Think Energy

Podcasts of Holiday Past, Present and Future

Dec 20, 2021

This week, we have a special holiday episode of the ThinkEnergy podcast. Inspired by one of our favourite Christmas movies, A Christmas Carol, we’re here to present some podcast “ghosts” of past, present and future. Get ready to buckle up because we’re going on an adventure to recap three of our top episodes from 2021.

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Dan Seguin  00:53

Ho, ho, ho, everyone. Welcome back. This is the ThinkEnergy podcast and I'm Dan Seguin.

Rebecca Schwartz  01:00

And I'm Rebecca Schwartz.

Dan Seguin  01:02

This week, we have a very special holiday episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast, inspired by one of my favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Carol. We're here to present some podcast ghosts of the past, the present, and future.

Rebecca Schwartz  01:23

Ooh, podcast ghost - sounds spooky. Should we be worried? What do you have in store for us, Dan?

Dan Seguin  01:30

That just building some suspense for you. But get ready to buckle up? Because we're going on an adventure to recap three of the top episodes from this year.

Rebecca Schwartz  01:42

I'm ready. Dan, where should we start?

Dan Seguin  01:44

Let's start with the Ghost of Christmas Past. In the movie, the ghost represents memory. So let's take a trip down memory lane to our episode on how Ontario used to burn coal as an energy source: A reminder of how far we've come in the energy industry to clean up our energy supply mix. Back in 2003 25% of electricity in Ontario came from coal plants. Did you know cold emissions were a major source of air pollution that contributed to 53 smog days in Ontario alone in 2005. That same year, my great City of Ottawa had 25. For those that may not know smog days would be declared in the province on days when the air wasn't as safe to breathe. Due to the amount of toxins in the air in 2014. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in North America to completely eliminate coal as a source of electricity production. According to air quality, Ontario, the province phased out of coal has been considered to have achieved the most significant results of any climate change initiative in North America to date. Now, today 94% of electricity generated in Ontario is emission free, and those smog advisories are all but a thing of the past. There's no doubt that Ontario has been a leader in fighting climate change and investing in cleaner energy sources. By 2030. Canada will phase out traditional coal fired electricity in the country altogether, striving to have 90% of electricity from non emitting sources, and simultaneously cutting carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 12 point 8 million tons.

Rebecca Schwartz  03:48

This is a great reminder. What did our guest or should I say ghost have to say about this transition away from coal in this episode?

Dan Seguin  03:56

I'm glad you asked Rebecca. Here's what Gideon Foreman had to say:

Gideon Forman  04:02

In terms of the impacts. The biggest impact that we talked about now is the climate impact. The coal plants at their height were the equivalent of millions of cars on our roads. When we took the coal plants out it was like removing 6 million cars from Ontario's roads. So they were a very, very significant source of greenhouse gases. And they also produced other things that were toxic things like mercury, for example, and arsenic. So they were also a significant source of human health problems. They made asthma worse, what they call the particulate matter in smog. Some of that came from coal plants and particulate matter is a factor in lung cancer. So a number of different ailments were connected to the coal plants.

Dan Seguin  04:47

And here's what he said about the case for eliminating coal fired electricity in Ontario.

