With an election coming, updates on Alberta energy policy

pembina energy alberta 2019With a provincial election looming large in Alberta, the Pembina Institute released a new publication, Energy Policy Leadership in Alberta, on March 8,  with  this introduction: “Like most Albertans, we want to see the responsible development of oil and natural gas. The province’s policy and regulatory environment must ensure that our resources are produced in a manner that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. … Alberta’s future as an energy provider is directly linked to an ability to demonstrate a demand for its products in a decarbonizing world. With the right policies, Alberta can be competitive, attract investment, spur innovation and remain a supplier of choice in the global energy market.”  The 17-page document, intended to reach across political partisan thinking, continues by outlining 23 policy recommendations “to unleash innovative technologies, deploy renewables, promote energy efficiency, continue greening our fossil fuel industries, and reduce climate pollution.”

The Alberta government itself is active in getting out its story about its energy policies.  Most recently, the Alberta Climate Leadership Progress Report  was released in March 2019, documenting the fiscal year of April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 –  the first year Alberta collected a carbon levy.  The report states that a total of $1.19 billion of carbon revenue was invested back into the economy that year, and a press release of March 7  catalogues the impacts, including:

  • Climate Leadership Plan (CLP) investments have supported more than 5,000 jobs in 2017-18. CLP commitments, such as the Green Line in Calgary, will support a further 20,000 jobs in the coming years.
  • Combining 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years, a total of $978 million in rebates has made life better and more affordable for lower- and middle-income Albertans.
  • The solar industry in Alberta has grown by more than 800 per cent…. About 3,100 solar installations have been completed across the province.
  • Alberta is forecast to cut emissions by more than 50 megatonnes in 2030.

Further press releases from the government :

“Alberta solar on the rise“: (Feb. 15) announced a new contract for  solar electricity with Canadian Solar,  to run from 2021 to 2041,  at an average price of 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour, sufficient  to supply approximately 55 per cent of the government’s annual electricity needs while creating jobs in Southern Alberta.

Premier’s plan unlocks $2-billion energy investment” (Feb. 20) announced that the province will provide up to $80 million in royalty credits, funded through the Petrochemicals Diversification Program , to support phase one of the a Methanol production project by Nauticol Energy  . Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020, with a commercial operational date set for 2022; the government states that the project will create “as many as 15,500 construction jobs and an additional 1,000 permanent jobs.”

The Alberta Community Transit Fund announced a program which will provides $215 million over 4 years .  The press release lists 33  municipal projects awarded funding  on March 7, 2019.

Low Carbon Economy Future for Alberta

A new report from Greenpeace Canada projects that  “Alberta has the potential to create over one hundred and  forty-five thousand new jobs — 46,780 jobs in renewable energy, 68,400 jobs in energy efficiency, and 30,000-40,000 jobs in mass transit.”  100,000+ Jobs: Getting Albertans back to Work by building a Low-Carbon Future   (April 22), aims to “spark a creative conversation” by providing very specific examples of job creation opportunities by sector and across sectors, and calls for policy changes and actions to diversify the economy. The Alberta Green Economy Network and Gridworks Energy Group also cooperated on the report.    A poll taken by the Alberta Green Economy Network   shows that  58% of Albertans  want the carbon revenues announced in the recent budget to be directed toward green projects (28% want the money to be invested in research to reduce emissions from fossil fuel companies).

On the ground, a group of  oil sands workers have banded together as “Iron and Earth”,  to help laid-off workers transition to the renewable energy sector.    Their website  states  :  “ Together we can encourage more sustainable carbon-based extraction and build the renewable energy infrastructure we need to both meet the demands of consumers and diversify our energy economy so it isn’t so reliant on the boom and bust associated to a single resource.”  Its first project is a “Solar Skills” campaign to retrain 1,000 laid-off electricians from Alberta’s oil industry, to help build 100 solar installations on public buildings throughout the province.   The group, mostly in Alberta but also including members from Atlantic Canada,  states that it is non-partisan; it seeks supporters, donations, and possible partnerships with unions, including the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, as well as corporations.   See “Amid Price Plunge, North American Oil and Gas Workers Seek Transition to Renewable Sector”  from Truthout;  Iron and Earth and the dilemma of Alberta’s energy economy are presented in “Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada’s Energy Debate?” at DeSmog Blog (April 4).

Alberta News: Royalty Review, Economic Diversification funding, Incentives for Small-Scale Renewables

A new Royalty Review Framework was announced on January 29, 2016 along with the Final Report of the Advisory Panel  . The Panel recommended that existing royalty structures be maintained for 10 years on wells drilled before 2017, and that the current oil sands regime remain unchanged. Although the government states that it will create a “simpler, more transparent and efficient system that encourages job creation and investment”, Andrew Nikoforuk calls the result a “disaster” in a detailed review published in The Tyee  (Feb. 2) . The Alberta Federation of Labour participated in the Royalty Review meetings and roundtables; its submission, Royalty Policy is the Biggest Decision any Alberta Government has to Make      advocated Lougheed-era royalty rates equivalent to 30 per cent of market value, promotion of in-province upgrading and refining, and creation of an Alberta crown energy corporation for direct investment and equity participation in the industry. AFL President Gil McGowan reflects on his disappointment with the process in an article in The Tyee , (Feb. 10) .

