Thank you very much for the opportunity.
If at any time you can't hear me, just let me know.
I'm happy to join you here from Washington, where we're hoping by the end of the day we will hoist our first ever Stanley Cup. Not to rub it in, but we've very excited to be in the finals this year.
I'm very pleased to be joining you today to talk about this important topic. My name is Ethan Zindler, and I head research and commercial operations for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in the Americas.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance, BNEF, is a division of the financial information provider Bloomberg Finance L.P. Our group provides major investors, utilities, policy-makers, and others with data and insights on new energy technologies. These include renewables, such as wind and solar; electric vehicles; energy efficiency technologies; power storage systems, such as batteries; and natural gas, among others.
My remarks today represent my views alone, not the corporate positions of Bloomberg Finance L.P., and of course they do not represent specific investment advice. Sorry; that's language I have to include for our lawyers.
The topic of today's hearing, the importance of energy data, is at first blush a potentially rather dry one. I know most normal people probably regard the words “data” and “passion” to be fundamentally antithetical to one another, but we at BNEF and Bloomberg L.P. are deeply passionate about the value of data and its importance in guiding effective business policy and other decisions. As our founder, Michael Bloomberg, has often said, “In God we trust, but all others must bring data.”
I will talk in a moment about Canada and the level of data transparency there and its energy markets in just a second, but first I'd like to tell you a bit more about my firm, BNEF—not to be self-indulgent, but because I think our firm's journey over the last 14 years is in itself emblematic of the value of energy data.
BNEF was founded in 2004 as a start-up then known as New Energy Finance. The company was the brainchild of a former management consultant who was keen to invest in renewable energy companies. Very quickly he realized that there was almost no truly useful business data on the state of these types of firms or even on wind, solar, or other clean energy technologies. This included a lack of information about their costs, their deployment, which companies were involved with them, etc.
When I joined what was then a 30-person company in 2006, our informal goal was to maintain what we thought would be the Saudi Arabia of clean energy data. That involved each of us keying thousands of data records into a database, to which we then sold access to clients who had interest in those technologies. Over five years we built a small but ardent user base of utilities, equipment makers, policy-makers, and others, all of whom were seeking timely and accurate data on these potentially revolutionary new technologies.
Eventually, several large information service companies became interested in what we were doing and in 2009 we sold the firm to Bloomberg L.P. Our founder, who started the firm out of a small London garden apartment, today splits his time between his townhouse in Notting Hill and his chalet in Switzerland. I offer this anecdote not because it has a happy ending, but because it demonstrates the value of information in a vacuum and how very quickly the market can come to value and to recognize it.
There may be no industry in which data and transparency are more important than energy, given the fundamental role it plays in the lives of literally every one of us. Today, even on the most micro level, we are seeing greater transparency in how energy is produced, delivered, and consumed.
Consider, for instance, the proliferation of smart thermostats such as those produced by companies like Nest and others. These devices allow consumers to adjust their thermostats when away from home, understand their consumption patterns down to the minute, and make adjustments accordingly. Businesses large and small today are taking advantage of similar technologies to improve energy storage in their warehouses, retail outlets, and supply chains.
All of this brings me to Canada, which is one of the world's premier energy producers and exporters, but, at least in our view, not truly a world leader when it comes to energy data transparency.
Our team of analysts at BNEF regularly write research pieces about business and policy developments in the Canadian energy market. We've been honoured to host and at our annual conferences, and our research is regularly read by the staff at NRCan, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and other federal agencies there.
We produce long-term 20-year outlooks projecting how the Canadian power sector will evolve in the face of unprecedented technological development. We attempt to predict the number of electric vehicles Canadians will buy over the next two decades, among other things.
We are deeply interested in what is happening in Canada, both because it represents a dynamic and intriguing domestic power market and because the country's exports of oil, gas, and uranium, among other commodities, give it a real influence over certain global markets. However, we regularly find it challenging to find timely, consistent, and entirely accurate data on the state of play for energy across the nation. Specifically, there are insufficient datasets collected and made easily available at the federal level, particularly on the power sector. Those datasets that are collected are often too high-level and are updated too infrequently for those seeking a nuanced understanding of the market.
