Think Energy

Current affairs with Francis Bradley, Electricity Canada’s President and CEO

Jun 24, 2024

Electricity Canada’s President and CEO, Francis Bradley, joins thinkenergy in episode 140. Hear about the shift to sustainable electricity, including the difficulties navigating provincial and federal policies, climate change directives, and funding gaps. Plus how Electricity Canada evolved from a technical exchange club into a national advocate for sustainable energy. From challenges to leading the charge, learn how governments and private sectors are working towards a clean, efficient electricity system.

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Trevor Freeman  00:07
Welcome to think energy, a podcast that dives into the fast changing world of energy through conversations with industry leaders, innovators, and people on the frontlines of the energy transition. Join me Trevor Freeman, as I explore the traditional, unconventional and up and coming facets of the energy industry. If you have any thoughts, feedback or ideas for topics we should cover, please reach out to us at think energy at hydro Hi, everyone, welcome back. On the show before we have talked about how energy is primarily a provincial jurisdiction in Canada, so that means that provinces and provincial governments set energy policy provincial grids are structured both in a regulatory sense as well as a physical infrastructure sense. at the provincial level, we've gone into some detail about Ontario's grid and talked about how it's kind of a distributed grid meeting most electricity customers in Ontario get their electricity from a local distribution company. Not every province is the same in any of those senses. Some are a little bit more vertically integrated, meaning there are you know, maybe a single entity that gets you all the way from generation to distribution. There's different regulatory frameworks. The point is there's a lot of diversity across the country. Now, as much as that is a provincial jurisdiction, there is a role for the federal government to play here at that national level. There are some national policy directions that are important and that impacts energy policy. Climate change is a great example. So the federal government has jurisdiction to set targets and come up with strategies to address climate change for the country. Things that the federal government is doing currently is enacting a clean electricity standard with the goals of decarbonizing electricity generation in the country, so making sure that we stop using fossil fuels to generate electricity on a large scale. The federal government also supports decarbonisation efforts for buildings and for transportation, and they put money into those things. And those efforts impact electricity grids and impact markets. The federal government also has a role to play when it comes to major projects and providing approvals for those projects to move forward. And that includes energy projects. So new generation or new transmission, you know, things that are using land or moving across land, there's a role for the federal government to play there. So enter electricity Canada, the national voice for electricity utilities in Canada. Now, we've talked before about the sort of provincial equivalent that advocates on behalf of energy utilities. This is the national voice here for electricity, utilities, electricity, Canada has been around for over 130 years now. And their focus, at least in the last while has been on federal advocacy. I'm not going to tell you too much about electricity, Canada, because my guest today is going to talk a little bit about that. But just as a primer. So they have recently published their 2024 state of the industry report, which looks at the need to accelerate some of these major initiatives in the electricity sector to keep up with the energy transition that, as we've talked about many times is already underway. It's already happening. And we are just trying to keep up really. So my guest today is actually making his second appearance on the podcast as Francis Bradley, who is the president and CEO of electricity Canada, and has held a number of different roles within electricity Canada as well prior to becoming the president CEO. He also has a number of key positions on national committees and working groups, which are focused on infrastructure, energy and electricity and other related topics. And most interestingly, he also hosts his own podcast, the flux capacitor, which I highly recommend you check out. Francis, welcome back to the show.
Francis Bradley  04:01
Delighted to be here. Thanks for the invitation, Trevor.
Trevor Freeman  04:03
So I know you've kind of given us the background before but electricity Canada has been around for over 130 years now, which is older than our kind of modern, interconnected grid, at least here in Canada. Can you just remind us of the role and the mandate that your organization plays in the electricity sector?
Francis Bradley  04:20
Sure. Absolutely. In fact, somewhere we have a photograph of like the first meeting of what at the time was the Canadian electrical Association at Niagara Falls in 1891.
Trevor Freeman  04:32
Francis Bradley  04:32
But yeah, you know, where, where we're at today. So basically, you know, if you turn a light switch on pretty much anywhere in Canada, any province, any territory, everything it took to generate, transmit and distribute the electricity to turn that light on was probably done by by one of one of our 42 members. They're in every single province, every single territory to use the official the official definition you know, Our mandate is to be the national voice for sustainable electricity for our members and the customers they serve. We do this through advocacy through sharing best practices, and, and education of stakeholders and the government. But yeah, our our members are basically the, you know, the 40 odd, biggest companies that generate transmit distributed coast to coast to coast.
Trevor Freeman  05:22
And has that mandate changed over the course of the 130 years, or is it pretty consistent?
Francis Bradley  05:27
No, it's It's actually that's that's an interesting question. It has changed a lot. And it's changed over the time since I've been at the association even and then aimless changed, that this is the third name. I'm on since since I joined the organization. Yeah, when it was first established. As you say, there was a letter A long time ago, 133 years, it was basically a little club for these people that were in this nascent industry who, who would, you know, swap stories about, about what they're doing and how it's working. And even at the time, there was still, you know, debates about should we be doing AC or DC and, you know, the whole, the whole, you know, battle between, between Westinghouse and, and, and, and the other folks, but so, you know, it was initially a technical information exchange organization, when I joined the organization, it was still very much technically focused, would do a big annual conference, we actually had a technical research division, and we do a couple of million dollars of research a year, back then. We then evolved, we, we evolved from the Canadian electrical association to the Canadian electricity Association. And our mandate began to shift away from Duke First off, where we stopped doing technical research and moved away from technical detailed technical information exchange, and increasingly our mandate began to focus on advocacy and and what the what the industry needs and what they what the members require, from an advocacy standpoint. And then in the 1990s, mid 1990s, we moved up into Ottawa because prior to that we'd been in Montreal, we've been in Montreal since the 1930s. Before that, we were in Toronto. So in the 90s, given that the focus had shifted pretty significantly to advocacy, and the principal government that we were seeking to advocate with was the federal government, the office moved up to Ottawa. And then three years ago, the name of the organization was changed from the Canadian electricity Association, to simply electricity, Canada.