On February 1, 2016 Alberta announced a new “Petrochemicals Diversification Program”, providing up to $500 million in incentives through royalty credits to encourage investment in energy processing facilities. The Government projects a job creation benefit of up to 3,000 new jobs during construction, and more than 1,000 jobs operational jobs. On February 5, 2016 the Alberta government announced $5 million  for the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, to provide rebates up to a maximum of $300,000 per project, to encourage solar installations on municipal buildings. A similar program, the On-Farm Solar Management program, will provide $500,000 in provincial and federal funding to encourage farmers to install solar energy systems  . A Greenpeace blog on Febraury 9  reacts to these programs and argues for the benefits of distributed, small-scale renewable energy.

Wind and Solary Energy in Canada, U.S., and Renewables in 2030

In a press release on January 12, 2016, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) announced a five year annual average growth rate of 23 per cent per year for the industry, led by investments in Ontario and Quebec  . The Association anticipates continued growth, especially with the policy announcement in 2015 from Alberta (already the 3rd largest wind market) to replace two-thirds of coal generation with renewable generation. CanWEA also released a report by Compass Renewable Energy Consulting in December 2015. Wind Dividends: An Analysis of the Economic Impacts from Ontario’s Wind Procurements   forecasts that from 2006-2030, wind energy in Ontario will have stimulated more than $14 billion in economic activity, including 73,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $5 billion in wages and benefits. The report warns, however, that Ontario “currently has no plans for new wind energy purchases, and risks losing many of the good-paying, wind-related jobs it has created.”

Canada ranks 7th in the world for the installed wind generation capacity, which meets 5% of Canada’s electricity demand. In contrast, Denmark announced on January 19th, that it has set a new world record for wind energy generation with nearly 40 % of the country’s overall electricity consumption in 2014). For a thorough statistical overview of the wind energy industry and employment in the U.S., see Wind Vision, released by the U.S. Department of Energy in March 2015. According to the 6th annual U.S. Solar Jobs Census  ( January 2016) by industry-group The Solar Foundation, the industry created 1.2 percent of all new jobs in the U.S. in 2015, nearly 12 times faster than the national rate. Total solar industry employment was 208,859 , with installation as the single largest solar employment sector. Women in solar jobs increased by 2% and now represent 24% of the solar workforce. Prospects for growth in U.S. wind and solar are greatly improved after the renewal of the renewable energy tax credit system in December 2015 , with spillover benefits expected for Canadian manufacturers as well: see “U.S. tax move brightens picture for Canadian wind, solar firms”  in the Globe and Mail (Dec. 21).

A January report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (NREL) and the U.S. Department of Energy updates the on-going NREL analysis of clean energy policy impacts in the U.S. . Examining state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards policies in 2013, the authors found an average of $2.2 billion in economic benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and another $5.2 billion in benefits from reductions in sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants. Further, the report estimates nearly 200,000 jobs were created in the renewable energy sector, with over $20 billion in gross domestic product.   Read A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards .

A new report released at the sixth Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi on January 17 quantifies the macroeconomic impacts of doubling the global share of renewables in the energy mix by 2030. Renewable Energy Benefits: Measuring the Economic Impact  states: “Doubling the share of renewables increases direct and indirect employment in the sector to 24.4 million by 2030. Renewable energy jobs will grow across all technologies, with a high concentration in the same technologies that account for a majority of the employment today, namely bioenergy, hydropower and solar.” …“The jobs created are likely to offset job losses in sectors such as fossil fuels because the sectors involved in the renewables supply chain are usually more distributed and labour-intensive than the conventional energy sector. For instance, solar PV creates at least twice the number of jobs per unit of electricity generated compared with coal or natural gas. As a result, substituting fossil fuels for renewables could lead to a higher number of jobs overall.” (p. 16-17). The report also states that “training is essential to support the expansion of the renewable energy sector. This requires systematic access across all layers of the society to education and training in relevant fields, including engineering, economics, science, environmental management, finance, business and commerce. Professional training, as well as school or university curricula must evolve adequately to cover renewable energy, sustainability and climate change. Vocational training programmes can also offer opportunities to acquire specialisation and take advantage of the growing renewable energy job market. The elaboration of specific, certified skills and the categorisation of trainees based on their level of experience and training is recommended.” (p. 79).

New Canadian Association for Renewable Energy industry

The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity was launched on May 6, 2015.  Founding members are Canadian Hydropower Association, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association, and Marine Renewables Canada. The council “aims to engage and educate Canadians on the opportunity to expand renewable electricity and strengthen our nation’s position as a global renewable-energy leader”.  Each of the associations continues to maintain its own website, and the new Council  website is available at http://renewableelectricity.ca/.