Gideon Forman  04:53

The Case for closing the coal plants was that they were just a massive, massive source of greenhouse gas emissions and other contributors to pollution, things like nitrous oxides and sulfur oxide, sulfur dioxide. So they were contributing to climate change, they were contributing to acid rain, and they were contributing to human illness on a very big scale. And the other reason that it made sense to close them was it was something doable. In Ontario, because they were publicly owned, there was an opportunity to do it in quite a rapid and efficient manner. You know, in many places, coal plants are privately owned, in the United States, for example. And so if they're privately owned, it's very difficult to close them quickly. There's all sorts of issues around compensation and government has to step in. And it can be very complicated legally. But in Ontario, all the coal plants are owned by the government of Ontario. So the government of Ontario could close them basically through the stroke of a pen. And that's what happened, it was over a number of years. But that's what happened, the Ontario government decided that by 2014, they would no longer be coal used to produce electricity in the province. And that's what happened. So it was a matter of something that would have huge impact. And that was doable. That was kind of the thinking behind it. In terms of backlash, there wasn't a lot of backlash. There were some who raised concerns about the transition, loss of jobs for workers in the coal plants. There were some questions about electricity supply. But for the most part, I think there was a lot of public acceptance that we had to get off coal, this was something really good to do from an air quality point of view. And increasingly, from a climate change point of view. In terms of who drove the coal phase out, a lot of it was pushed by health professionals, the Ontario Medical Association, doctors, including some of the doctors that I work with, in physicians for the environment, nurses, Ontario, public health officials, medical officers of health, these sorts of people and family physicians, these sorts of people saw firsthand the effect of smog of bad air on people's lives. And they talked openly about it. And so was very much driven, I think, by the health professionals. I remember one time, Dan, when I was working with the physicians for environment, we we arranged a meeting to meet with the Minister of Environment for the province of Ontario and I brought in doctors I brought in nurses and we had an opportunity to talk across the table with the minister. And it was just fascinating for the Minister to see firsthand the effect of coal on people's lives in a very direct way. I remember one of our doctors from Kingston. She said, you know, Minister, there are times when the weather when the air quality is so poor, that my patients can't go outside, and I really worry for them. And if you close the coal plants, this would make a huge difference in the lives of my patients. And you could see the minister really connecting with that at a very human level. So it wasn't just an abstraction for our doctors. And so I think that was one of the driving forces behind the coal plant phase out.

Rebecca Schwartz  08:03

Boy, am I ever glad that smog warnings are now vague and distant memory. I'm so grateful for everyone who stood up for eliminating coal. It makes me excited for how much more we can do for a cleaner energy.

Dan Seguin  08:16

Now, are you ready for us to dive into the next one? This time, I have a podcast ghosts of Christmas present for you. Now this ghost represents generosity and goodwill. So the episode we'll be revisiting is The Birds and the Bees about Pollinator Meadows, where we chat about a sustainable approach to building out electrical infrastructure, one that supports the vegetation and wildlife. Did you know that across North America, the populations of Monarch butterflies, bees and other pollinators are in a steep decline due to herbicides, pesticides, climate change, and a reduction in natural pollinator habitats. pollinators are responsible for a third of the world's food supply, so they are extremely vital to our existence in Canada. There are more than 1000 species of pollinating animals that are responsible for billions of dollars worth of Canadian farm produce flowers, and ecosystems that rely on pollination. In short, without pollinators, food supply would suffer drastically. It may seem like an unlikely Union, but utilities like hydro Ottawa are ideally suited to restore these environments, thanks to a number of utility corridors and properties in their service territories, not to mention the kilometers of power lines and right aways along roadsides. Moreover, vegetation along utility corridors are compatible with these types of vegetation necessary to support pollinators. In 2019, hydro Ottawa began civil construction of its largest ever municipal transformer station in the south end of Ottawa, situated on 24 acres of land since the new transformer station requires only five acres of property, hydro Ottawa partnered with the city of Ottawa Rito Valley Conservation Authority and the Canadian Wildlife Federation to create one of the largest pollinator meadows of its kind in Eastern Ontario, adjacent to this future station. The agreement means that 15 acres will be dedicated to a pollinator meadow, which is scheduled for seeding. In the spring of 2021, a four acre tree reforestation area was reforested in 2020, with 2750 trees, thanks to the Rita River Conservation Authority. Tracy Etwell, a restoration ecologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and Megan McDonald, Lake planning and shoreline stewardship coordinator for the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. Join me for this episode to share what goes into a successful pollinator meadow and how we can as an industry, and as ordinary citizens generously help the movement by building more pollinator Meadows.

