Launching Alberta's Energy Future, Provincial Energy Strategy
Levers are the tools we will employ to enable the achievement of our three central outcomes and, therefore, the overall energy vision of Alberta. There are many actions to take, but these are the main ones. They include:
- Address Environmental Footprint
- Careful management of our environmental footprint: land, water and air.
- Ensure an integrated approach to development of energy resources.
- Add Value
- Support for the development of a world-class hydrocarbon processing cluster integrated with oil sands production, energy consumption and carbon capture.
- Cultivation of markets, of industry participants and of highly qualified people.
- Support for the optimization of basin resources.
- Support for alternative and renewable energy development.
- Change Energy Consumption Behaviour
- Development and implementation of energy conservation measures.
- Energy technology leadership including gasification and carbon capture and storage.
- Investment in the development of Alberta’s next generation of energy professionals.
- Enhance Electricity
- Electricity system capability.
- Bolster Knowledge and Awareness
- Knowledge and awareness of energy issues for Albertans.
- Understanding by others of the approaches we are taking toward clean, green energy.
- Input of energy information to the education system.
- Ensure Alignment
- Alignment with related provincial and federal initiatives.
- Changes to ensure policy, regulatory, and institutional alignment with the energy strategy.
4.1 Address Environmental Footprint
Manage Land, Air and Water
Alberta is resolved to manage the cumulative environmental effects of development. In this respect, the government will:
- Utilize regional plans developed under the Land Use Framework to assess the cumulative effects of development on the environment and to set the limits or thresholds that will guide development decisions. The balance between development and environmental protection - the limits or thresholds at a regional scale - will be set by Government.
- Ensure that regulatory agencies and decision-makers respect Government approved limits or thresholds when making individual project decisions.
- Update and adapt regional plans as the needs of the province change.
The Land Use Framework will be critical to the achievement of Alberta’s cumulative effects approach. Monitoring and managing cumulative effects is a mammoth undertaking, but it will be enabled by integrated and comprehensive information on resource management. Alberta already has a solid position in geomatics—thanks largely to its connection to oil and gas—and we have policy supportive of sustainable development.
Geomatics is the gathering of information related to the earth’s surface and the mapping, analysis, and interpretation of that data.
Alberta aspires to be a world leader in providing integrated resource management solutions that contribute value-add to energy, forestry, agriculture, environment and land management and development. Energy has already benefited hugely from data collection in the subsurface (seismic), surface data collection (e.g. geographic information systems incorporating land surveying data) and atmospheric data (e.g. the Clean Air Strategic Alliance’s work in reducing flare gas). Over the period spanned by this energy strategy, geomatics advancements will enable us to collect, organize and understand unimagined amounts of data - advancing cumulative effects assessment.
The Capital Region - encompassing the Industrial Heartland area - is the first Alberta region in which the cumulative effects management approach will be modeled. A series of comprehensive targets, outcomes and actions have been set for the region to protect the air, land and water. These targets and outcomes are specifically designed to address environmental and growth pressures from the pace of development in the region and would provide a greater level of certainty for future developers to plan their investments.
The following section deals with the development and deployment of technologies aimed at minimizing the environmental footprint of energy. We should not limit our efforts to new technologies and major new capital projects, of course. There is considerable headway to be made in deploying current technologies such as amine scrubbing to reduce emissions from existing facilities such as power plants and oil refineries.
Amine scrubbing is a post-combustion process that uses a solvent to capture emissions from fossil fuels.
Integrated and Long-Term Energy Development
Gasification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) are key technology components to realizing the commercial viability of clean fossil fuels. Alberta has much to gain from aggressively pursuing the clean gasification of feed stocks such as asphaltenes (bitumen bottoms), petroleum coke, biomass, waste and coal. Our coal reserves are abundant, while bitumen bottoms and petroleum coke are major, low-value byproducts of oil sands production. If we can employ technology to transform these feed stocks to synthesis gas (syngas) and other valuable products (heat, electricity and petrochemical feedstocks), while sequestering the resulting carbon, we will address a number of challenges:
- We will burn the syngas to create clean electricity.
- We will constructively and responsibly use what will be huge and growing stockpiles of bitumen bottoms and petroleum coke.
- We will divert valuable and exportable natural gas from the in-situ bitumen extraction and upgrading process.
- We will promote and encourage sustainable and highly economic upgrading and refining industries.