Trevor Freeman  07:42
So that's that switch from technical to the more advocacy and policy work. It's really interesting and actually kind of ties into this. This next question, I want to ask you, we've talked on the show before about, you know, how the Ontario electricity sector is structured. And it's complex, to say the least, but that's one of many in Canada, different provinces have different regulatory structures. Energy Policy is primarily provincial jurisdiction. But as you mentioned, the federal government has a say in that as well, especially when it comes to climate change recently. So I'm curious, how do you navigate all those differences and kind of speak with a common voice when you're dealing with so many different regulatory bodies? So many different governmental bodies? What's How do you find that common voice?
Francis Bradley  08:31
Yeah, well, and you know, that that is that is that the fundamental challenge of, frankly, any organization in Canada that's attempting to, to operate at a national level, in a in a sort of domain that's principally principally provincial, but it's kind of even more so with electricity because of the differences in different jurisdictions. And, you know, you've noted that Ontario is complex in terms of the industry structure, it was more complex. When I when I first started in the sector, there were 300 and more than 350 local distribution companies, you know, so there's been a little bit of consolidation,
Trevor Freeman  09:11
we have a paltry 60 something now.
Francis Bradley  09:13
Yeah, well, that's right. Yeah, we're down into only double digits. But at the same time, you know, we also saw, you know, municipal municipal amalgamations that's taken place that have driven some of that, but, you know, so we've seen an evolution here in Ontario. But, you know, there are no two jurisdictions in this country that are the same. So you know, there isn't a like an electricity system in Canada, each province and territory is different, different types of ownership. You know, in some, it's like a private, privately run companies and in other jurisdictions, it's a Crown Corporation. In some like Ontario, it's a hybrid of a mix of different types of ownership. But, you know, there's there are there are crowns, there are municipally owned there are privately owned companies as part of the value chain. And so you know, It results in a pretty disparate system, both in terms of how the sector is structured, and also how its regulated. Because the regulations are different in each and every one of those jurisdictions. And so, you know, this presents us with a huge problem, frankly, and we see it now, in particular, with respect to all of the politics around climate change, because electricity is a provincial responsibility, but we have one level of government, the federal government, providing direction in this space. And then we have another level of government, that the provincial level, you know, reacting to what those national objectives are, we've got multiple regulators across the country offering their own interpretations on what can and cannot be done in this space. And it proves to be a problem, you know, with respect to the challenge to build the infrastructure that's going to be needed to meet our, our, our aspirations, our future aspirations, this complexity makes it very difficult to get things moving and get things done. And, you know, in addition to that, honestly, in the past year, you know, if you look at the relationship between federal government, the federal government and provincial governments, in some parts of this country, it's starting to smell and feel like just raw geopolitics, right. You know, all sides, frankly, on some of these files have have demonstrated the sort of dogmatic posturing that you'd expect between countries, not necessarily between provinces, and a central government and in a confederation. But, you know, the thing is, and I keep going back to this, if you sort of strip out the posturing that we see, the fact is, we actually agree on much more than than the areas where we disagree. And here's an example. You know, if you look at the, the,the provincial opposition in a number of provinces to the Government of Canada's clean electricity regulations, you would think that, you know, we're on completely different pages here. But, you know, if you ignore some of the, you know, saber rattling, and the point scoring, you actually can see that there is general agreement provincially. And federally, that electrification is going to be, you know, the long term solution to our climate crisis. In fact, the only thing that's in dispute is sort of the deadline and the methods that we're getting there. So, you know, there, there are expressions in some provincial capitals, about the clean electricity regulations as the method and you know, and dispute as to whether or not it should be 2035, or a different time frame, but everybody is on the same page of, you know, an aspiration to have a non omitting sort of a clean system throughout the economy by 2050. And so, you know, that's the starting point that we work from, is that, oh, yes, there are certainly disparate views on some of the methods and some of the policies, but objectively, we are all attempting to head essentially in the same direction. We're all heading towards, like this net zero future. It's just a question of, how are we going to get there and, and with the time you're going to be,
Trevor Freeman  13:18
it's interesting to hear you say that, because that's, you know, a couple episodes back, I talked to David Caletto, from abacus, and he was talking about just the general populations opinion on things, and it mirrors that exactly. So it's not just our sort of various jurisdictions and levels of government that kind of agree, where we need to get to, they just don't know how we're gonna get there. They don't agree and how we're gonna get there.
Francis Bradley  13:40
Trevor Freeman  13:41
Your average Canadian also agrees with that. Canadians feel that a an electrified energy sector energy system is better than a fossil fuel one.
Francis Bradley  13:50
Trevor Freeman  13:51
We just don't agree on how we're going to get there. So yeah, that's great. Great to hear. And that leaves you guys to sort of thread that needle and find the common points and amplify that I imagine.
