Varcoe: Alberta enterprise leaders urge Ottawa for 'regional' method to net-zero energy grid

Varcoe: Alberta enterprise leaders urge Ottawa for 'regional' method to net-zero energy grid

There are billions of {dollars} of proposed investments in net-zero initiatives throughout the province which are nonetheless awaiting remaining funding choices, making the timing of the journey important

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A bunch of 48 Alberta enterprise leaders trekked to Ottawa and met with the prime minister and a number of other cupboard ministers Tuesday, at the same time as tensions between the federal and provincial governments have escalated in latest months.

Their message was easy — Alberta desires to work with the feds on frequent targets.

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However the group, led by the Enterprise Council of Alberta and together with members from the Calgary and Edmonton Chambers of Commerce, stays involved about two contentious power insurance policies: Ottawa’s push for a net-zero electrical energy system by 2035, and an incoming cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from the nation’s oil and fuel sector.

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Council president Adam Legge mentioned Ottawa’s draft Clear Electrical energy Laws (CER) aren’t achievable for provinces that don’t have entry to low-emissions energy era, similar to the massive hydro sources accessible in Quebec, Manitoba or British Columbia.

Alberta isn’t searching for a provincial exemption to the rule, one thing federal Atmosphere Minister Steven Guilbeault dominated out on Friday. However it’s pushing for a 2050 timeline, permitting extra time for big-ticket investments and technological developments to succeed in the goal.

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The enterprise council desires Ottawa to just accept a regional method that displays the realities of provinces similar to Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Alberta, the place 72 per cent of all energy era final 12 months got here from burning pure fuel.

“The notion of getting a one-size-fits-all electrical energy regulation for a rustic this huge, this huge, this totally different, will not be reasonable,” Legge mentioned in an interview from Ottawa.

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“Let’s create a regionalized method to what’s a really regional-specific problem.”

The difficulty of the province’s energy system reaching net-zero emissions by 2035 is the most recent conflict between the Trudeau and Smith governments, an inventory that additionally consists of the UCP’s examination of pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan and the oilpatch emissions restrict.

Final week, Premier Danielle Smith mentioned her authorities is getting ready a sovereignty act movement if Ottawa pushes forward with the draft regulation for a net-zero grid by 2035.

In opposition to this backdrop comes the enterprise journey to Ottawa, which was deliberate months in the past to construct relationships and discuss Canada’s skill to be a frontrunner and proceed increasing in areas similar to meals, power, well being care and synthetic intelligence.

There are additionally billions of {dollars} of proposed investments in net-zero initiatives throughout the province, together with hydrogen, petrochemical developments, and carbon seize and storage. Most are nonetheless awaiting remaining funding choices.

That makes the timing of the journey important.

“Whatever the political discourse and what could also be occurring between governments . . . the necessity to nonetheless interact with Ottawa is as vital as ever,” mentioned Michael Solberg, a political strategist and associate with New West Public Affairs.

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Randy Boissonnault
“The connection between Alberta and Canada stays sturdy and constructive, and there in all probability will all the time be some recordsdata on which we disagree,” mentioned Employment Minister and Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault. Picture by Greg Southam /Postmedia

The enterprise group notes the province has the most important photo voltaic venture within the nation, the most important CO2 trunk line on this planet and an array of net-zero initiatives throughout a number of sectors on the drafting board.

“It’s myth-busting,” Calgary Financial Growth CEO Brad Parry mentioned of the journey to Ottawa. “It’s letting individuals perceive what is going on, letting them hear immediately from CEOs and entrepreneurs.”

The Alberta group of 48 consists of AltaLink CEO Gary Hart, Cenovus Vitality government chair Alex Pourbaix, Spartan Controls CEO Grant Wilde, together with the heads of the Calgary and Edmonton chambers, Calgary Financial Growth and Edmonton International.

In the course of the go to, the delegation is slated to satisfy with the prime minister, Guilbeault, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Trade Minister FrancoisPhilippe Champagne, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault.

“We’re pushing again about any of the language, or narrative or rhetoric about separatism, or that Alberta doesn’t need to be a part of the federation — it’s fairly the alternative,” mentioned Legge.

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Boissonnault mentioned the journey is constructing bridges and making a dialogue.

“The connection between Alberta and Canada stays sturdy and constructive, and there in all probability will all the time be some recordsdata on which we disagree,” mentioned the Edmonton Centre MP.

“There have been some very constructive conversations . . . Robust relations between Alberta and Canada are good for the entire nation.”

But, there are apparent friction factors.

Deborah Yedlin
“Engaged on regional options makes lots of sense,” mentioned Deborah Yedlin, Calgary Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. Gavin Younger/Postmedia

In an announcement, Smith mentioned Tuesday she hopes the enterprise group conveys “Alberta’s eagerness to be on the forefront of lowering greenhouse fuel emissions, albeit inside an affordable timeframe.”

Throughout a speech Tuesday night time to the Alberta delegation’s reception, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned the federal authorities has dedicated to partnering with companies, similar to offering an funding tax credit score for carbon seize initiatives.

“Sadly, there are politicians who would moderately rile up individuals’s fears and anxieties, as an alternative of specializing in what we will do, what we have to do, to safe a robust future for our financial system,” he mentioned.

“The politicians who’d moderately deny the information of the matter than take motion to satisfy this second are denying certainty to traders and enterprise leaders, denying employees alternatives and denying our youngsters and grandkids the safe future they deserve.”

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On Friday, Guilbeault mentioned there will likely be no exceptions for provinces to succeed in net-zero emissions of their electrical energy grids by 2035. Some provinces are a lot nearer to the goal attributable to their present era combine, similar to using nuclear or hydro.

In Saskatchewan, about two-thirds of its electrical era is powered by pure fuel and, to a lesser extent, coal. In Nova Scotia, coal accounted for 51 per cent of its energy era in 2019.

“Engaged on regional options makes lots of sense as a result of all people has strengths, all people has weaknesses, and you’ll leverage sources and infrastructure higher,” mentioned Calgary Chamber CEO Deborah Yedlin.

Legge mentioned the enterprise council doesn’t see the necessity for an oil and fuel emissions cap, noting it will disproportionately penalize one sector within the nation. The group is hoping to speak with the federal atmosphere minister about its concepts on the Clear Electrical energy Laws.

“Alberta can not moderately get to a 2035 net-zero grid, largely simply because it will put the price of electrical energy so excessive on this province that it will be untenable for many Albertans,” he added.

“We aren’t asking for particular remedy, however recognition that there are areas of the nation that may’t get there as simply and rapidly and affordably as some others.”

Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.

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