Building Toward Net Zero: A preview of the 2021 Canadian Waterpower Week

More than 400 industry experts are expected to attend the 2021 Canadian Waterpower Week virtually on October 6-8.

Waterpower is Canada’s competitive advantage in the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement targets, and net zero by 2050. This coming decade will be critical for the advancement of projects and investments that optimize existing, and develop new, hydropower generation, storage and transmission assets, to maintain the reliability and resilience of the electricity grid.

At the 2021 virtual Canadian Waterpower Week (Oct. 6-8), industry leaders from Canada and abroad will meet to discuss the path forward.

We spoke with Patrick Bateman, Vice President of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs at WaterPower Canada, for a sneak peek at this year’s event.

Q: Canadian Waterpower Week is approaching quickly. What is this event? Can you tell us a bit about what to expect this year specifically?

A: Canadian Waterpower Week is the premier national annual event for hydroelectricity producers and their supply chain in Canada.

It’s hosted by Waterpower Canada. We’re the national trade association dedicated to representing and serving Canada’s original and largest clean and renewable energy industry.

At the event, we’ll have two days of keynotes, plenaries from leading experts and senior executives, and also a day of continuous education workshops to tackle in-depth technical content.

And finally, we’ll be virtual in 2021. This will create a lot of opportunities to host a very large and regionally diverse audience. We’re also focusing on maximizing the ways that our attendees can meet and interact with each other for quality networking.

Q: Who attends this event and why?

A: All major hydropower generators, both Crown corporations, and independent power producers attend. As do their leading suppliers including manufacturers, and engineering and construction firms from across the country.

We’re thrilled to have BC Hydro and Hydro-Québec as two of our three conference partners this year. Those two generators alone represent more than half of Canada’s total installed hydropower generation capacity, and are amongst the largest producers of hydropower in the world.

Our other conference partner this year will be Voith Hydro. They work with some really innovative technology to modernize and extend the life of existing facilities, and bring the latest equipment and practices into the new projects that are being built.

Q: This year’s theme is “Building Toward Net Zero.” Why did you decide to make this the focus of the show this year?

A: COVID-19 is almost behind us, and there is now a great need for heightened economic activity and job creation.  

At the same time, we have the United Nations Climate Change Conference “COP 26” coming up in early November. We are finally seeing a turning point in how leading economies around the world are approaching climate policy with increased ambition, and commitments to net-zero emissions.

It’s this convergence of the need for economic activity and job creation, and of a significant build-out of non-emitting energy infrastructure to achieve our climate policy goals that is encapsulated by “Building Toward Net Zero.”

Our sector has the projects, expertise and capacity to play a central role. This theme will explore the value we offer as a sector as we “build back better,” and how we can best apply our solutions to the most pressing challenges that hydropower faces today.

Q: As you mentioned, Canadian Waterpower Week will happen shortly before the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. What do you hope this Canadian event will contribute to the larger global discussion about climate change?

A: Countries like ours, who have abundant hydropower, are the best positioned in the world to reach net-zero electricity, and then use that electricity to decarbonize other sectors including transport, buildings and industry.  Also, regions with abundant hydropower can help their neighbors by balancing wind and solar power.

This event will be a great opportunity to explore this reality and to ensure that hydropower is a key part of the climate action story that Canada tells on the world stage.

Q: There’s a tremendous opportunity for projects and investments in waterpower. What are those projects and investments, exactly?

A: There’s at least three major classes of future projects and investments to my mind moving forward.

The first is refurbishments and redevelopments. There is a need for significant investment in life extension of existing assets in the coming decades. It’s an opportunity to increase efficiency, generation and storage capacity, while extending their lives.

The second opportunity is to enable greater regional collaboration. We have a lot of regions within Canada that are, for example, phasing out coal. We have a lot of regions with an abundance of hydropower. So building out the transmission to enable that supply and demand to be connected, is of critical importance.

And then the third opportunity is other, more transformational projects, such as pumped storage hydro – a form of long-duration energy storage that will be critical as we decarbonize our electricity systems.

The production of hydrogen by electrolysis is another example of how we can put hydroelectricity to use, to create inputs for industrial processes or different energy carriers.

There’s also lots of opportunities for new greenfield projects as well.

The hydropower sector is the largest renewable energy sector in Canada today, both by annual investment and by job creation. As we build out toward 2050, there’s an enormous potential to build on our current leadership position in the market.

Q: The program for the virtual 2021 Canadian Waterpower Week will be launched in August. Can you give us a glimpse of what to expect? What are you most excited about at the event?

A: We don’t want to give away too much yet. But to give a sneak peek, we have an opening plenary discussion that will feature national and international chief executive officers from hydroelectricity producers. That is going to be a first for the association and for Canada, so we’re very excited about that.

We’re going to have several keynote speakers, and leading experts really diving in deep on the key issues, opportunities and challenges that the sector faces. And then a really comprehensive technical program as well. I’m very excited about those three things.

Q: Why is this a must-attend event for industry stakeholders and government decision-makers?

A: The next 10 years are critical to advance the projects and investments that will be needed to achieve Canada’s Paris Agreement climate targets, and to build toward net zero from there. This conference for Canada’s original and largest clean and renewable energy industry will explore the major competitive advantages that hydropower presents as we phase out coal, increase clean power production, and advance electrification and green hydrogen. Join us at this milestone event. It will be an unparalleled opportunity to navigate this path together.

Canadian Waterpower Week is a virtual event from Oct. 6-8, 2021. It will also include a ceremony for the 2021 Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) Awards.

Anyone interested in being a speaker at the event is invited to answer the call for speakers. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Download the prospectus and email [email protected] for more information.