- We will add value easily to high-carbon, low-value materials through syngas to derive a wide variety of useful and valuable petrochemicals – launching a new
era of clean, economic petrochemical production.
- We will create economic means to control and capture CO2 emissions for subsequent sequestration.
Representations to government from industry experts suggest that Alberta has a unique opportunity to develop a leading petrochemical cluster based on bitumen products and byproducts including gasification of feedstock extracted from bitumen during upgrading and refining. Bitumen piped from northeast Alberta could be processed in a concentrated industrial complex (such as the Industrial Heartland), and diluent could be piped back to the oil sands to complete a closed loop. Captured CO2 could be sequestered. Excess energy could be placed on the grid. An integrated system such as this is more efficient and self-contained—it not only reduces the environmental footprint of its operations, but rewards Albertans with the benefits of value-added activities.
Efforts toward technically and commercially feasible gasification processes are under way through many organizations including the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI). We need to complement these efforts with policy that progressively reduces the use of natural gas in the oil sands, and with the launch of an ongoing research initiative that targets gasification with CCS, emphasizing their demonstration and deployment.
Alberta has made a move into CCS with our announcement of public support for a projected three to five projects expected to store about five million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2015. CCS employed in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and possibly enhanced gas recovery (EGR) promises an early and not insubstantial economic win. For example, research shows that between 500 million and two billion barrels of conventional oil may be recoverable using EOR in Alberta. Industry is already actively pursuing this course of action.
To make CCS work for Alberta, there is a need for a clarity-creating CCS “rulebook” addressing long-term liability (for the risk of escape of CO2), ownership of geological reservoir pore space (including the rights to displace water from the pore space), and project approval (i.e. how to obtain the right to inject and store CO2). It is the government’s intention to address questions including project life requirements, post-closure requirements, development of a monitoring, measurement and verification program, and a longer term management framework. The CCS Development Council is currently developing a blueprint of the most expedient approaches to making the broad-based application of CCS a reality in both the short and long term.
Ultimately, if mastery of the gasification-with-CCS cycle can put our abundant feed stocks into the clean energy category, it will be a boon to this province and to the rest of the world. Alberta’s success with this technology platform will ultimately be a valued and exportable resource unto itself.
Encourage Complementary Energy Sources
It is in Alberta’s interests to be an aggressive early adopter of renewable energy, for the following reasons:
- The synergistic relationship of renewables with fossil fuel development may facilitate cleaner production of Alberta’s significant hydrocarbon deposits (e.g.
hydroelectric power contributing to bitumen extraction).
- We already have a solid position as a host for wind energy, biofuels and hydroelectric production, and we may be able to leverage comparative natural
advantages in solar, geothermal energy and biomass.
- Renewables can play a role in improving the redundancy, reliability and security of our overall energy supply.
- Opportunities in renewables such as micro-generation pique Albertans’ entrepreneurial talents.
Expanding the development of bioenergy will diversify the energy basket with clean alternatives. Bioenergy clusters that facilitate waste to energy conversion will provide significant carbon reduction, a positive energy balance, community development and environmental sustainability. Several development opportunities have been proposed throughout the province to leverage municipal, farm and forestry infrastructure with emerging bioenergy technologies. Going forward Alberta will introduce a renewable fuels standard, consistent with those adopted by Canada and other provinces, to begin the “greening” of transportation fuels.
Electricity generation from renewable resources will be supported by investments in our electrical infrastructure, conservation initiatives, and the new Micro-Generation Policy that will allow Albertans to generate their own environmentally friendly electricity and receive credit for any power they don’t use and send into the electricity grid.
What will create truly ideal conditions for renewable energy will be the rising price of fossil fuels over the long-term and increasing carbon charges in a carbon constrained world.
4.2 Add Value
Optimize Basin Productivity
Natural gas and conventional oil production in Alberta will deliver continuing and expanding benefits in the future if we invest in these activities appropriately today. Ramping Up Recovery, a 2006 investigation into the recoverability of oil and gas in the basin, suggested that in Alberta an incremental 3.6 billion barrels of conventional oil and 18 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of conventional gas are recoverable simply through more advanced and thorough application of existing technologies. These are mere drops in the bucket compared to the recovery of the mammoth oil sands, but they utilize existing infrastructure and they more broadly benefit communities throughout the province, which are important considerations for sustainability.