Furthermore, our analysts tell me that the figures reported at the federal level are, with some frequency, inconsistent with those produced by the provinces.
To give one rather specific example, our team this past year has sought to update our short- and long-term outlook for the Canadian power sector. Among other things, we sought out a single comprehensive look at all the country's power plants, including the plant name; the primary fuel that each one was burning; the operational date of each one; the planned retirement date, if it had been disclosed; its annual power generation; and how much CO2 each plant emitted. As well as we could tell, there exists no single repository for this information today.
Beyond making life easier for energy wonks like me and those on my team, why is it so important for Canada to better organize and provide its data? Consider the example I mentioned a moment ago, but from the perspective of an energy project developer, either a small local player or a large multinational looking for strategic opportunities in Canada. Surely such a developer would want to understand where the oldest or otherwise least economical existing power plants are today, as these are the plants that stand to be replaced by newer generations.
In the same vein, companies now looking to deploy large-scale batteries onto the grid to address reliability are keen to know where certain pinch points exist as well. It's worth noting that provincial governments around Canada do publish energy statistics. Some of these datasets are robust, reliable, and very helpful. However, there is little consistency in the format of how those datasets are produced, and collating them can be a big headache.
In terms of addressing this issue, I would simply note that other nations have established regimented protocols for the collection and dissemination of data. There's also the International Energy Agency, which compiles key datasets on international activity.
I am joining you from Washington today, as you know, and I do not often hold up my own government as a paragon of data transparency, but when it comes to energy data, I will argue that the U.S. Energy Information Administration does a really admirable job of collecting key information and making it very easily consumable for market players. I would also note that this is really EIA's only job. It's not a regulatory or enforcement party. EIA certainly has its detractors in the United States. Renewable energy proponents in particular have long complained about its forecasts being inaccurate, but EIA has very rarely been accused of having any kind of partisan bias. Given the extraordinarily contentious climate here in Washington today, that really is saying something.
I would posit that the reason EIA is regarded as being so independent is that it holds no regulatory power itself. Those tasks are left to other federal offices. Having this division between government and data collector and government policy implementer strikes me as very wise.
I'd like to conclude my comments simply by reiterating that investors and businesses of all stripes crave data transparency. Those in the energy field are simply no different. Furthermore, the expectations are higher than ever, given the technologies currently available to collect such data and the plethora of data that's all around us now, so it's understandable that on these issues many expect just a bit more clarity from Canada as one of the world's leading energy producers and exporters.
Again, I would like to say thank you to the committee for giving me this opportunity today, and I look forward to your questions.
I'm Maike Luiken from IEEE Canada. It's a pleasure and honour to have a first opportunity to address this standing committee of the House of Commons.
I'll say a couple of words about IEEE and IEEE Canada.
IEEE is the world's largest technical professional organization, with 400,000 members around the world. Its byline is “advancing technology for the benefit of humanity”.
We all use IEEE, because I assume you all use Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is an IEEE standard.
In Canada, we have more than 16,000 members. The IEEE Canada organization is a member of the Engineering Institute of Canada and a member of PAGSE, which delivers the Bacon and Eggheads breakfasts on Parliament Hill, which you might be aware of. We work with other organizations, such as the Canadian Standards Association, or CSA.
In the organization, there is significant strength of expertise in the areas of electrical power and energy, communications and data science, and in artificial intelligence. That may be of use to this committee and other committees as the need arises.
With respect to national energy data, energy-related data is being collected across the country by various stakeholders, as we heard before, for a variety of applications and purposes, although not necessarily in a standard format, and there are definite gaps. This includes data on available energy resources and their extraction technologies; energy transport, energy infrastructure, and energy carriers; energy storage; energy users—essentially private industry, business, and public sectors, and all end-user consumers for all types of energy use, from electricity to gas to coal—and energy consumption patterns; energy conservation technologies and their impact; building infrastructure inventory, which is lacking quite a bit; greenhouse gas emissions; weather patterns; population changes; cybersecurity, which is another area where we lack significantly in data; and industry trends. That's just to name a few of the areas in which we collect data by one agency or another in the country.