Francis Bradley  14:00
Absolutely. And, you know, and, and attempt to come up with solutions. You know, given that our principal role is, is is in advocacy, you know, that that means that we're in the public policy, loop solutions business, and trying to attempt to find ways to to, as you say, thread that thread that needle, but also, you know, figure out ways that that we can make sure that we have policies that are supportive of that future that, you know, as you said, even even the polling work that the David Caletto discussed with you. They agree that that's the destination as well. So, like, what's one of the public policy specific initiatives apart from the overall objective that we should be seeking to, you know, seeking to pursue?
Trevor Freeman  14:51
So if I could pick on one of those specific issues, you know, keeping on this theme of regional differences and regional challenges, we have different relationships with the fossil fuel industry in Canada. And that includes both our electricity generation, some of our provinces have predominantly carbon free generation and some don't. And in terms of our economy, so I mean, West fossil fuel is weaved into the economy and a pretty integrated way. How can we navigate this move to cleaner electricity, collectively as a country, knowing that different areas of the country have to do different things to get there, and it's going to impact them in different ways?
Francis Bradley  15:31
Yeah, and it isn't surprising that different parts of the country have a different approach to this, and they're coming from a different starting point. You know, it's kind of the luck of the draw, when, you know, when, when the geography prior to, you know, it prior to prior to anything like this, it was all determined by geography, if you happen to be in a jurisdiction today, that has a lot of water and a lot of different elevations so that the water is falling, you know, you're starting it certainly in a in a in a better place. That, you know, that the challenge overall is to is to really try and figure out how we we make this work across the country? You know, you're you're absolutely right, there are some parts of this country that have historically been very reliant on fossil fuels for the production of electricity. Why? Well, because they didn't have any falling water, or they're relatively flat. And so you know, that that was the certainly the case. And it continues to be the case and the challenge for some jurisdictions, so, you know, take the example of the draft clean electricity regulations that, you know, we've been, we've been talking about, and we're spending a lot of time focused on they, they hit different jurisdictions very differently, this objective to try and reach a netzero grid by 2035 is not a huge stretch, if you happen to be, you know, in in, in Quebec, or in British Columbia, or in Manitoba, it's a lift, but it's not a huge lift. You know, however, if you're, if you're elsewhere, it, it can be quite challenging. So the problem that we have there is, but you know, when the government of Canada began putting together their work on the clean electricity regulations, they use modeling that looked at the national average, and, you know, nationally, they were 84%, non emitting as a country. That's great.
Trevor Freeman  17:31
Francis Bradley  17:32
But, you know, they really should have taken a hard look at what the differences were between different jurisdictions in the country. And they should have done their modeling that was much more local. You know, Canada is a big, diverse country. And, you know, you hinted at that. So, you know, exactly nowhere in Canada is average. Right, and so we shouldn't be modeling nowhere. Because then that simply doesn't work. You know, and, and the, the simple illustration, I will often say is, if you've got two lobsters, and one of them is in the freezer, and the other one is in the pod on your stove, on average, the temperature is pretty good for the lobsters. But it isn't for either of them, right? Yeah. So, you know, listen, why does this matter? Well, if we get the modeling wrong, and if we don't understand the differences between the different regions of the country, we're going to be making decisions on how to allocate because, you know, we talk about 2050, and what is Net Zero 2050 Looks like, looks like it's going to be, you know, trillions of dollars worth of investments are going to be required. And if they're leaning on models that are not right, that becomes problematic. It's a huge bet that we're making, you know, if the models we base our decision making on and where we're going to be putting our investments aren't accurate. If the regulations are wrong, you know, these clean electricity regulations, because they didn't take into consideration the regional differences. Compliance is going to be expensive. It could in some jurisdictions, you know, make blackouts or brownouts more common with bigger impacts, and it might have disproportionately more significant impact on on the rates in most jurisdictions. So, you know, the reality is, it's four provinces in, in in Canada, that have a starting point with respect to decarbonisation, that's substantially lower than then the rest of the country. They've got much more significant lift if you happen to be in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. That's just the reality. So you know, we need to move forward with the with decarbonisation, but we need to be realistic that moving us from what we have today and 84% carbon free system to 100% is going to be far far more complicated than it's assumed. Again, looking at it on a national average, it seems like only a small numbers, you know, we're at 84%. It's not a stretch to 100. Except if you're in a jurisdiction where it's, you know, 10%. Yeah, then it's a problem.
Trevor Freeman  20:09
Okay, so 11 years, we got our work cut out for us. And we'll kind of see how we move forward. A big part of what we're going to talk about today is electricity, Canada's recent report that you've called Getting to Yes. The 2024 state of the Canadian electricity industry. So in the very first lines of the report, you talk about how there's this culture of No. Which is creating these major obstacles to progress. The report highlights that there have been all these funding pledges from the federal government. But projects are not getting off the ground. They're hitting barriers. Can you elaborate on what some of those barriers are?
