clean energy immediately will be great for the renewables business.
“The U.S., European Union, and Germany emit more greenhouse gases than Canada in absolute terms, but Canada has the dubious distinction of seeing the greatest leap in emissions at 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2019…that beat out the United States at 0.6 percent and fell exponentially short of the five other G7 nations that cut GhG emissions between 4.4 and 10.8 percent.”
-Meredith MacLeod, CTV News (Source)
The timing couldn’t be more crucial. The fact that Canada’s GhG has risen, albeit incrementally, since 2016, and is on a current trajectory to miss the target set during the Paris Agreement and instead has increased its greenhouse gas emissions is concerning. (Source)
And the fact that in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Canada will have to see an increase to 60% for wind and solar is alarming and a wake up call. With statistics like this looming over this government, it’s clear that the time for action is now. Reframing the way Canadians think about environmental policy and how Canada stacks up, as a G7 nation, compared to the rest of the world is crucial. Getting the buy-in from the average Canadian and every Canadian is the only way we will successfully pull off this level of change. The faster Canadians can get their heads, hearts and wallets around this, the better off we will all be. It is clear Canada must make these changes and repair our reputation globally as we are interdependent with the rest of the world and we must be part of the solution. It is refreshing to see the renewable energy companies taking this on board and challenging conventional thinking around renewable energy, consumption and recycling and surpassing expectations.
Another not-so-hidden agenda on everyone’s minds is the much-anticipated need to continue shifting from pandemic survival mode into that of optimism and prosperity. Many companies remain on track to survive the consequences of the pandemic but have not yet positioned themselves to thrive in its aftermath. Renewable energy companies remain ahead of the curve in this respect as the environment and clean energy may have been thrust into the spotlight recently but renewable companies have had it in focus all along and have been working tirelessly to ensure their products’ successes. These clean energy crusaders champion this cause as though their lives depend on it. As it happens, they do, along with every single one of ours.
While on the subject of renewables, the notion of ESG has become a popular topic of interest. The renewable energy sector has always been strong with altruistic messaging and an increasingly amplified voice and with the environment taking centre stage, the public is once again looking at the renewable energy sector for inspiration. And when it comes to holistic innovation, the sector delivers. From ESG being relegated to the back-burner during the pandemic as leadership was forced to hunker down and focus on survival to a complete mindset shift that an ESG framework will further the need to survive with the ability to thrive as companies look ahead.
Key players in the renewable energy space looking to change the landscape of the world also want to affect change within their own companies and those they invest their time and money. They recognize the importance of ESG not just as a nice to have but as an essential service component that will one day share equal space with accounting and other reporting frameworks. For progressive, conscientious leaders, ESG will drive much of how they do what they do during their tenure and frame their legacy and their company’s future.
For our clients and everyone in the renewable energy space, this is promising news. ESG should be seen as an essential mandate rather than an honourable mention; a must-have rather than a nice to have. Irina Scarlete Zabala, CEO for AMNIe highlighted the need for a top-down approach to ESG.
“ESG serves as a bridge between finance and industry to evaluate what matters, beyond short-term financials. Besides the reporting and metrics, for corporate ESG integration to achieve its intended purpose, leadership alignment on Ethos and mindset is critical. This begins with a cultural awareness and understanding of the interconnections between our planet, each other, economics, and ethics. And this all begins with the choices we make, how we decide to spend our time and energy. In this context, ESG and wellbeing are not so far apart.”
-Irina Scarlete Zabala, CEO, AMNIe
For a sector that is built on ideas and innovations, and designed by dreamers and master builders, connecting with people is how they successfully invent, develop and advance their products and causes. The renewable energy companies who are making the world a more environmental, sustainable and responsible place to live with their inventions, ideas and innovations rely on the synergy from one another. It makes sense they would be at the forefront of a movement that embraces people at their core; setting up ESG as a practice, not a preach. This grassroots collaboration and innovative governance is what the sector is all about – listening and identifying a problem, a need for change, devising a solution to the problem and then building a solution and implementing it into practice. Their mission statements become the working models that will affect the change for all of us.
We are excited to see the abundance of great renewable energy companies with powerful mission statements, thoughtful brand development, stories and cool products that revolutionize how we engage in the world responsibly. The good news is that meeting a bold 2030 climate target is possible and the companies who will bring about this energy transition will bring jobs and security to communities throughout Canada.
And for those of us in the complementary space that support these trailblazers, we are excited for a future where their efforts and products will produce the change that will positively impact our communities and the rest of the world. The momentum is here and the time is right to get behind these companies and organizations and make climate change everyone’s agenda.
The future looks bright and green.