But even as the pros and cons of the North American Free Trade Agreement continue to be debated in the U.S. election campaigns, new opportunities for commerce among the three countries are emerging, including opportunities in energy.
Among the biggest openings involves imports of clean electricity from Canada, where hydropower provides the bulk of the nation’s power supply, with plenty to spare.
Electricity harnessed from dams and reservoirs in Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia accounted for 63% of Canada’s electricity supply in 2015, with nuclear energy following at 13%, and wind energy way behind but growing at 2%.
All told, 83% of Canada’s electric generation is emission-free, compared to 32% for power supplies in the U.S. and 25% for those in Mexico, according to Sergio Marchi, the president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association.
“We are keen to share that resource wealth with our friends to the south,” Marchi said the other day at a forum on cross-border electricity trade at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
As the head of a trade group that represents the electricity business in Canada, Marchi obviously has a vested interest in promoting sales in the U.S. Nevertheless, the timing seems right to look increasingly to our neighbor for more green power.
For starters, the U.S. and Canada, not to mention Mexico, are all committed to reducing their carbon emissions under the global climate accord struck in Paris last year. That could change, of course, if Trump is elected and he follows through on his pledge to reverse President Obama’s climate commitments.
At a North American leaders’ summit in Ottawa in June, Obama joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in announcing a goal of 50% clean power generation for the three countries by 2025.
Among their proposals for achieving that goal is approving new cross-border transmission projects involving renewable energy.
The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to curb electric-utility carbon emissions by 32% by 2030, provides added incentives for some states to look north of the border for electricity options, although the policy is being challenged in court by 27 states.
“It’s become abundantly clear that clean energy is the future,” Marchi said. “As such, it will define our industry and our economy and indeed our very way of life as North Americans.”