Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group recommends a roadmap for the 100 megatonne emissions cap

The provincial government released  the consensus report of  Phase 1 of the Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group on June 16 – proposing  a process to comply with the the legislated 100 megatonne emissions limit for oil and gas production, as required by the Climate Leadership Plan.  The recommendations for early action focus on encouraging lower emission intensity production through technological innovation, and building information and reporting systems to drive improvements.  Those information systems could also trigger reviews and possible penalties  if emissions approach  80%  or 95% of the  100 megatonne limit. According to an article in Energy Mix,  “The industry is staking its future on the hope that it can simultaneously increase production and reduce production emissions, an approach that is seen as favouring the largest operators in the tar sands/oil sands over smaller companies. ” An article in the Edmonton Journal provides commentary from the oil industry perspective.

The Executive Summary of the report is here ; the full Report is here . The government will start consultations  with key stakeholders immediately,  before proceeding with Phase 2 of policy design. The goal is to have regulations in place by 2018.

Paths forward for decarbonization in Canada: two new reports

TopAsksCover-600x777In June, the Columbia Institute’s Centre for Civic Governance released the first annual progress report  on the  18 federal and 24 provincial/territorial policies that it had identified in its 2016 report, Top Asks for Climate Action: Ramping Up Low Carbon Communities . The 2016 report focuses on local government issues and the policy support they  need from the federal, provincial and territorial governments in the areas of  capacity building, funding, buildings, transportation and smart growth.  The 2017 Report Card  credits the federal government for some accomplishments – such as establishing a national price on carbon – and highlights nine  key areas where “room for improvement” remains.  These are: 1) establishing scientific GHG targets that will meet Paris Agreement commitments; 2)Establishing a mechanism that will guarantee new infrastructure spending that won’t lock Canadians into a high carbon path; 3) Moving faster on eliminating fossil fuel subsidies; 4)Providing more robust tools for retrofitting homes and commercial buildings; 5)Providing all communities with energy, emissions and natural capital baseline data; 6) Prioritizing transit and active transportation over auto-only infrastructure; 7) Giving priority to community and Indigenous -owned renewable energy projects to advance energy democracy in Canada;  8) Developing a national thermal energy strategy; 9) Helping local governments transition to low carbon fleets.  A June 5  article in the National Observer summarizes the report, and provides response from the federal government.

A second  new report, Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future , takes a more academic approach, but includes many of the same issues.  The report, published by Sustainable Canada Dialogues, is the product of  input from Canadian academics and First Nations, establishes a framework of our energy system, and examines the important issues in Canadian energy policy with statistics and analysis.  The report identifies governance issues as central to a successful low-carbon energy transition, and states: “we believe that the key barriers to accelerating the low-carbon energy transition are social, political and organizational.” Many of its recommendations relate to governance structures needed for policy harmonization.   Re-energizing Canada was Commissioned by Natural Resources Canada in Fall 2016, and published by  Sustainable Canada Dialogues,   a Canada-wide network of over 80 scholars from engineering, sciences and social sciences. It is an initiative of the UNESCO-McGill Chair for Dialogues on Sustainability and is housed in Montreal.

66% of Canada’s energy in 2015 came from renewable sources, and other facts

NEB Revenewables coverA Canadian Press story in early May highlighted that renewable energy accounted for 66% of energy generated in Canada in 2015, and appeared widely –  for example, in  the Globe and Mail (May 2) and the Toronto Star . The information behind the news was drawn  from  Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources – Energy Market Analysis May 2017  by the National Energy Board , which provides much more detail about each type of renewable energy, and notes the factors influencing their adoption rates (including costs, technological improvement, environmental considerations, and regulatory issues).  The NEB also compares  Canada to other countries, and perhaps most interestingly,  includes a section on Emerging Technologies , which highlights tidal power, off-shore wind, and geothermal.  Canada has no existing production capacity for either off-shore wind or geothermal, although the report outlines proposed developments.

