Manitoba's Pursuit of 50x'30 Offers Lessons for U.S. Stakeholders

This space is often devoted to identifying and addressing the errant policy proposals, legal challenges and intractable, if questionable, ways of doing business here in the United States that sometimes impede our path to a clean energy future.

So, it’s with a certain amount of pleasure to use this blog to highlight positive developments in the pursuit of clean energy – a relatively small but growing campaign by neighbors to the north to bring about a very ambitious renewable energy goal.

Green energy advocacy groups, businesses, universities and civic organizations have banded together in Manitoba, Canada to achieve a 50x’30 goal: meeting 50 percent of the province’s energy goals with renewable energy by the year 2030. The 50x’30 movement demonstrates that achieving a clean energy future is a universal pursuit.

Larger than the United Kingdom or Japan, Manitoba sits atop some 250 miles of the North Dakota and Minnesota borders, and extends nearly 800 miles to the north. The fact that 60 percent of Manitoba’s 1.2-million population lives in the capital of Winnipeg shows the rural nature and agricultural dominance of the 250,000-square-mile province.

Like 25x’25, Manitoba’s 50x’30 organization is working hard to educate policy makers on the benefits of building on the province’s green energy resources, while urging them to recognize that because of economic and environmental reasons, “business as usual” can no longer continue.

While there are environmental considerations at play in the 50x’30 plan put together by provincial leaders, the economic benefits of the plan are the major selling point. The group notes that energy is central to Manitoba’s economy. It is a significant expense for governments, individuals, organizations and businesses. At the same time, it is a major source of revenue, both domestic and export. And it creates wealth and jobs for Manitobans, the group says, adding that expertise in energy can be a durable competitive advantage for the province.

It should be noted that Manitoba already gets some 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources, mainly hydro-electricity, along with a small bit of woody biomass-derived energy. However, 20 years ago, the province met 25 percent of its energy needs with renewable hydropower, so, 50x’30 leaders say, it could be a century, if ever, to achieve the 50-percent mark.

To grow Manitoba’s green energy capacity, 50x’30 is pushing for a comprehensive, long-term energy policy that reduces demand (currently growing at about 1 percent annually), increase energy efficiency, and increase the use of the province’s vast renewable resources, including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal, to create new energy generation.

Beyond setting the goal, provincial leaders are developing an achievable, ambitious roadmap to get Manitoba from where it is now to where it can be by 2030. It includes the increased use of biomass in the province, which is said to be enough to meet half of Manitoba’s energy needs. The province is also a world leader in geothermal capacity.

Although wind, biofuels, solar, and geothermal energy production have all started to develop in Manitoba, they each still account for only a tiny sliver of our energy use. However, the group notes, Manitoba, which has few non-renewable energy resources, is in a great position to exploit the renewable resources at hand.

“When we buy renewables, we are buying them from ourselves,” the group states, noting that the money and jobs stay in our province. However, when the province buys fossil fuels, they must import it at a cost of some $4 billion annually.

It is encouraging to see the 50x’30 effort come about after leaders in Manitoba were able to witness the success of the 25x’25 Alliance in helping double U.S. renewable energy use since the alliance was created here in 2004. The opportunity for cross-border collaboration between the U.S. and Canadian movements offers an exciting prospect, especially given that MacDon, the global manufacturer of harvesting equipment and a 25x’25 corporate partner, is based in Winnipeg.

While the 25x’25 Alliance may have provided some inspiration to Manitoba’s 50x’30 effort, the Canadian initiative can also offer inspiration to renewable energy stakeholders here in the United States, who are urged to visit the 50x’30 Web site, learn of the activities in Manitoba and let the example set by our neighbors to the north renew our determination to achieve the 25x’25 goal here.

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