Ramping Up Recovery did not focus on unconventional gas, which is probably the principal remaining resource in the basin with massive amounts potentially recoverable. Production of one type of unconventional gas - natural gas from coal (coal-bed methane) - took off three years ago. Advancements in completion technologies in the last 24 months have transformed the economics of the development of another unconventional variety: shale gas. Overall, production of unconventional gas in Canada is still in its early stages, but we are following a path well paved by the U.S. in this respect. It is anticipated that by 2025, unconventional gas will account for about 80% of new Canadian drilling and 50% of total Canadian gas production. Early signals of this trend include decisions by key Canadian producers to place their corporate focus on the development of unconventional gas.
Continued gas production will supply our petrochemical industry with natural gas liquids that are critical to its existence. Continued conventional oil production generates the pentanes and condensate that serve as diluent to facilitate bitumen’s flow through pipelines. In turn, the CO2 being captured through bitumen upgrading and refining can be piped to where it is needed and injected to enhance oil and gas recovery. Natural gas, being not only the cleanest fossil fuel, but increasingly recoverable through technology advancements, is assured of playing a substantial role in tomorrow’s energy mix. Sustained activity across the basin - not just in the oil sands areas - will guarantee jobs and deliver a continued boost to rural areas. We have extremely useful assets already in place: capital, skills and facilities including one of the most extensive networks of pipelines in the world - the Alberta Hub. Continuing to tap these resources will not entail any significant expansion in the environmental footprint.
The question for Alberta is how to create the conditions to motivate sustained activity in the basin. The 2006 study advocated the creation of a “public super database” featuring tighter integration of data types. It also suggested that infrastructure such as a CO2 backbone be put into place and that reservoir characterization be carried out much more aggressively. We support the conclusions of Ramping Up Recovery. Alberta will:
- Invest in improving its integrated data and knowledge base - a “public super database” - and use this to inform not only petroleum recovery, but to inject fact-based arguments into debates over land and water use.
- Partner with industry to support innovation in the province’s already welladvanced geomatics clusters.
- Identify key plays with application for CO2 floods (e.g., Pembina, Redwater and others) and mandate unitization to facilitate CO2-based enhanced recovery regimes.
- Ensure continued resource access in the face of increasing population density, to facilitate commingling and more concentrated well spacing where appropriate, to address shallow rights reversion, and to adopt further measures to creatively encourage and/or require greater recovery within economically reasonable bounds.
- Consider royalty structures to allow the development of marginal resources and promote best use of current and new technologies.
- Increase enforcement as a means of: protecting the environment and the industry; leveling the playing field for those who adhere to the rules; and sending a signal that we are acting in the public best interest.
Extend Our Role Along the Value Chain
Alberta needs to add value to its products and exports and expand its economy by encouraging the further processing of bitumen, oil, natural gas, and coal in Alberta to increase jobs, diversify the economy and raise tax revenues for Albertans. Value-added activity in the energy industry could occur across Alberta or adjacent jurisdictions. It would include activities such as the Joffre petrochemical complex, the Lloydminster heavy oil upgrader, upgrading and some levels of refining in Fort McMurray, and further development in industrial complexes northeast of Edmonton, the Capital Region including the Industrial Heartland.
Alberta has some prime opportunities to encourage the further development of world-class integrated clusters that could include upgraders, refineries and associated petrochemical and chemical industries (eco-industrial complexes). An integrated cluster of processing facilities also supports the overall goal of clean energy development (see discussion of gasification and CCS, Section 4.1). Development of an integrated cluster can also reduce the overall environmental impact through reduced footprint, less waste produced, lower total impact on air quality (fuel efficiencies), more effective placement of emergency services and infrastructure, reduced or shared water use, and more effective waste water management.
Work done by the Hydrocarbon Upgrading Task Force identified significant realistic value opportunities in upgrading and refining bitumen to transportation fuels and other products, and providing petrochemical feed stock. The Task Force identified, as an “aspirational goal,” an ultimate portfolio mix of one-third bitumen sales, one-third synthetic crude oil sales, and one-third the sales of finished products and petrochemicals. Further work needs to be done to determine the optimum mix as future markets develop.
Steps Alberta will take include:
- Creation of a government-led organization dedicated to planning for and developing policy analysis and options for upgrading/refining/chemical clusters in Alberta.