Francis Bradley  20:48
Sure, absolutely. Happy to. This is, this is something that we've been very focused on since we released a report earlier this year, is is an initiative we do each year, we try and kind of sum up what we see as the most significant challenge for the sector. And, yeah, the challenge for this sector is we need to, we need to figure out how to how to get to yes. This year, earlier this year, we saw the release of RBC, the RBC climate action Institute report that charted this massive growth for electricity, particularly with the rise of electric vehicles, and home heating. But the reports word of the year for the electricity sector is moratorium that because that was, you know, such a significant event, in the past year 2023 was a difficult year, frankly, you know, we've seen some projects that were halted temporarily like that six month moratorium, the pause on renewables in Alberta, we saw some projects, you know, like the Atlantic loop in the Maritimes, that were halted in indefinitely. And, you know, what's moving forward now is, is a piece of what would have been the Atlantic loop, but the Atlantic loop just just hasn't moved forward. So, you know, there, there is a very significant challenge, right now, with respect to being able to ensure that we have the policy frameworks in place. So that we can can get beyond these challenges with respect to moving through the regulatory frameworks. And at the same time, we need to make sure that we get the financing and the financials in place. I mentioned that RBC report, the title of the report, this year was double or treble, they estimate that we should be investing to be able to meet our aspirations, we should be investing at a rate of about $60 billion a year, in clean energy on an annual basis, were investing at a rate of barely 20 billion a year. So we need to more than double, almost triple the investment that we're putting in place to be able to meet those those targets. It's interesting, it's very consistent with the recent plan that Hydro Quebec came up with, to meet its 2035 objectives,  it's estimating that it's going to close, you know, close to triple its capital investment to be able to to meet those. So we're well below what needs to be invested. And part of the problem is, is this, you know, we had a culture of, of no, you know, we we kind of have the technology to be able to do this. And we have, you know, the the financing, there are people who were are willing to invest in this space, because this is a good space to invest in. We have, you know, commitments and agreements in terms of what the overall target is that just that we seem to have set ourselves up with, you know, overall regulatory frameworks, that that slow things down. And by the same token, you know, we're waiting on final details for, you know, some of the financial incentives the Government of Canada has promised, like the investment tax credits, we're still waiting for the final details on that. And, and this is stuff that was promised almost two years ago.
Trevor Freeman  24:12
Yeah. And I mean, these projects are not quick projects, they're not short projects, they take a long time to get off the ground. So every absolutely moment that's lost as an impact. There's a lot to pick apart and what you just said, and I there's a few things I want to pull on that maybe to start with, is anybody getting it right, right now in Canada? That's like a Canada just specifically, is this going well, anywhere in terms of getting projects up and running and off the ground?
Francis Bradley  24:36
Well, our our focus as it associations is at the national level. And so at the national level, no, we're not getting it. Right. You know, there's a number of things that we need to do to be able to improve this and some things that we've been, we've been asking for so you know, like in terms of some some concrete steps at a national level. We need to coordinate federal impact assessments and project permitting through a central federal office. Again, this is something that that has been proposed, but isn't there. Second, we need to build capacity of regulators to deliver on our netzero goals and their decisions. They need to do prompt to so promptly they need to do it effectively. And third, you know, there was a one project, one assessment framework that the federal government promised in budget 2023. And then it promised that again, in budget 2024, that would be great to see that coming forward, like in this year's Federal Budget, it was teased, that, you know, many of the things that we would like to see are going to be addressed. But, you know, how long is it going to take? And, you know, are we actually going to be able to, to see some of those things implemented and implemented in a timely manner are open questions. And I've been I've been in front of parliamentary committees trying to get some of the move forward, some of the budget implementation details like the investment tax credits, move forward, but they we don't have all of the investment tax credit details yet in front of us much less moving them forward. And, and the clock is ticking, you know, that we keep getting closer and closer to to our targets, and we haven't made it any easier to get projects built.
Trevor Freeman  26:32
You mentioned regulatory hurdles as one of those obstacles. What are you talking about when it comes to regulatory hurdles? I mean, like you said, you kind of focus at the national level, there's the provincial level. Talk us through what some of those hurdles are.
Francis Bradley  26:44
Sure. Okay. Well, let me let me let me start with the the Impact Assessment Act, it's it's one of the biggest examples, frankly, of what up until now has been a culture of No, and this isn't a knock on the the individuals involved. It's just how the legislation is structured and how it works. Electricity, infrastructure projects are logistically complex, they require long lead times, they can take years to design to build construct. And that's even outside of the government approval process. At the current rate of regulatory approvals, new projects may take as much as 10 or more years to complete the, you know, the Federal provincial and territorial impact assessment processes, and obtain those relevant regulatory permits from various governments and regulators, you know, in Florida to have like, fully decarbonize, and, you know, double it grid capacity in a little over 25 years. This is going to be a challenge if it's going to take us a decade to get through these these processes. So when we were researching our state of the industry this year, we did a search of the open applications on the impact assessment act's website, what we found is that six projects, including electricity projects have been suspended indefinitely, because the information gathering effort to proceed with the federal Impact Assessment were enough to force a pause on the process. So it's possible that some proponents might reengage with the process, but what we found was that the paper exercise associated just the paper exercise with the impact assessment was enough of a deterrent to cancel or you know, otherwise viable projects, including, you know, in one case building a natural gas and hydrogen fueled electricity generating facilities and hydroelectric facilities. If just the time to go through the Paperchase is so long. This is problematic and something that needs to be addressed now, we're we have a revisions and amendments that have been introduced to the Impact Assessment Act as a result of the Supreme Court decision. I have appeared before parliamentary committee a couple of weeks ago, to speak specifically about that, and in hopes that we're actually going to see this move forward in a more of a timely fashion. But it was made clear by one of the other representatives that was giving evidence to the committee that that their expectation, this is from another province, their expectation is that they will once again be challenging this version of the Impact Assessment Act. So So even that creates further uncertainty. And just the uncertainty, the last thing that the business wants to be able to make generational investments is, you know, a stable, uncertain environment within which to operate.