Tracy Etwell  11:39

Utilities are a key player in our pollinator restoration efforts as they maintain over 160,000 kilometers of transmission lines 1000s of generation stations across Canada, which has huge potential for pollinator habitat restoration, also their linear design are relatively easy for pollinators to find. Since utilities need to control the woody species over the long term along these facilities. It provides a great place for the wildflowers and grasses to grow. And it provides a great opportunity for utilities to demonstrate environmental leadership and provide the habitat. That's that's a win win for the utilities and the pollinators.  So the Canadian Wildlife Federation is committed to supporting pollinators for both our diverse biodiversity and our food supply. As you mentioned, many of the nutritious plants eat such as fruits and vegetables rely on insect pollination, and 90% of the world's flowering plants rely on insect pollination. So it's critical that as a global society, we support these insect pollinators. Now our project is focused on a variety of support such as technical expertise in building these meadows, increasing the native seed supply in Ontario, and providing case studies of the costs and benefits of restoring meadow habitat. We work with interested managers to develop their respective projects. And we've also only recently formed the Canadian branch of rights of way within the US rights of way habitat working group to enhance our network so that we have more access to resources, case studies and best practices.

Rebecca Schwartz  13:04

I love that utilities are working together with ecologists and stewardship coordinators to think outside the box and to discover new approaches that are environmentally sustainable. Birds and bees, while they may be small creatures, make our world a better place in so many ways. And I'm so glad that we're looking out for them. Thanks for another great recap, Dan. Tell us where are you leaving us for the podcast Ghost of Christmas Future.

Dan Seguin  13:31

So in the movie, The Ghost of Christmas Future represents something pretty grim. The fear of death.

Rebecca Schwartz  13:39

I forgot about that. I'm not sure I'm prepared for this now.

Dan Seguin  13:43

Nah, don't worry. The closest we've come to that theme on our podcast is probably our crisis communications episode. But I'd like to take a more uplifting approach and share the final recap that looks to the future through a positive lens. For this reason, my next and last podcast Ghost of Christmas Future is unlocking a sustainable energy future with today's youth. Much like the podcast Ghost of Christmas Present., we celebrate environmental stewardship in this episode, but also the exciting possibilities for upcoming generations to unlock.

Rebecca Schwartz  14:24

Ah, now we're talking let's go.

Dan Seguin  14:27

With every new generation that comes of age, there's a fresh perspective introduced to the table. Young people offer incredible opportunities for change with their new ideas and verve. However, part of the challenge for young people around the world is finding a platform from which their voice can be heard and valued. Without well established networks and resources. Young people can easily be stifled or forgotten. Thankfully, when it comes to the energy sector, climate change, and what's in store for the future, an organization by the name of student energy seeks to bridge that gap. Student energy is a global youth led non for profit organization that strives to empower young people to accelerate their sustainable energy transition. They connect young people to global changemakers and provide them access to decision making spaces, so that they have opportunities to play a part in their energy future. They started with three driven students who, in 2009, is set out to organize the first international student energy summit. Since then, it has expanded into a global organization, with programs engaging over 50,000 students from over 120 countries, alumni are going on to develop and implement renewable energy technologies, advise the United Nations and advocate for a clean energy future while working with some of the largest energy companies.  In this episode Shakti Ramkumar, Director of Communications and policy for student energy shares about how the energy industry utilities, and we, as individuals can support youth in establishing a sustainable energy future.