- Identification of, and shared investment in the development of major corridors for future pipelines, road, electrical transmission and other requirements for such a cluster.
- Assessment of optimum targets for bitumen allocation (direct export/ upgrading and refining/petrochemical feedstock).
Diversify Our Markets
The fundamentals of industry structure tell us that it is wiser to cultivate a stable of customers than remain reliant on a singular customer. Energy demand in the U.S. has grown dramatically, but the development of supplementary markets accessible via tidewater would allow us to better manage risk as well as command greater bargaining power, thus increasing the likelihood we will be paid full value for our exports over the long haul.
Government prefers to collaborate with industry to develop a comprehensive strategy for more aggressive global marketing of Alberta’s energy to achieve a more diverse and resilient customer base.
Example - Alberta The Next Hydrocarbon Processing Hub, video approximately 8 minutes (December 2008)
Sell More Than Products
Many parts of the world are encountering challenges similar to Alberta’s as they confront the imperative to clean up fossil fuel development. Alberta can achieve greater leverage on our investment dollar by sharing the solutions we develop here. Alberta will lend greater strategic assistance to achieving the development of markets for its energy-environment solutions, including technologies, processes and services.
4.3 Change Energy Consumption Behaviour
Encourage Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Energy efficiency and conservation will play a significant role in the future competitiveness of industry and attractiveness of the economic and social climate in Alberta. While such measures have met with mixed success in other jurisdictions, their potential remains substantial. Strategic support for increased efficiency and conservation paired with carbon charges (see next section) will be one of Alberta’s most critical levers in meeting the challenges that the future will pose.
Alberta will develop an over-arching policy framework to increase energy efficiency and conservation in all sectors within Alberta. The framework will include, among
other things, government action in the following areas:
- Improve measurement. We will promote smart metering, smart grids and better consumption measurement in order to help Albertans better understand their consumption patterns and incent greener responses. We will direct the migration of electrical meters to Advanced Metering Infrastructure.
- Green up transportation. The province recently announced a $2-billion program for green transit. Government will also examine the goals for energy efficiency of the government vehicle fleet and work with Canada to assess vehicle emission standards in the province.
- Improve building design. We will strengthen building codes to produce a smaller environmental footprint and complement increased robustness of the grid. We will also support selected retrofit/renovation programs for existing buildings. We will set an example by requiring all new government-funded buildings to be silver or gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard.
- Promote wise urban planning. It is a necessity to rethink urban planning, especially in the context of urban sprawl and the need to increase density if we are to effectively and sustainably reduce energy consumption. Alberta will work with municipal governments to encourage this.
A primary impediment to addressing greenhouse gas emissions is the reality that individuals and companies are not faced with the true costs of their actions related to these emissions. Some jurisdictions, including Alberta, have begun to convey carbon price signals to facilitate wiser use of energy and minimize impacts to the environment. Alberta’s mechanism targets its largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases, whereby those failing to meet emissions intensity reduction targets have options including paying $15 per tonne of CO2 into a fund dedicated to technology development and deployment. This is the right approach because it fills a dual role of raising funds that the province can direct to strategic energy technology solutions, while conveying signals to use energy more wisely.
Alberta is wary of the “cap and trade” mechanisms being advocated by others. Their requirements would be onerous and targeted disproportionately at energy producing jurisdictions. Their contribution to physical reduction of greenhouse gases has been questioned and they pose a risk of wealth transfer, trapping us into sending our monies elsewhere, rather than investing them into solving our emissions problems at home.
Any mechanism going forward to price carbon for industrial emissions must be market-based; it must not redistribute wealth from Alberta; it must not impede our competitiveness (issues of reciprocity, for example, will have to be addressed for exporters); and, funds collected must be directed back into solving our unique energy-environment challenges. Alberta’s mechanism should be designed so that it can evolve as needs evolve, and it should be time-limited, with its purpose and impact periodically reviewed.
The reality of CO2 emissions is that most emissions are generated in the consumption, rather than production, of energy. We burn fuel in our vehicles; we burn fuel to heat and light our homes and buildings. The issue of carbon emissions thus affects all consumers of energy - all Albertans, not just Alberta’s industrial emitters. While Alberta is vigorously pursuing solutions to reduce our industrial emissions, such as Carbon Capture and Storage, we must not be lulled into thinking this is just an energy production problem.
