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Building a 21st Century Union requires staying on top of the latest goings on in Canada and around the world. News items, photos and more to keep you 'in the know'.

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The year ahead: Top clean energy trends of 2015

For the past 13 years, Clean Edge has published the annual Clean Energy Trends report that has sized the global market for solar, wind and biofuels and tracked everything from venture capital and stock market activity to total global investments. In the report, we also pick our top trends to watch for the coming year. Here are the trends that will matter in 2015: 

  • Moves toward 100 percent renewables will expand
  • Energy storage will carve out a competitive advantage
  • Low-cost oil could affect clean transportation, but not clean electricity
  • Other regions will follow New York's fracking ban 

 

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Energy East pipeline gets support from Quebec energy board

Quebec's energy regulator is giving the thumbs-up to TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East pipeline, calling the plan "desirable."

The $12-billion pipeline between Alberta and New Brunswick aims to connect western crude with eastern refineries and new markets across the Atlantic.

It would make use of under-used natural gas pipe already in the ground for about two thirds of the way, with new pipe being constructed in Quebec and New Brunswick.

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Yukon ranks 5th in Canada for green energy production

 

It may surprise you but the Yukon uses more green energy than the other two territories and some of the provinces.

According to Statistics Canada, wind and hydro generation made up almost 95 percent of electricity use in 2013, with thermal electricity — electricity produced by generators run on petroleum products such as diesel — making up the rest.

“This ranked Yukon the 5th highest in the country in terms of hydro and wind generation and the 5th lowest in the country in terms of thermal generation,” says Bishnu Saha, the director of the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

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Grand Bend wind farm green-lighted

Ontario's Environmental Review Panel has given the go-ahead for the Grand Bend Wind Farm, a 40-turbine, $380-million project hugging the Lake Huron Shoreline.

Major construction can now go ahead on the wind farm.

Developer Northland Power had applied the brakes to its plans, putting off major construction until appeals were settled.

The original plans for the facility called for 48 turbines, but that was scaled back to 40.

It will be located in the Huron County municipalities of South Huron and Bluewater over about 2,400 hectares. It will have a total capacity of 100 megawatts.

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First Bus Running On Biomethane From Human Poop Launches In UK

While electric vehicles score a lot of press as we search for less carbon-intensive public transportation, finding alternatives to diesel-fueled buses could go a long way to lowering our carbon footprint. Electric buses are a large part of this equation, but considering all the sewage municipalities generate, biomethane is another source of energy that can help wean us away from fossil fuels. Last month the first bus in the United Kingdom made its maiden voyage, powered by yes, biomethane from human poop and food waste.

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Made on Manitoulin: McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm

McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm is a Northland Power project that brings renewable energy to the world’s largest freshwater island. When the turbine blades spin, generated power travels to the grid and services the local area first; the surplus is exported on high wind days.

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Solar power co-op planned for Saskatoon

On Friday, Affinity announced that the Saskatchewan Environmental Society had won the $50,000 prize in the Business for Good Social Venture Challenge. 

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) is hoping to take a prize from Affinity Credit Union, and get a solar power farm off the ground in Saskatoon. “We’re looking to install about 400 solar panels,” said Allyson Brady, executive director of the society.

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Underwater 'cut down versions of wind turbines' to power Scotland in future

Underwater turbines are being constructed in a stretch of water on the north easterly tip of Scotland that are expected to power 400,000 homes in the future.

Renewable energy company MeyGen's tidal power project, in the Pentland Firth, was first announced almost a decade ago. However, CEO Dan Pearson has now said they expect construction to be completed by 2016.

"The turbines will be lined up 160m apart and weighed down to the seabed with scrap metal,"Pearson told CNN. "They will be about eight metres from the water surface so enough space for the crafts that use the waterway. The demonstration array at the moment is 6MW or four turbines. Hopefully this will be the catalyst for further investment. We are looking to complete construction of that in 2016."

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Hydro, Métis sign $20-M deal

The province's Métis have signed a $20-million deal to fund ongoing talks between the Manitoba Metis Federation and Manitoba Hydro over impacts related to Bipole III and other developments from Keeyask to Conawapa.

Manitoba Hydro will release $1 million a year over each of the next 20 years to enable the province's Métis to evaluate the environmental impact of hydro development on lands they claim in Manitoba.

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Seismic risk rises at some B.C. dams

BC Hydro will draw down the water level at an Interior dam and offer to buy 11 homes in the path of a Vancouver Island dam in response to a $10-million study that has better identified major earthquake hazards.