Some highlights from the Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Power Sources: the 2015 proportion of 66% renewables in our energy mix is an increase from 60% in 2005;  only five countries (Norway, New Zealand, Brazil, Austria, and Denmark) produce a similar or larger share of electricity from renewable sources; China leads the world in total hyroelectricity production – Canada is second; over 98% of Canada’s solar power generation capacity is located in Ontario.

Other useful NEB publications:   Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape (October 2016), which documents historical growth rates for renewable power in Canada, and each province and territory, and for the latest in energy projections, see Canada’s Energy Future 2016: Update – Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040 . These projections, which include fossil fuels as well as renewables,  were published in October 2016 and therefore don’t reflect the policies of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Canadian GHG emissions decreased by 2.2% from 2005, according to the latest report to UNFCCC

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) posted the National Inventory Reports of greenhouse gas emissions from most countries of the world in the second week of April 2017, including   Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.   The full 3-part report, available only at the UNFCC website, is an exhaustive inventory emissions of GHG’s, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride, reported for the country and for each province and territory.  Statistics are given for five economic sectors, as defined and required by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) :  Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use, Agriculture, Waste, and Land Use, and Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).  An Executive Summary is posted at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and includes statistics using Canadian economic sector definitions.

A few  highlights:  In 2013; Canada represented approximately 1.6% of total global GHG emissions. Canada remains one of the highest per capita emitters, although that is decreasing since 2005 and was the lowest yet in 2015,  at 20.1 tons.  In 2015, Canada’s GHG emissions were 722 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – a net decrease of  2.2% from 2005 .  The Energy Sector ( as defined by IPCC, consisting of Stationary Combustion Sources, Transport, and Fugitive Sources) emitted 81% of Canada’s total GHG emissions;  Agriculture emitted  8%; Industrial Processes  and Product Use emitted 7%; the  Waste Sector emitted 3%.

Using Canadian economic sector definitions, our Oil and Gas sector showed a 20% increase in emissions from 2005 to 2015; Transportation increased by  6% in that time.

Nationally, we posted a 31% decrease in emissions associated with electricity production. The permanent closure of all coal generating stations in the province of Ontario by 2014 was the determinant factor.

emissions by province 2015

From:  National Inventory Report 1990 – 2015 Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada; Figure S-9 Emissions by Province in 2005, 2010, and 2015



Return of oil and gas jobs? New pipelines and new technology are essential conditions

The headline of a Calgary Herald story on March 30 warns: “ Another 8,700 oil jobs are at risk if prices drop below US$50 for a sustained period, according to new study” .  Based on a labour market study by Enform consultancy,  the Herald states that this possible job loss would follow the loss of 52,500 direct jobs between 2015 and 2016, without even taking into account the job turmoil caused by the 2017 mergers and acquisitions in the Canadian oil sands: Canadian Natural Resources and Shell  ; Cenovus Energy and Conoco Phillips; and most recently, Enbridge and Spectra Energy  .

oil sandsThe original Enform study on which the newspaper article is based provides much more detail.  Labour Market Outlook 2017 to 2021 for Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry  was prepared by PetroLMI, a Division of Enform, and was partly funded by Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives program.  It reports that the oil and gas industry directly employed an estimated 174,000 workers at the end of 2016, (down by 25 per cent from the industry peak of over 226,000 in 2014). It forecasts job growth for two different scenarios – oil prices well above or well below  US$50 per barrel from  2017- 2021 .  The “modest recovery” scenario, (prices above US $50) ìs forecast to support an annual average of 554,000 direct and indirect jobs in the next five years; the “Delayed Recovery” is forecast to support 508,000 jobs.  The report provides detailed statistics by subsectors, occupations, and regions.  The report also notes the shrinking labour pool, as workers are discouraged from remaining or entering the sector, and as older workers retire.  Although the forecast expects limited job recovery in the next two years, it concludes that the peak employment levels will not return.  “Heading towards 2021 and beyond, accessing world markets via new pipelines will be critical for full job recovery. Equally important will be investing in technology, innovation and a highly-skilled and technical workforce to sustain the productivity and efficiency gains achieved in the last few years. These things will be critical if the industry is to compete globally and make a transition through carbon regulations.”  See the full suite of forecasts for the oil and gas industry, including the LNG industry, here .