Alberta will not introduce a carbon tax on consumers of energy. These taxes have questionable results on reducing actual emissions. We do support increasing energy conservation standards and ensuring in future that our vehicles are more efficient, and our homes, buildings and communities use less energy. This may cost us more in the short term, but we’ll also be assured that our energy efficiency will increase, improving our ability to cope with higher energy prices in future.
Similar to our approach to industrial emissions, our costs will be targeted at real solutions that position us for the future, rather than redistributing wealth. Going forward, Alberta will:
- Review its emissions targets and carbon charges for large industrial facilities, and ensure that appropriate increases are made to both, while being mindful of our competitiveness.
- Work with Canada to ensure a clear compliance path for large industrial facilities with the regulatory frameworks in place and proposed.
- Work with Canada to ensure that approaches to transportation fuels account for the full life-cycle emissions from production site to the tailpipe, and that vehicle emission standards are improved.
- Strengthen building codes to ensure new housing and building stock being put in place for the future is as efficient as possible.
- Work to ensure that the most vulnerable Albertans and sectors are able to afford the cost of energy now and in the future. At the same time, ensuring that market price signals that can help promote consumer choices to conserve energy are not distorted by programs such as the Natural Gas Rebate Program.
Develop and Deploy Technology
Clearly, the path to optimizing Alberta’s energy future relies heavily on technology. Many of the technologies that will enable our energy future are already proven and
simply require more deliberate deployment. Some of the technologies remain to be proven, while others have yet to be imagined. Technology commercialization is not a straightforward business here or elsewhere. As such, realizing our energy vision will depend on our concerted efforts to address the full curve of technology development, from conception to commercial deployment.
We have referred to an AOSTRA-scale effort in order to support the proposed gasification-CCS platform. AOSTRA helped Alberta unlock the potential of the oil sands in the first place. Now, we need a clean solution for energy production. Alberta will increase investment in research, development, demonstration and deployment in sustainable energy technology. The funds will not be proportionately distributed to existing granting agencies. The bulk will be dedicated to a focused, consolidated, coordinated initiative—a one-window approach with publicly established goals inviting industry capital and guidance.
This effort, perhaps organized as a centre supporting clean energy production, will employ best practices in governance and incorporate rigorous, arm’s-length evaluation of outcomes. It will not try to be all things to all people, keeping a tight focus on gasification-CCS and directly related questions (including regulatory, engineering and business applications supporting clean energy).
The centre will coordinate activities along that curve, but it would allocate resources to different parties depending on their distinct competencies (i.e., universities for fundamental research; applied research facilities for early scale-up work). Its particular direct involvement will be in pilot plants, demonstration projects, which offer potential to advance new generation technology and ideas. Both industry and government recognize the value of launching small, but commercial-scale, pilots to prove out the more massive investments that may follow.
In this way, Alberta can expect progress not only on the gasification-CCS file that will drive the clean energy centre, but in a host of other important areas, including:
- Unconventional gas development.
- Water use efficiency, groundwater protection and beneficial re-use, water storage, tailing pond management/use.
- Integrated resource management.
- Reservoir characterization facilitating enhanced oil and gas recovery.
- Renewables including geothermal and biomass waste that, in an integrated setting, may enhance clean fossil fuel production.
It is fruitless to attempt global leadership in all facets of energy research. Technologies will emerge from other parts of the globe with direct applicability to the challenges facing Alberta. Areas in which we may fill a role as early adopters include electrical storage, wind generation, geothermal, small-scale nuclear and biofuel production.
New ideas for old technologies could involve exploring something as innovative as developing strategic reserves of critical resources and products within Alberta. Alberta has a significant natural strategic reserve of the raw resources right now, but an assessment of strategic quantities of intermediate and final products, such as transportation fuels, could also be considered to help avoid the occasional physical and market fluctuations in supply caused by unexpected shutdowns of refineries or other operational issues.
Nurture an Innovation Culture
The feature that will sustain our innovation efforts is an “innovation culture.” Alberta has shown determination to develop a high-tech business environment through its recent announcement of an action plan called Bringing Technology to Market. It is critical to nurture an integrated innovation supply chain, or the economic benefits promised by research and development investments will continue to languish.