Trevor Freeman  29:41
So, on that topic of investment, you talk about the need for major investment in both transmission and distribution infrastructure. And just as a reminder for our listeners, that's the poles and the wires and the transformers. That's the real hardware of the electricity system. Those are already really big buckets. So help us understand I got a couple questions around this, you know, what kind of investment are we talking about? Is it building more of those poles and wires? Is there something else in there? What size of investment? I mean, you mentioned $60 billion and clean energy. And who should be making this investment? Who are we looking to hear to be making this investment?
Francis Bradley  30:20
Yeah, I mean, that these are these, these are great questions in terms of what the investments are going to look like. And so, you know, we're looking at, as I said, earlier, doubling, doubling the grid, we're going to need at least two times more kilowatt hours when we get to the future. So you know, that's the level of investment that we need to be thinking about. There have been different organizations that have tried to kind of get a scope and scale of what that actually looks like, again, I mentioned the the RBC climate Institute. Last year, it had a study that came out, and I believe they, they paid this, I think it was $2 trillion, was the was the amount that they expected this to cost. Where's the money coming from? Well, you know, that's a really good question. And it's one that we've been engaging in for a number of years now. And, you know, not to be a little too much. I'll try. I'll try not to be like totally pedantic on this. But, you know, if you, if you consider, from a public policy standpoint, if if we believe that expanding the electricity system is necessary to decarbonize the Canadian economy, then essentially, what you're saying is that expanding the electricity system is a public good. from a, from an economic theory standpoint, if it's a public good, well, then it is something that should be borne by that taxpayer, not the ratepayer. Right. And so, you know, part of this discussion is, who needs to bear the costs for building out a clean non emitting electricity system, so that the rest of the economy can decarbonize? Should it be the electricity customer? Or are there parts of this, this core infrastructure that, that are regarded as a public good, and it's something that is paid for by the taxpayer, you know, and we see this in, in, in other sectors, other sectors as well, where, you know, certain things are perceived to be public good, and they're taxpayer supported. And we saw a bit of a recognition and a realization that this made sense to a degree in the federal government's budget in 2023, where, you know, they essentially pledged, one in every $8, in new spending was going to go to clean electricity projects through a variety of needs, you know, the investment tax credits, the candidate infrastructure bank, a number of funding mechanisms. So I mean, that those kinds of dollars from the federal government was a commitment to building infrastructure that that really is unheard of, at a national level since the Second World War. So you know, it really kind of moved clean energy and electrification into the category of well, I guess it's a public good, because, you know, there's a recognition that if the federal government wants to achieve these policy objectives, it needs to put some federal dollars in there. So, you know, that determination is, and whether it's a public good or not, as has been made in favor of the taxpayer versus the rate payer. Now, again, you know, you could easily say, Well, hang on a second, the rate payer, the taxpayer, the same person, except that it doesn't quite work the same way. We, you know, do do we want to attach to the customers bills, every single customer, that the cost of, you know, this, this expansion of our infrastructure or not, and, you know, electricity bills, are not something that, that, that fall, as taxes do disproportionately on those that are more wealthy. Right. And so, it's a little more fair. Now, you know, in terms of the specific investments, you know, I think, I think exactly how this is going to happen, and how it's going to roll out, those details are still being worked out by by some of our members, but I do want to highlight that, you know, the, the approach here, that we're seeing from the government, which we appreciate, is, you know, a one that is so far technology agnostic, which we think is the right way to go. So, you know, there isn't like a right way or a wrong way to generate electricity. So, you know, the future that we see is going to be an all of the above future, that will encompass wind and solar and nuclear and traditional hydro and, and, and hydrogen and carbon capture and storage. And more, not only does that give us, you know, the greatest flexibility and gives us the ability to to balance different types of generation of dispatchable versus non dispatchable. But it also gives us you know, overall, a far more flexible system. So, you know, That's the what the future is going to look like. So to, you know, to, to give you the short answer, it'll be all of the above, and it'll be probably $2 trillion.
Trevor Freeman  35:08
What's the role of private equity and all of this?
Francis Bradley  35:10
Oh, I mean, it's going to have, it's going to have to play a significant role, that there's no doubt about it. And in fact, that's one of the things that are BC has pointed their finger at when they when they identify the lack of investment right now, in this space, they note that the vast majority of it is public money. And the vast majority of that public money right now is federal public money. And so what they have said is they expect that there's going to have to be significantly more dollars coming from different levels of government, but also from private private investment and private investors as well. And this kind of a, you know, this is good news and bad news on that. I mean, the good news is, you know, their sense is that if we get the economics and the policy environment, right, that it won't be a problem, attracting capital. On the one hand, on the other hand, man, we're competing, you know, we're not an island here, and like, even now, where it's been taking us such a very long time to get the investment tax credit regime in place, and it's not in place yet. Whereas south of the border, the inflation Reduction Act, was developed and rolled out in short order. And what I'm concerned about is that, you know, people that want to invest in clean energy projects, I mean, I don't want to hear the sucking sound of those investment dollars flowing from Canada into the United States. But, you know, there has been more private investment in this space in the US than in Canada, because they've already established the regime that this is going to discuss, you know, production tax credits and, and, and other mechanisms. And we're still working out the details on ours. But yeah, you know, everything that we've heard is, there's a great deal of appetite, so long as we get things sorted out, as long as we get it, right. And that's why, by the way, one of the other things that's interesting for us as an association, is because our members are of, you know, a wide variety of types, a number of my members are investor owned companies. And so, you know, some Canadian companies that have become international players and international leaders, so, you know, Nova Scotia Power, it's now under a holding company called Amera, that is a major player, there's all of the Fortis companies, for US companies are our major players internationally. Afco is one of our members, and they're a big international player, you know, Transalta, again, you know, there's these are very significant players, capital power. So these are all all members of our organization. But it also gives us an ability to kind of get some insight into, into what the business looks like, for private investors as well. And, yeah, you know, what, what we're seeing and what we're hearing us, we need to get the policy, environment and the regulatory environment, right, because that right now is proving to be a barrier. And it's not just not just not not just us saying, you know, they'll see that reflected in other reports, including the RBC report where they talk about these the same sorts of things. And, you know, there's a recent reliability report by the North American Electric Reliability corporation that they've mentioned, as well, you know, one of the risks it sees over the longer term is, is a risk with respect to policy, and lack of policy and bow policy alignment.
