Conversation with Robert Hornung

President  |  Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA)

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What went into producing Electricity Transformation Canada 2022?

We’re really excited about this year’s show for a couple of reasons: Firstly, we expanded our partnership and are now very pleased that CanREA and Hannover Fairs have been joined by RE+Events to deliver this show. We think that’s going to make it even more successful going forward.

We’re also pleased to be able to envision a show that is not forced to deal with a lot of COVID-related restrictions.

Last year was our first annual event, but we still had a lot of restrictions in place. We’re hopeful that this year we’ll be back to normal and have an opportunity for more networking and engagement between participants.

What’s new at this year’s show?

At last year’s show, we released CanREA’s 2050 vision, looking at what the role of wind, solar, and energy storage would be in getting us to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This year’s show is really taking stock of where we’re at. Looking at the progress we’ve made and some of the challenges that remain, we’re going to explore a number of different themes over the course of the show. The federal government has made a commitment to put in place a clean-electricity regulation that would require a net-zero grid in Canada by 2035, and we’ll have sessions looking at what the implications are in different parts of the country. What will happen in the fossil-fuel dependent provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan? What does it mean in Ontario? What does it mean in Atlantic Canada? We’ll explore those questions. We’ll also look at the role of energy storage and how it can help across all of those different jurisdictions in terms of getting to that net-zero grid by 2035.

We will spend a bunch of time looking at where there are new opportunities and demand emerging for renewable energy. We’ll talk about efforts in Canada to expand opportunities for corporate power purchase agreements, and across the country, we’re going to be looking at green hydrogen, and what does that market look like? We’re also going to look at the use of increasing use of electricity in transportation with the ongoing shift to electric vehicles and in heavy industry as well.

We’re going to look at questions related to the workforce. In our 2050 vision, we talked about the fact that Canada will need to expand its wind and solar capacity tenfold by 2050 if we’re going to get to net-zero. Where are those workers going to come from? How do we do that? And how do we ensure that this occurs in a way that is just and inclusive as well? We’ll examine some opportunities to make this energy transformation and electricity transformation truly a win-win, helping us not only to reduce emissions, but also to provide socioeconomic benefits through society.

What might first-time attendees hope to gain by coming?

First off, this is the one-stop shop for people who are interested in renewable energy in Canada. We expect more than 1,500 attendees at the event, and more than 100 exhibitors. It’s the one time in the year where everybody from across the country comes together, and so there’s a great networking opportunity.

We’re talking about topical issues — things like the clean electricity regulation that I just mentioned, as well as new emerging opportunities in terms of green hydrogen, corporate PPA agreements, and what that means for the industry. We also have a session, which I didn’t mention earlier, where we will be providing, through the CanREA policy team, updates on the latest regulatory and legislative initiatives relevant to out technologies in each of the major regions of the country.

It’s a great opportunity to get up to speed in terms of what’s going on in Canada, who the players are, while also providing an opportunity to meet them. Now is the time really to engage in that exploration because we’re on the cusp of a significant growth spurt for our technologies in Canada. The commitment to a net-zero grid by 2035 and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 2050 has made it absolutely clear that demand for these technologies is just going to go through the roof, from this point going forward, because they’re so central to us meeting these targets. This is an opportunity to come in, understand the lay of the land, meet the key players, and get in on the ground floor as this train starts to pick up momentum as we move toward net-zero by 2050.

Are there any wind-energy events that at the show that you feel should be checked out?

It’s interesting because one of the reasons that CanREA was formed was to capture the synergies that we believe exist between wind, solar, and energy storage. We’ve actually consciously designed this event to break down the silos. We have not structured our program to include “a wind discussion,” or “a solar discussion.” In many parts of Canada, however, there’s been a lot of talk about the role wind is going to play.

For example, in green-hydrogen deployment in Canada, we’ve had recent announcements looking at using offshore and onshore wind to produce green hydrogen in the Atlantic provinces, so we’ll explore some of that.

In other jurisdictions, like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are heavily fossil-fuel dependent, moving toward a net-zero grid will require both wind and solar, but will be leaning very heavily on wind in order to do it. We now are in an era where there are fewer and fewer companies that are specializing in one technology. Companies are now multi-technology companies because they’re trying to provide comprehensive solutions that meet the specific market needs in different parts of the country. We’ve designed the show to cater to that.

So COVID is not having an effect on this year’s show at all?

At this time, we are not required to have any specific protocols in place related to COVID.
We do, of course make a commitment to all of our attendees that we will follow whatever guidance public health authorities are providing at the time. But at this point in time, we don’t envision any requirements being in place.

What are you personally looking forward to at the show?

I guess I’ll say a couple of things: First off, it’s our first opportunity to hold a normal show. So, I’m very much looking forward to that. But as I mentioned earlier, the timing is really, really critical here. We are now in a situation where we’ve done analysis — and others have done analysis — which show that to get to a net-zero by 2050 path, we probably have to triple wind and solar capacity by 2030. That’s eight years. It’s not a lot of time.

Governments have already made commitments that have the potential to take us about half the way there, and it’s going to be the decisions that occur in the next couple years that determine whether or not we get that other half. That’s why this is a really critical moment for the industry to come together and to talk about how we can put our best foot forward in making the case for our technologies to play the central role they will need to play to help us get to net-zero going forward.

Anything else you’d like to mention about the show?

I think I would just say, in terms of programming, we will have plenary sessions. We will have some concurrent sessions that run side by side, and we’ll also have sessions running on the show floor as well. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities to participate in the education aspects of the program. But of course, one of the big elements of an event like this is just the opportunity to network, and a lot of that’s going to happen on the trade-show floor. We’ll have receptions and other things happening there as well to enable some of those connections to be made that hopefully create new business opportunities for participants going forward.

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