Develop the People Resource
Perhaps the key ingredient to innovation is people; as an emerging global energy hub, the only resources we are actually short on are human resources. Adam Smith’s three “component parts of price” were land, labour and capital stock— capital and land tend not to be in short supply here in Alberta. The energy industry has suffered in the last 20 years because youth, buying into the perception of oil and gas as a sunset industry, chose other paths. Now we are facing a daunting “crew change” as baby boomers leave the work force. Alberta needs to scale up its strategies so that we can attract not only our most promising youth, but the best expertise available globally. In a world of highly uncertain future energy and environment challenges, one of the best investments lies in developing the people with the capability of meeting those challenges (and seizing the opportunities associated with them).
4.5 Enhance Electricity
Electricity is a facilitator of economic development in Alberta. To this end a robust, reliable and efficient electricity transmission system is required. Transmission infrastructure is a public good that must be available in advance of need, enable addition of new generation and be capable of meeting long-term load growth throughout the province.
Growing our transmission system is urgent. No significant new upgrades to the transmission system have been built in more than 20 years in Alberta. The current transmission system has not kept pace with Alberta’s growing economy. The existing system is congested, ageing, and results in significant wasted electricity as a result of large system losses.
An uncongested transmission system with sufficient intertie capacity to other jurisdictions is required to encourage the development of new electricity generation. By ensuring development of a robust transmission system, generation developers will know that they will be able to efficiently move their product to market. In turn, they will have confidence to develop new generation ensuring an adequate, reliable supply of electricity for Albertans.
Alberta’s electricity prices are based on the principles of supply and demand in a market context. Vibrant markets depend on the ability of many suppliers to reach many buyers. Thus, a robust transmission system is essential to ensure an adequate supply of competitively priced electricity for Albertans.
Until transmission is improved, potential renewable or low emission electricity generation in Alberta will remain location-constrained. There are hydroelectric resources in the northern area of the province, wind and solar in the south, and biomass in the northwest. Optimal use of power from these sources depends on our ability to bring it to where it is needed.
There are additional arguments for the improvement of our electricity system:
- If we can use gasification-with-CCS to burn bitumen bottoms, coke, biomass, waste and coal cleanly, electricity will become a province-wide medium for clean energy, applicable not only to lighting and appliances, but home heating and recharging (should plug-in electric cars rise to prominence). This has the potential to dramatically reduce end-user emissions.
- Lower-cost electricity using these carbon-rich fuels will help make bitumen recovery more economical and reduce dependence on valuable natural gas.
- Robust transmission will support new electric power generation that will underpin future economic growth and support new consumer products such as plug-in electric cars that are fuel-efficient and help reduce end-user emissions.
- Advancing new transmission investment will ensure reliable service for Albertans, help drive our clean energy agenda by growing new renewable energy potential, and enhance our ability to serve electricity export markets.
- At its point of use, electricity is one of the most efficient and cleanest forms of energy.
- Since electricity is most commonly generated at large single-point sources, the environmental impacts of its generation are easier to address.
Alberta will take the following steps to strengthen the provincial transmission system:
- Lead the development of a plan for a comprehensive upgrade to the transmission system in Alberta. The plan will identify the requirements, the technical solutions, and the schedules for improving the transmission system in Alberta. Improvements will be sized to accommodate long-term growth and will use, where possible, technology such as high-voltage direct current to maximize efficiency of rights of way and minimize impacts.
- Adopt and implement a policy to build transmission, as part of the Alberta interconnected electricity system, to zones of renewable or low-emission electricity.
- Adopt and implement a policy to build interties to other markets to ensure an adequate supply of electricity to Alberta as well as to facilitate development of additional wind generation.
- Review and streamline the regulatory process for transmission siting. We will ensure that all impacted landowner issues are heard, impacts are mitigated to
the extent possible, and that landowners receive fair compensation.
- Assemble multi-use corridors for the siting of future energy and transportation infrastructure.
- Undertake an extensive education and awareness program to inform Albertans of the need and the benefits of a robust, reliable, and efficient transmission system.
- Implement policy and provide financial support for the development and deployment of “smart grid” technology.
Address Distribution Level Challenges
There are opportunities for increased efficiency at the distribution level—where electricity is delivered to the customer. Improvements Alberta will advocate include:
- Enabling online measurement of electricity consumption by all consumers. This will include integration of energy and carbon measurement systems at industrial, commercial and residential levels. Facilitating measurement will empower millions of small decisions to manage the consumption footprint. This will be a substantial contributor in helping Alberta meet its emission reduction targets.
