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Electricity in US, Canada, and Mexico Will Be 50% Carbon-Free in 9 Years

ByJulia DavisNOVA NextNOVA Next

North American leaders made a commitment to bring climate action to their forefront of their agenda at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa, Ontario this week.

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On Wednesday, President Barack Obama, President Enrique Peña of Mexico, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada pledged to reach a joint goal of to see half the continent’s energy come from clean sources by 2025.

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Advances in renewable energy have been popping up across North America, including this 32-megawatt photovoltaic array in Long Island, New York.

“We find ourselves now at a moment where the alignment in terms of policy goals and focus on clean energy between our three countries is stronger than it has been in decades,” White House climate advisor Brian Deese told reporters.

Here’s Jean Chemnick and Emily Holden, detailing the plan for Scientific American:

[The new clean energy target] calls for the continent’s power grid to draw 50 percent of its generation by 2025 from renewable energy, efficiency, nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage technology. The goal is continent-wide, and it would require a steep increase in clean power and efficiency over the next nine years. Thirty-seven percent of North America’s overall power last year came from clean sources.

Although it’s an ambitious goal, domestic policies in the three countries are already moving toward cleaner environmental practices. There’s an effort already underway by the United States and Canada to reduce methane emissions by 40-45% by 2025 in the gas and oil sector. In addition to the new pledge, Mexico agreed to sign on to this additional agreement.

Canada is busy formulating a new climate initiative based on many of the carbon and clean energy initiatives already implemented by provinces. In Mexico, the government enacted a law last December aimed at transitioning the country’s energy sources to be more efficient and bring more green power to the grid.

Meanwhile, the United States’ Clean Power Plan, unveiled by President Obama last August, will be the central component when it comes to meeting the continent-wide goals. At the moment the plan is facing litigation and a Supreme Court stay, but in the meantime President Obama assured that federal tax incentives for renewables would get the country started on the path towards more green energy.

Whatever happens in the U.S. will dictate whether the pact succeeds or fails. The U.S. generates about 4,000 terawatt-hours of electricity every year, while Canada only generates about 600 terawatt-hours and Mexico even less. Plus,, the generation of non-emitting energy is not split evenly between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

The United States drew approximately 32% of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources last year, a figure that’s expected to rise to 41 percent by 2025, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Non-fossil fuels sources supplied 22% of Mexico’s power last year, less than half what’s required to hit the target.

Canada currently leads the continent when it comes to green energy. Last year, nearly 80% of Canada’s energy came from carbon-free sources. But the volume of energy it produces pales in comparison to the energy output of the United States and Mexico, which makes it difficult for Canada to pick up slack from the other two if they fall short of their goals.

In the U.S., experts warn that declines in nuclear energy due to competition from natural gas and delays in the rollout of the Clean Power Plan, may make meeting the 2025 deadline difficult.

But the fact that there is an agreement at all is a promising sign that across the continent, the landscape is changing in regards to energy, and that North America must adapt to stay economically and environmentally stable.

Photo credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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