Regulatory Challenges to Green Energy and the Global Cost of Green Energy

Posted by on Jun 22, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

In a letter titled, “Canada’s future is unbuilt,” a somewhat unusual coalition of business, Indigenous, labour, environmental, and policy groups expressed concern about the regulatory climate in Canada.

The letter begins by acknowledging the federal government’s “ambitious targets” for emissions reduction by 2030 and the goal to be net zero by 2050.

They state, “The reality is that to meet these targets, we need to invest in technology and infrastructure at a scale and pace never before seen in Canadian history.”

Specifically, they write in the letter that the investment must be made in critical minerals; power generation and transmission; hydrogen manufacturing and export capacity; low carbon energy; and small modular reactors.

Regulatory Challenges

However, according to the coalition, the existing regulatory review and permitting systems in Canada, in their view “are not up to the challenge of meeting our climate targets.”  They specifically point out that the current regulatory process is time-consuming, unpredictable, and complex.  Further, the regulatory process doesn’t always “fully enable the necessary engagement and participation of Indigenous communities.”

In their estimation, Canada is not seen as a place that can get projects built—and that has a big cost.

Finally, they state that a growth strategy for Canada that “enables major development to support both our environmental and economic goals must have efficient, practical, and responsible regulatory structures at its foundation.”

Anyone that has had to deal with what can often be a labyrinth of environmental (and other) regulations can relate to the concerns in this letter.

From our perspective in Southern Ontario, we are seeing a tremendous push toward the development of electric vehicles, EV batteries, and associated manufacturing industries of the automotive business.

The current push towards electric cars along with more computers and mobile phones is requiring more rare earth metals (Photo by JUICE on Unsplash).

These industries will not be able to meet this anticipated growing demand if we cannot provide the raw materials.

You can read the one-page letter here.  Note that there is no date on the letter, but it is referenced in a June 12, 2023, article in BNN Bloomberg.

Global Concerns over Mineral Mining

With the worldwide push to move away from fossil fuels, there is likewise a worldwide rush to mine the necessary minerals to fuel this new economy.

However, increasingly there are voices of concern over the environmental and human rights issues associated with mining some of these minerals. Further, the planned obsolesce of devices such as mobile phones is increasing the demand for these minerals.  For example, at the last count, there are some 34 iterations of iPhones alone.

Siddharth Kara is an author, researcher, and activist on modern slavery.  He is a British Academy Global Professor and an Associate Professor of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at Nottingham University (England).  He recently wrote a book, Cobalt Red.

Cobalt Essential for our Economy

Mr. Kara points to the use of cobalt in everyday items. “Cobalt is a vital component to almost every lithium-ion rechargeable battery made today.  That means cobalt is used in almost every smartphone, tablet, laptop, and electric vehicle that is used by billions of people around the world.”

Mining Cobalt and the Human Toll

The majority of the world’s cobalt (75%) is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  According to Kara, “There are hundreds of thousands of people in the Congo who dig for cobalt by hand, with shovels, pickaxes, and rebar.  They are called artisanal miners, although this quaint term belies the miserable conditions under which they toil.”

He points out that tunnels dug to get the cobalt collapse every week, killing people including children.

Kara states, “To make matters worse, industrial mines have clear-cut millions of trees and dumped toxic contaminants and heavy metals into the earth, air, and water across the Congo’s mining provinces…all so that we can transition to greener sources of energy—green for everyone but the people in the Congo.”

Statista validates that the DRC is by far the largest source of global cobalt reserves in this graph.

Big Picture Concerns

The efforts to change our energy economy will be challenging.  Currently, energy is still by-in-large produced by fossil fuels (80% according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute).

However we approach the changing demands for energy, we must do so with caution to avoid a global economic collapse.  And if there is truly concern about equity, we cannot ignore the human and environmental rights of those in developing nations that are providing raw materials for our new economy.

If you have questions or need assistance with an environmental issue, contact Christopher Paré, P.Geo., Q.P. at 519-948-7300, Ext. 114. 

Dragun Corporation does not use artificial intelligence in drafting our blogs or any other material.

This blog was drafted by Alan Hahn.  Alan has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and completed a graduate program in Environmental Management.  He has worked in environmental management for 45 years.  He has written hundreds of blogs and articles.  His published work includes HazMat Magazine, BizX Magazine, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, GreenStone Partners, Manure Manager Magazine, and Progressive Dairy.

This blog was reviewed by Christopher Paré, P.Geo.  Chris is a senior geoscientist and manager of Dragun’s Windsor, Ontario, office.  Chris has more than 30 years of experience on projects ranging from environmental site assessments (Phase One/Two ESA), excess soils, remedial investigations, soil and groundwater remediation, Permits to Take Water, Records of Site Conditions, vapour intrusion, and site decommissioning.  Chris is a frequent speaker, author, and expert witness.  See Chris’ bio.

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