For the future of national energy data, it's absolutely critical that we have nationally consistent energy data to plan, develop, and provide reliable services. The requirement for the future national energy data is that the data be, among other things, sufficient, trusted, reliable, current, secure, and sufficiently accurate. Data analytics applied to these data will support, among other things, evidence-based decision-making, policy development, and system optimization and planning. Of course, this data will then enable research and development.
The requirements are that we determine what data we actually need and what data is desirable, and how that data may be obtained and protected. We need to audit the data that we collect. We need to determine the data gaps and augment the datasets to address the gaps. We need to look at the data integration from many sources, using a standard like the Green Button standard, which my colleague will report on later. We need consistent access, with different access levels of security for all stakeholders through a trusted independent agency. The data has to be current, and it has to be compliant, for example, with the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation. We have to have a transparency of process and system, and we need to use the established practices of big data.
Some of the members of IEEE Canada are focusing on underserved communities, particularly northern and indigenous communities, to bring technology-based solutions to improving the living and working conditions there. This would mean that robust location-specific data, as well as technology performance data, are expected to enable optimal holistic solutions, considering heating, lighting, internet access, potable water, wastewater treatment, and transportation as a system of systems.
In other words, datasets across these various disciplines, these various areas, taken together with a transparent access would allow us to support such policies as a dig-once policy and essentially deliver holistic solutions.
Today, that's very difficult. Some of my colleagues report to me that when they're trying to do energy systems research and development, they don't have, or have very little, access to data. Even the data from the EIA is hard to obtain for research.
I offer, at the end, a positive note. IEEE has started to address the issue of large datasets and accessibility to large datasets by opening up a service that's called IEEE DataPort. The standard use is free for use today. It is essentially an accessible repository of datasets, including big datasets. It's designed to store datasets, to provide access to facilitate the analysis of datasets, and to retain referenceable data for reproducible research. It's essentially a service that the Government of Canada, for example, could use to deposit the anonymized datasets for research purposes and public access.
With that, I'd like to turn it over to Zoran.
Thank you very much.
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to present this morning. My name is Zoran Stojanovic, and I'm Director of Information Services at London Hydro.
I want to thank you for an amazingly good introduction to the topic I'm going to talk about, and that's data transparency and how we can help our customers.
I'm going to bring the view of what data transparency means to our consumers and our customers—especially our commercial customers, who really need this data to make efficiencies and save on costs.
The fact is that North American utilities daily store a variety of data that are utilized for grid monitoring, bill production, customer engagement, education programs, and so on. Typically this data among utilities is stored in isolated databases such as their operational data stores, and it's not easily shared. It's not transparent to all the ecosystem, which includes customers, government organizations, and research organizations.
The fact is that a wealth of data exists, and it's growing among utilities. However, challenges remain for effective sharing, authorization, and utilization of this data, of this tremendous resource, on a consolidated cross-utility level.
Take Ontario, where we have just over 60 utilities. If you're a customer such as a school board, with facilities across six or seven utilities, it's pretty impossible to obtain the data in a standardized, transparent format to manage your portfolio. These are real challenges for real customers.
I'd now like to introduce an initiative that we've been spearheading since inception and that came as part of the data transparency in the call to action from the U.S., and that's Green Button.
Green Button is a standard based on a common technical standard called Energy Services Provider Interface. It is a collection of existing proven standards and it's capable of supporting any time series data, energy data, and any attributes of that data, including real time data. We talked about thermostats and how customer behaviours are changing. Green Button is capable of storing the data.
The most important thing is that it puts customers in the driver's seat. As a customer, if you had the ability to leverage this data with an easy process and authorize in anonymous ways anybody to leverage and provide value, you would do so. With what I call the Green Button initiative, customers are able to leverage a simple authorization process and view their data, which allows them to save on time and cost while helping to save the environment.