Shakti Ramkumar  16:34

I think there are two main things that we've recognized are distinct about young people's values when it comes to the energy transition that kind of makes this era of the environment and climate movement a little bit different than the previous era. One is the timeline in which young people expect action. We're seeing commitments now, finally, from companies and governments about aiming for net zero emissions by 2050. And young people who are climate activists are saying, Okay, that's good, but we need to see action right now. And that's why our Global Youth Energy Outlook actually works on a timeline leading up to 2030, not 2050, as we will have to take drastic climate action by then if we want to act in accordance with climate science. So as the years pass, and our global climate commitments are still not strong enough to meet the 1.5 degree target that we've set as a collective, the sense of urgency among young people, I think, is something that is really distinct. The second big value that we've seen from young people is that we're not siloed in our thinking, and that young people won't consider it a success, if we successfully decarbonize our energy system, are the harms that the current energy system has inflicted on people and communities, and haven't made sure that the benefits of the Clean Energy Transition are equitably distributed. So an emphasis on seeing energy as a mechanism through which we can build a more just and equitable society is something that is a really strong value for young people that I think it's something new, to the energy transition. And on the question of what can older generations do at student energy, we really value intergenerational collaboration, we have a lot to learn from people who have set up the energy system as it is now about the complexities and the nuances of producing distributing supplying energy. So we really value intergenerational collaboration. And there's three main things that I think older generations can do, particularly those with resources or power to make decisions. One very simple invest in young people that can look like financially supporting youth led organizations, youth led projects, or investing time through mentorship and guidance to is understand the value of youth, a lot of organizations, we want them to really think, are we meaningfully engaging with young people? What can we do to meaningfully and equitably engage with young people, not just on a tokenistic basis, but on a really kind of equal relationship. And this is something student energy often works with organizations to help them figure out especially if they're navigating youth engagement for the very first time. And the third thing, I would say is to create space for young people, older generations who have access to a large platform or an influential position. Think actively about how you can make young space for young people using that privilege. Whether this looks like asking an event organizer, why there are no young people on the panel and recommending some young people showing that panel, whether it looks like bringing up in a meeting, why we're not funding youth led organizations, or taking into consideration the youth voice when making that next strategy, that next plan. These are some tangible ways that older generations can really support young people.

Dan Seguin  19:48

How's that for inspiration? Feeling empowered Rebecca?

Rebecca Schwartz  19:52

Not gonna lie. I definitely feel fired up by all that Shakti had to say there. So how are you going to support me Dan? Fresh, hip, young mind that I am

Dan Seguin  20:02

Funny you should say that because I'm about to put you on the hot seat. You know how we always end off with some rapid fire questions? Well today, it's your turn to answer them. So, over to you. Now, Rebecca, what is your favorite word?

Rebecca Schwartz  20:23

My favorite word is grapefruit just has a roll off the tongue type of thing.

Dan Seguin  20:33

Sure. What is the one thing you can't live without?

Rebecca Schwartz  20:37

My cats.

Dan Seguin  20:38

Now, what is something that challenges you?

Rebecca Schwartz  20:42

waking up in the morning

Dan Seguin  20:44

You're not a morning person?

Rebecca Schwartz  20:47

It eems not.

Dan Seguin  20:49

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Rebecca Schwartz  20:53

Definitely teleportation.

Dan Seguin  20:55

Now this one should be interesting. If you could turn back time and talk to your 18 year old self, what would you tell her?

Rebecca Schwartz  21:04

I would tell her to keep saying yes to opportunities and that you'll go way further that way.

Dan Seguin  21:10

And lastly, Rebecca, what's on your wish list this holiday season?

Rebecca Schwartz  21:15

Okay, so there's a little bit not so much a rapid fire question. But I'm really passionate about food security and reducing waste. So my wish would be that those who can give choose to give this holiday season and a really good place to start is an organization that I'm really fond of. It's called Second Harvest. And they're a Food Rescue charity with a dual mission of providing hunger relief and environmental protection. And they redistribute overstock surplus food across Canada and all provinces and territories. And they feed things like school programs, senior centers, food banks, and the like. So if you have an appetite to donate this holiday season, we'll include a link in our show notes.

Dan Seguin  21:57

Very cool. Well, dear listeners, we've reached the end of another episode of The think energy podcast. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you had a lot of fun and happy holidays.

Rebecca Schwartz  22:11

Happy holidays Dan, and to you our listeners. I sure hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. If so please head over to our iTunes SUBSCRIBE And leave us a review.

Dan Seguin  22:24

Now For show notes and bonus content visit Also, be sure to tell your friends and colleagues about us.

Rebecca Schwartz  22:33

Thank you for listening