The study, which took six years and involved 25 international experts, used the latest scientific information on earthquakes and applied methods created by the U.S. nuclear industry to determine seismic risks.

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Clean Energy Jobs Now Exceed Oilsands Jobs In Canada: Report

Employment in Canada's clean energy sector has jumped 37 per cent in the past five years, says a new report from the think tank Clean Energy Canada, and now exceeds employment in the oilsands. 

 

There were 23,700 people directly employed by the clean energy industry in 2013, compared to 22,340 jobs in the oilsands, the report found. Those green jobs include people employed in clean power production, energy efficiency, biofuels and manufacturing of green energy technologies.

 

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Hydro could fuel Alberta's future, energy leader says

One of Alberta's energy leaders says a greater push towards hydro electricity could help fuel the province's future.

At the Bennett Jones Business Forum in Lake Louise, the president of ATCO, a major Alberta utility provider called for greater investment in hydro dams over coal and natural gas.

"The vision would be instead of being completely reliant on natural gas as a fuel for the future, to utilize water in a way that addresses so many different concerns," said Nancy Southern president and CEO of ATCO.

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Halifax Water’s new in-pipe hydro power turbine a first for Canada

The water flowing from taps in the Halifax area will now also help light people’s homes thanks to a project that’s the first of its kind in Canada.

Halifax Water flipped the switch earlier this month on the country’s first in-pipe hydroelectric project. Crews retrofitted a pressure-release facility near Bedford to re-route excess water through a turbine. Rather than wasting the pressure, it’s being used to generate power.

The end result is a miniature hydroelectric dam.

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Quebec-Ontario alliance trumps Stephen Harper snub: Cohn

Behold the bonhomie and amity between two premiers and their cabinets in Toronto this week: Seven months after Quebec’s spring election, the spectre of separatism has transmogrified into full-fledged federalism.

There’s a reason the Quebec-Ontario summit turned into a meeting of minds and ministers: Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard are simpatico both in style and substance.

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Energy East pipeline's risk, rewards debated in Kemptville

People in Kemptville, Ont., are divided over a proposed Energy East pipeline that would run through their community, with some saying it will improve safety while others saying it would lead to more potentially dangerous oil spills.

Energy company TransCanada's proposal to convert parts of a natural gas pipeline and build new sections so it can bring Alberta crude oil to Canada's east coast is before the National Energy Board.

TransCanada and other groups in favour of its construction say the approximately 4,600 kilometre pipe would pour $36 billion into Canada's economy, create 12,000 jobs and make Canada less reliant on American facilities.

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India looks to invest $1 billion into renewable energy over coming few years

$1 billion, not $1 million. India has also increased its renewable energy capacity target from 22 gigawatts by 2022 to 100 gigawatts by 2019.

These announcements are somewhat staggering. 

Over 1.2 billion people around the world are still without electricity, and 400 million of them are in India. Many more don't have access to reliable, consistent electricity. Diesel generators no longer compare to solar on a cost basis, and pay-as-you-go programs have made solar more accessible to low-income families in the developing world. 

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Batteries included: A solar cell that stores its own power

Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery? Actually, the patent-pending device is both: the world’s first solar battery. Scientists have succeeding in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device. 

Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

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G20 commits to boosting economic growth, fighting climate change

Leaders from the G20 group of nations agreed on Sunday to boost flagging global growth, tackle climate change and crack down on tax avoidance but ties between the West and Russia plummeted to a new low over the crisis in Ukraine. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin left the G20 summit in Brisbane early as U.S. President Barack Obama accused Russia of invading Ukraine and Britain warned of a possible "frozen conflict" in Europe.

Several Western nations warned Russia of further sanctions if it did not withdraw troops and weapons from Ukraine.

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Alberta's oil boom had strong impact on Canada's wealth

Many Canadians have a love-hate relationship with the energy sector. We love it for the jobs but hate the fact that Canada is often seen as a climate change villain, whether the description is fair or not.

But just how much does the Canadian economy, especially the job market, depend on the energy sector?

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Canada can’t hide any longer after U.S. - China climate deal

For so long it was so easy to do nothing. Canada could say it was harmonizing its greenhouse gas (GHG) policy with the United States, which was mired in partisan wrangling that stalled climate action, and allowed us to hide our inaction behind good talking points. It was also easy to point to China and say they are the problem – building coal fired power plants daily at levels that make our global GHG contribution of 2 per cent look minuscule. 

But no more. On Wednesday, China and the U.S. announced a bilateral agreement on controlling their GHG emissions.

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