To bring you back a little bit to what we've done in Ontario, we have successfully implemented pilot programs, we have delivered a cost-benefit analysis for implementation of the Green Button platforms as the standard across the whole province, and we currently have a proposal pending for province-wide implementation of Green Button.
Furthermore, I'd like to say that at London Hydro we've been spearheading the development of a platform that allows us to share what we have among utilities so that they can collaborate and share the resources, because we do share customers at the end of the day.
In closing, we see Green Button as an enabler and an innovation catalyst that creates the foundation for an open data economy in the energy space. We believe greater benefits can be achieved if everybody adopts the standard nationally for all types of energy data.
I'd like to tie this up by saying that Green Button offers the opportunity to put Canada back on the map of leaders in data transparency.
] the folks at the EIA directly as well. We know them well here in D.C. We actually provide some of our data to them, and of course we consume a lot of their data.
The EIA is literally in the U.S. Department of Energy building, but it is essentially its own independent office. It has its own funding and operates with the one and only goal of collecting data and providing forecasts. I wholeheartedly think that in data collection and provision, they do an outstanding job.
Frankly, with some others, I probably share some.... I've had my complaints about their forecasts, and I would not necessarily wholeheartedly endorse this model of an agency to do forecasting in Canada, but in collecting and providing data, they have a really important role. They've done a wonderful job of building a website that is pretty easy to use. The datasets can easily be downloaded into Excel and processed without paying for it in any way or without any kind of a firewall.
The data they provide really depends on the dataset. In some cases, it's monthly data. In some cases, it's annual. It includes natural gas storage levels, which are figures that can literally drive activity in the market every single week. There is import and export data on oil and gas, of course. On the electricity side, we find the plant-level data extremely useful in terms of their tracking literally every power plant in the U.S.
They have also really upped their game when it comes to trying to understand the level of generation now coming from photovoltaics on individual residential homes. That's actually becoming a bigger deal. It's obviously a very small percentage—I think way less than 1% of our power in the U.S. comes from rooftop solar—but it's growing. It has real implications, as one of your other witnesses would probably attest, for how we think about local utilities and how they interact.
Anyway, that's their general set-up. As I say, it's set up autonomously to some large degree, although I do believe the President appoints the head of the EIA. The person who has been the head of the EIA typically now is a non-partisan, academic type, and not somebody who brings to the job a real axe to grind on energy issues, necessarily.
That's a good question. I'm somewhat ambivalent about the idea of the government doing its own long-term projections about what the energy sector will look like.
You're exactly right that the good forecasts, EIA's included, provide high, low, and middle scenarios. I think that's very useful, but it is an open question whether it is government's role to forecast on what essentially is mostly a highly regulated but private sector and how it will evolve over the future. I don't know that we do that elsewhere. For instance, government doesn't necessarily try to forecast what exactly the health care industry or the information technology industry will look like in 10 years. I get that energy is in the national interest, and that's why this has probably existed over time, but I think the challenges with central government forecasts is that they become benchmarks.
I speak to this from historical context. Our firm got its start doing research in renewables. Ten years ago, if you looked at the standard forecasts from the EIA, from the IEA, and from many other big authorities in this area, they did not predict even close to the level of growth in development that we've seen in these technologies, and for a number of years that allowed various incumbent players to say these technologies are never going to be viable because the EIA says they are not going to be viable. I'm not convinced that having government provide that kind of benchmark for the future is necessarily the right role for these types of agencies.
That said, collecting data is extraordinarily important, and the analysis of that data, which EIA also does, is extremely important as well, and they do it extraordinarily well.
They got the forecast wrong, but we also got the forecast wrong. Everybody got the forecast wrong. That's inevitable. My issue is whether or not there should be an official government-sanctioned view of the future of the energy industry. I'm not convinced that's the right role for government.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to return to the committee.