Trevor Freeman  38:40
I think I mean, you bring up the inflation Reduction Act, that highlights the value of policy in the setting of the stage to allow for the types of investment and the types of projects that we need going forward and the critical role that governments and policymakers can play there. And actually, my previous guests, and I talked quite a bit about policy. So that's timely. When we talk about these major investments, and you start talking about these major dollar values. You know, you're no stranger to this, I'm sure, electricity prices, the cost of electricity is a sensitive subject and has been for some time now across the country in many different jurisdictions. We often look at as a distribution company, Hydro Ottawa, we look at what we call our social licence. And that's not a term that's unique to the electricity sector, to essentially the the permission our customers give us to operate our business. As we look at these investments, as we look at the amount of dollars that have to be invested in our in our sector and our industry. We know that there's an affordability crisis in Canada right now, lots of people are struggling with cost of living. And those two things can seem at odds. So I want to get your thoughts on how do we continue to hold on to that social licence that we have and in fact grow it and build it because electricity as we know it and your utility as you know it are going to be Change. And how do we get people on board with that, while still making the level of investment that we're talking about here?
Francis Bradley  40:06
Okay. All right. So, you know, I kind of touched on this a couple of times. But know, first and foremost, the energy transition, if you will, as I noted earlier, can't be paid exclusively by the ratepayers right? At be, you know, this is this is an overall objective that we have. And so, you know, the the infrastructure built is so large, that it needs to be certainly parts of it need to be paid through the tax system, and that that is progressive in a way that, that that rates are not progressive to begin with them, you know, but boy addressing vulnerable customers absolutely critical. You know, there's a variety of things that that could be tried, you know, in the United States that there's a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, that it helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs this, I think they call it the LIHEAP provides federally funded assistance, to reduce the costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and minor energy related home repairs. So you know, a similar initiative in Canada, could be there to assist the the most vulnerable, you know, as as, as you're aware that, you know, your your, your most vulnerable customers are the ones that have the least capacity to do things like weatherization. And so, you know, there's an example of a national program that we could look at as a model. You know, one of the other is let's, let's try not do dumb things at the same time from a public policy standpoint. And one of the areas that we've been lobbying and has been something called the excessive interest and financing expenses limitation, we call it Eifel. And now it is not going to impact your customers, but in some jurisdictions of this country, it is actually going to bite the customer. So this is a this is a change in financial rules that will limit the amount of interest paid interest expenses that can be deducted from taxable income for existing and new borrowings. Now, it sounds complex, but basically every dollar that is denied interest, it winds up getting passed on to the customers, and it increases the cost of capital. Now, it only affects a smaller number of jurisdictions in this country. But you know, in the US and the UK and other countries, they have exemptions for this role. So they don't apply to utilities, but it will apply to to utilities here in Canada. And so like, right now, the only exemption offered to this is for investments in rental housing, which, you know, we see, but you know, that that's a, that is a program that some of your listeners though, not the hydro Ottawa customers will will likely be aware of, but you know, there's also an important role for energy efficiency and conservation programs in this space, right? You know, energy equity programs, thermostat installations, insulation rebates, and direct install for low income customers, they all help people to reduce their energy costs consumption and, and help them reduce their energy bills. But you know, you're absolutely right, we need to make sure that we keep our eye on the most vulnerable as we go through this transition. And there are ways that we can do that. And there, there are examples like that program I talked about in the US, even at a national at a federal level, where there are programs that we could put in place.
Trevor Freeman  43:39
Yeah, we do have I mean, there's, like you say, there's national programs that could be rolled out, we do have more local programs and Ontario, there are some assistance for low income customers that that we can support on the electricity bills. Federally, we've seen that investment in kind of on let's call it the supply side, helping helping homeowners access capital for low carbonization upgrades. So whether that's weatherization or putting heat pumps in, you know, the current program is oversubscribed and pause as a result, but seeing more of that and more directed to electricity specifically, I think would be would be great. When it comes to emerging technologies, so things like energy storage, smart grids, shaping the future of our sector, and let's break that apart a little bit. Let's talk about that at the macro level first. So kind of the grid level, and then we'll talk about it maybe on a behind the meter on the customer side of things. What do you see the role is for these new emerging technologies?
