Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground as a deer stands in a canola field near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The Canada Energy Regulator says we will still heavily rely on fossil fuels over the next 30 years even with a bigger carbon tax and other new climate change policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground as a deer stands in a canola field near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The Canada Energy Regulator says we will still heavily rely on fossil fuels over the next 30 years even with a bigger carbon tax and other new climate change policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Fossil fuels to decline but remain big player in Canada’s energy use by 2050: report

Under the status quo scenario, demand for oil and gas remains relatively stable over the next three years

The Canada Energy Regulator says reaching net-zero emissions over the next 30 years will require a much more aggressive transition away from oil and gas.

The annual Energy Futures report released Tuesday comes just a few days after the federal government tabled a bill to enshrine into law its target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

But the report projects that even with many more policies to curb emissions than are currently in place, oil and gas would still make up nearly two-thirds of energy sources three decades from now.

“Achieving net-zero (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2050 will require an accelerated pace of transition away from fossil fuels,” the report says.

Net-zero means either no emissions are produced, or any that are produced are absorbed by nature or technology so no more are added to the atmosphere, where they contribute to global warming.

Regulator CEO Gitane De Silva told The Canadian Press in an interview that the goal of the report isn’t to comment on existing policy, but to paint a picture of where things could go using a variety of assumptions.

“Really, our hope is that this information will help inform that policy process going forward,” she said.

The 104-page report looks at two potential scenarios for energy use in Canada. One involves using only the climate policies already in place. Another “evolving scenario” adds in the impacts of expanding those policies, including hiking the carbon tax, lower market prices for oil and gas, and lower costs to transitioning to renewables like wind and solar.

The current carbon tax is to stop rising in 2022 at $50 per tonne of emissions produced. The government is to review it at that point. The regulator’s report looks at what would happen if the carbon tax was hiked to $125 a tonne by 2050.

Under the status quo scenario, demand for oil and gas remains relatively stable over the next three years.

In the “evolving scenario,” oil and gas demand peaked in 2019. It will fall 35 per cent by 2050 but will still account for 64 per cent of all energy used.

Canada currently gets about one-sixth of its energy from electricity, about 20 per cent of which comes from burning fossil fuels.

In the evolving policy scenario, the report projects electricity will generate more than one-quarter of Canadian energy by 2050, and that fossil fuels will provide about 10 per cent of that.

Darren Christie, the chief economist at the Canada Energy Regulator, says COVID-19 added much more uncertainty to this year’s projections, because fuel consumption and production fell substantially during the pandemic restrictions.

He says it’s also not entirely clear how, or if, the country’s work and commuting habits will return to the pre-pandemic normal.

“It really changes our starting point,” he said.

Overall energy use is down six per cent because of the pandemic, and oil production in Canada is down about seven per cent.

READ MORE: Protesters block rail line on Trans Mountain pipeline route in Metro Vancouver

The evolving scenario projects that crude oil and natural gas production will both grow between 17 and 18 per cent by 2039, but will then start to fall, dropping seven or eight per cent by 2050.

De Silva notes that if the three oil and gas pipelines under construction get finished — Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and Enbridge Line 3 — they will together be the final pipelines Canada needs to build to handle the projected growth and fossil fuel production before it begins to decline.

The report suggests Canada will also have to seriously pick up the pace on electric vehicles to meet its current targets. Even under the evolving scenario, the report projects only half of the passenger vehicles sold will be electric by 2050, a decade after Canada wants them all to be electric.

The large driver in that is the cost of electric-car batteries, said Christie.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

oil and gas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
Terrace city council approves inland port OCP amendments

Project still requires zoning bylaw, development permit to continue

This copper frog pendant was made by Jamika Aksidan, a young Nisga’a artist who was recently recognized with an award for her work. (Photo courtesy Nisga’a Museum)
Nisga’a youth artist wins award

Award includes $500, exhibition in Nisga’a Museum

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Graph showing the 2020 passenger totals at the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace. (Submitted/Northwest Regional Airport)
New year brings an end to a turbulent 2020 at Northwest Regional Airport

Passenger totals half of what they were in 2019

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Most Read