I've been following with interest the testimony that has been given so far. I'd like to give a few very brief opening remarks.
I'd like to focus on the role that Statistics Canada, which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, plays in the national statistical system.
First, the Statistics Act specifically defers independent decisions of statistical methodology, communications, and operations to the chief statistician—that is to say, the agency. This independence means that we're not beholden to any particular constituency, and we believe this gives us credibility.
Another contributor to this credibility is the transparency under which we operate. We are transparent by sharing with the public our processes, our methods, and our data sources. Also, the work we do is guided by international standards.
Indeed, Statistics Canada has played a lead role in the creation of a number of standards, such as the UN's Energy Statistics Compilers Manual, the International Recommendations on Energy Statistics, and the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting. Having been a trusted source of information on Canada's economy, society, and environment for 100 years means that we are approaching emergent needs from a position of strength.
The second point I would like to make is that we recognize that we have to do better. As I mentioned the last time I was here, Statistics Canada is taking the opportunity now to lay the foundation for a more data-driven future. Driving this push to modernize is the understanding that we have to be more timely, we have to be more responsive, and we have to be able to produce more information at more granular levels. Our efforts thus far are starting to yield some positive results.
The answer is not necessarily in launching new surveys. Canadians have already paid their governments to acquire energy information, often for regulatory or administrative purposes. Also, there is a growing wealth of sensor and earth observation data that's collected by both public and private sectors. There is tremendous opportunity in better integrating existing data to provide value-added output, not just as information on energy production, distribution, and use, but also as linkages between energy and the environment, labour markets, and innovation.
We believe Statistics Canada is uniquely positioned to support this integration, not just as a holder of petabytes of data on the Canadian economy, society, and the environment, but also as a trusted custodian of data that understands issues of privacy, confidentiality, access, and information management. We already have a legislative and policy framework to make this work. This approach is not hypothetical but is happening in real time.
In the past year, we have supported the horizontal review of innovation and clean technology undertaken by the Treasury Board Secretariat. In this project, we integrated 10 years of program data from more than 90 programs across 24 different federal government departments, agencies, and crown corporations. We integrated this data into our existing data holdings, and with this linked dataset we can look at outcomes associated with these programs, kind of at a firm level, roll it up, and take a look at impacts.
On the data dissemination side, we are bringing greater insights on the complex and interrelated nature of social, environmental, and economic factors in the development of subject-specific information hubs. We kicked this off with the development of a Canada and the World statistics hub. We've continued this initiative with statistical hubs on cannabis, transportation, and the sustainable development goals, and we can do the same for energy.
Those are a few opening remarks. I'm going to close here.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that the world of data is rapidly evolving. Given the amount of data out there and the increasing number of players, the idea that there can be a single organization that can do all is probably a throwback to a bygone time.
Moving ahead, we have to keep in mind not only the state of play today but where we're going to be in the years ahead. Making advances in this context means partnering with others. It means creating platforms where information can be integrated and shared. It means using the strengths that each player in the information ecosystem provides.
Those are my comments. Thanks.
A small question.... Let me try to answer.
I'm most qualified to answer that question from the perspective of the environment that I'm working in. In the environment that I'm working in, we already have a legislated ability to share information—to have both incoming and outgoing sharing of information—with the provinces.
From the point of view of Statistics Canada, we have a federal-provincial-territorial consultative council on statistics, with representation from all the provinces and territories, that deals with the coordination of statistical matters. In addition to that, we have a number of federal-provincial-territorial tables dealing with specific subject matter areas.
The degree of coordination, governance, or control really varies from subject matter area to subject matter area. In the case of agriculture statistics, it's a relatively informal group. Well, it's formal enough that we meet, have agendas, and keep minutes, but there is no formal governance over the statistical system itself.
By contrast, where we're dealing with areas of stronger provincial jurisdiction, such as education or justice, I believe that in the case of justice, we have meetings at the deputy minister level to coordinate the justice statistics program.
In any case, the mechanism is in place in order to make this happen in the statistical world.