Francis Bradley  44:40
Right. Well, you know, I mean, you know, as I said, as I said earlier, I think the the future is going to be an all of the above approach. And emerging technologies absolutely are going to be a critical part of this. But you know, we need to be realistic too. So you know, there's technologies that that may be able to replace fuel base generation but they're not yet commercially available, and they're dependent upon supply chains that are not yet at scale. So, you know, there's a lot of reasons to be optimistic, for example, about the role that small modular reactors are going to play or the battery storage will play in our electricity nicks out to 2050. But is it realistic to assume that they'll be deployed on a large scale between now and 2035? You know, we need to look at both the the medium term and the long term solutions. And so I think a lot of these technologies hold a great deal of promise, when talking about a 2050 timeframe, the 2035 timeframe is a little bit more more challenging, you know, one of the emerging technologies I mentioned in a minute ago, small modular reactors. And so, you know, we we see, Ontario Power Generation moving very aggressively hoping to complete their build by 2028. Get to grid by 2029. But, you know, if you happen to be Saskatchewan, and you're hoping that small modular reactors will be your solution over the longer term, you may not be in the 2035 timeframe. So, you know, that's, that's the challenge there. So I have a great deal of confidence in our ability to develop those technologies. And I think there's going to be some huge advantages as well, right? I look back, because I've been around the sector long enough to, you know, the early days of, you know, candu and the build out of the CANDU reactors, principally in Ontario, but although, you know, we have a plant operating in New Brunswick, and we did have one in Quebec for a time, but we built an ecosystem to support that as well. And, you know, I'm very bullish on our ability to develop these new technologies, hopefully develop them here in Canada, and develop the ecosystems and the supply chains here in Canada, not only to the benefit of sort of Canadians and Canadian customers, but I think, you know, much like can do this could be technology that we'd be able to, to market around the world. So small modular reactors, carbon capture, you know, this is there's so much work that's being done in this space, that, that, that I'm confident that they will be important technologies, and they will be important for our supply in the future. We just need to be realistic about when we can rely on them. Because you know, that the one thing that that we can never sacrifice, of course, is the reliability of the system that's customer will never accept that.
Trevor Freeman  47:35
Yeah, of course, we're so intertwined. I mean, everybody that's listening knows this. This isn't any kind of insight, but we're so intertwined that yeah, we can't sacrifice that reliability. And it does, it touches on this idea that we have the technology that we need today, in the in the sort of near and medium term to get going on this stuff. And we're already going on this stuff. And then there are these nascent technologies that some of them may succeed, some of them may not, but we, we do need to invest in those. And we need to figure out which one of those is going to help us in that sort of medium to long term to get over that last 5, 10, 15%. Who knows what, but help us get there? What about on the sort of smaller scale behind the meter side of things when we talk about these emerging technologies? So distributed energy resources, you know, solar storage at the home level? Do you see that playing a big role in how we move forward here?
Francis Bradley  48:32
Yeah. Like not tomorrow or next week? But you know, when you when you're looking over the longer term? Absolutely, I mean, I think, you know, we're already seeing changes in terms of how the customer interacts with the, with the supplier, in some jurisdictions, where, you know, you'll look at, you'll look at Hawaii, you'll look at Australia, where we see massive penetration of rooftop solar, for example. But what what that's given us is, it's given us the ability to get insights in terms of how that change in the relationship between the supplier and the customer that's going to evolve. Absolutely, and it is clearly something that, you know, as we've seen, in in, in those jurisdictions, that there is a, there's a significant amount of interest in, in in pursuing this. And there's a great deal of interest when the opportunity arises on the part of customers to be able to access technologies that allow them to feel like they they have more agency, sort of in the relationship and how they relate to electricity. So yeah, absolutely. When you when you go out to, you know, the longer term, distributed generation rooftop solar mine, I'm a, you know, an EV driver now, but like 10 years from now, you know, hopefully we will have figured out how to use vehicle to grid. You know, again, you know, when I talk about it you're going to need two to three times more kilowatt hours. I'm not saying we necessarily need two to three times more generation, because a lot of these technologies are going to give us the ability to have a more flexible, and more efficient electricity system. And a number of those are at the customer level. So you know, if you think of an electric vehicle, that is probably charging 2% of the time, or 4%, of the time, and the rest of the time when it's not being driven, it's plugged in. And that's a I've got an 82 kilowatt hour battery, that, you know, at some time in the future, me and all of my neighbors will have 82 kilowatt hour batteries. And so like how many megawatts on my block that that we could tap into, that can not only give the customer the ability to, as I say, have more agency in the relationship, but man the kind of flexibility we'd get for the distribution system operators, to be able to tap into that the greater resilience that we would have. So you know, that's just one example of a technology that that I think holds a huge amount of promise and that one aint pie in the sky, because I'm driving around with with a 82 kilowatt hour battery today.
Trevor Freeman  51:11
Yeah. And I mean, the other side of that is also happening, the utilities are getting ready for that, and putting in the foundation and the building blocks that we need now, to do what you just described, to be able to look out there in our service territory and say, what are all the assets that I can use not just the incoming power from the grid, not just our switches and transformers? But what are all the assets that I can call on? And how do I incentivize this customer to do this behavior? You know, a couple episodes ago, we talked about what's our grid modernization roadmap, and it is designed very much around that, that capability. So I mean, that was a bit of a loaded question. I'm, that's kind of the answer I was expecting. For sure. But yeah, that's something that we're super keen on and super interested in. So Francis, as we kind of wrap up today, you know, maybe sum up some of the major steps that you want to see us take nationally in terms of policy to get out of this culture of No, as you call it. And into the you know, getting to yes, that towards the name of your report.
