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

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read