Francis Bradley  52:15
Sure. Okay. So to get to that place, we would have that one project, one assessment framework that's been promised in two consecutive federal budgets, we'd have it and we'd have it up and running, we have significant changes to the Impact Assessment Act, we would have a clean electricity strategy. That's been one of the things that, that we've been asking of the federal government for the past several years, you know, we have similar strategies, we've got a national strategy for hydrogen, we've got a national strategy for minerals, we've got, you know, national strategies in a whole bunch of areas. We had a commitment last year by the federal government to have a national strategy for for clean electricity. So we're hoping to see that this year, we would engage indigenous communities at the start of a process and we'd work to split equally in favorable ways like Hydro One, and for desync have done in Ontario. And we would have collaboration at all levels of government, federal, provincial, indigenous, as well as regulators. That would be that would be my wish list.
Trevor Freeman  53:11
That's, that's no small list. Well, Francis, it was really great talking to you today. We do always end our interviews with a series of questions. So if you're ready, I'll dive right into that
Francis Bradley  53:22
A series of questions. Uh oh. Okay
Trevor Freeman  53:24
We'll see how you do here. What is a book that you've read that you think everybody should read?
Francis Bradley  53:30
Okay, well, it is a book that I have not read yet. I've just begun reading it because somebody pointed me in this direction. So I just got it. It's called the parrot and the igloo. And that the subtitle is climate and the science of denial. It is a it is a sofar, a very, very interesting book by the author David Lipski. So, I've just started reading this, but so far, it's proving to be a really great read.
Trevor Freeman  54:03
If our listeners can hear me typing here, every once in a while, actually, you know, maybe half the time I hear about a book that I haven't come across yet. So I'm taking notes here. That's a good one.
Francis Bradley  54:12
There you go. Yeah, the parent and the igloo.
Trevor Freeman  54:15
So same question, but what's a movie or a show that you would recommend?
Francis Bradley  54:19
Oh, okay. Well has nothing to do with energy or electricity or climate change. But But Mad Man. the I think the greatest the greatest series that they did ever been produced and television. Love it. Yeah. I wish I would have been there. They just seem to be such weird and creative meetings that they that they wind up in terms of figuring out the advertising back in the 1960s.
Trevor Freeman  54:42
Yeah, totally. There's, there's no shows out there that you can go back to several times, if not indefinitely, and that's, that's certainly one of them
Francis Bradley  54:49
that's one of the ones for me.
Trevor Freeman  54:50
Yeah. If somebody offered you a free round trip flight anywhere in the world, where would you go, if you could offset the carbon
Francis Bradley  54:59
I would I would, I would go to Ireland, I had been planning a trip to Ireland in April 2020. With with two of my kids. It never happened that we've never been so, you know, one one side of our family the roots go back there. But I have never been so it would absolutely be to Ireland.
Trevor Freeman  55:22
Very cool. It is amazing how many times I hear that sort of there's those 2020 2021 trips that were planned that never happened. Yeah. are on the list for everybody. That's great. Who is someone that you admire?
Francis Bradley  55:36
Niko Tesla. Yeah, Tesla, who is I think one of the real unsung heroes of the of the past, you know, people know all about, you know, Edison and Westinghouse. But very few people know about Tesla. And and I think I think he had significantly more patents than either either of those two guys. Everybody knows the car, but very few people know the man.
Trevor Freeman  56:03
Okay, so last question, what is something that you are excited about when it comes to the energy sector and its future?
Francis Bradley  56:10
Trevor Freeman  56:11
Great  The future is bright. I mean, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now. Specifically, you asked about the energy sector, but specifically electricity, I'm, I'm really looking forward to the future. You know, I talk a lot about, you know, we're going to have to build in the next 25, 26 years, a system that is twice as large as the system we had, you know, 120, 130 years ago. But if you look at how much a society has changed, because of electrification in the past century, society is well is going to change even more significantly, in the next 25 years. As we move forward. And we double, I'm really, you know, it's just like everything about what's going to happen in the sector. And, and, and our utilization and the new technologies that will, we'll have access to is, I find it endlessly fascinating to see what that future is going to look like I'd listened 15 years ago, nobody had iPhones and iPads, and all of these new technologies. And we used to have to watch TV shows when they were scheduled. And, and, you know, when I started working back in the day, if you if you wanted money, it would be cash, and you'd have to go to the bank. And if you didn't get there by Friday afternoon, you were stuck for the weekend. So yeah, you know, now I pay everything with my with my watch, right? Yeah, it's not even a tap. I just, I just use the watch. And so like, what's going to change in the next 25 years? It's going to be endlessly fascinating.  It does feel like it, you know, and I've been in this industry a little while now. And it seems like the rate of change, specifically on climate on the energy transition on decarbonizing feels like it's picking up speed and getting momentum, and people are kind of getting behind it, not to say we've solved all the problems, but Right. That's the optimistic piece for me that I look at and say, Yes, stuff is happening. And this is a really cool spot to be I agree.
Francis Bradley  58:16
Trevor Freeman  58:16
Well, Francis, this is a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing your insights with us. And this was number two on the podcast, so I'm sure there'll be a third at some point.
Francis Bradley  58:25
Excellent. Thanks a lot, Trevor. It was great to chat with you take care.
Trevor Freeman  58:28
Yeah. Thanks.
Francis Bradley  58:29
Trevor Freeman  58:31
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of The think energy podcast. Don't forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, and it would be great if you could leave us a review. It really helps us spread the word. As always, we would love to hear from you. Whether it's feedback, comments, or an idea for a show or guests. You can always reach us at think energy at hydro