- Reducing regulatory bottlenecks associated with approvals, streamliningpermitting for small-scale generation, and ensuring that regulations facilitate less traditional activities such as distributed generation and demand management.
- Periodically reviewing the Micro-Generation Policy to identify enhancements that may more appropriately facilitate small-scale generation as well as efficiency and conservation.
We defer to the market to determine what mix and proportion of energy sources Alberta will ultimately use for electricity, and to what extent electricity will be profitably exported. Assuming that carbon costs continue to rise, and assuming that coal will require gasification-with-CCS, we project that generation sources such as wind, run-of-river hydro, geothermal and biomass will become more competitive, and that renewables’ proportion of Alberta’s generation will therefore increase. Albeit a hub for clean fossil fuels, Alberta will still set a table that will allow renewable and alternative energy to flourish.
4.6 Bolster Knowledge & Awareness
The energy-environment question has fueled a very public and widespread debate. There is plenty of solid information out there, but lots of misinformation too, and it is getting harder to discern the experts. This debate will not die down in the foreseeable future. Alberta will take part.
Promoting understanding, awareness and education of Alberta’s energy issues has numerous benefits, including:
- Providing Albertans of all ages with information about how the province develops and uses energy, our environmental challenges ahead of us and the environmental protection measures that are already in place.
- Promoting a greater understanding of how Alberta’s energy sector provides economic stability and benefits to the province.
- Increasing knowledge of how personal accountability, through conservation and efficiency, are essential in promoting the responsible use of energy and addressing global challenges like climate change.
- Providing Albertans with a better basis on which to become involved in discussions around energy development (e.g. transmission siting).
- Developing skilled and trained professionals, who may seek careers in the energy sector.
Here are some of the steps that the province will take:
- We will audit the effectiveness of current communications and public reporting efforts and develop a more comprehensive understanding of Albertans’ knowledge of and views on energy-environment issues.
- We will supplement our actions with words: speak out directly to explain our vision and our actions, and to defend them as required. Audiences will include Albertans as well as stakeholders and influential individuals in Canada, U.S. and Europe.
- Alberta will carefully reconcile sources of divergent views. It is clear that a strategy that supports clean fossil fuels will not win all non-government organizations over, but we stand to benefit by productively engaging them.
- We will work within Alberta’s education system to facilitate a flow of agesuitable information about the energy industry, its importance and its future.
This document supports significant investment opportunities by government and industry. This investment represents the crossroads of where energy development meets environmental protection to provide long-term economic prosperity for our province. Investing just a little more to deliver Alberta’s story on our own terms through well-structured knowledge and awareness efforts will help us secure our prosperous and sustainable energy future.
4.7 Ensure Alignment
Albertans are the main players in their energy future. We are, after all, the principal owners of the resource. We live, however, in an increasingly interconnected world. Energy is pervasive, and its impacts are inseparable from many other activities underway within - and beyond - our boundaries. No longer will it optimally serve Albertans to address energy strictly from a narrow point of view. Alberta’s energy strategy must encompass a broader vision and transcend the traditional silos if we are to realize intended outcomes.
This strategy introduces a vision, desired outcomes, and the series of levers available to Alberta to make progress toward its energy future. These levers will be exceptionally effective in that they will “pull in the same direction” toward the desired outcomes and vision. In the same vein, we will work to ensure maximum alignment with other Government of Alberta policies influencing energy outcomes, such as the Land-use Framework, Water for Life and Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework, among others.
Led by the Department of Energy, many government departments will be directly involved in executing this strategy. It will also encompass the activities of a number of energy agencies, including the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI), the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).
The aboriginal peoples of Alberta have an historic connection to Alberta’s land and environment. Alberta recognizes that those First Nations and Métis communities that hold constitutionally protected rights are uniquely positioned to inform land-useplanning. The Government of Alberta has the constitutional mandate to manage lands in the province for the benefit of all Albertans. However, the Government of Alberta will continue to meet Alberta’s legal duty to consult aboriginal communities whose constitutionally protected rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (Canada) are potentially adversely impacted by development.
The private sector will play a critical role in implementing this strategy. The private sector raises and directs capital to various aspects of the energy value chain: exploration, production, upgrading, transport, consumption and so on. The market is fluid and free to operate as it sees fit, within the boundaries Albertans establish.
Further, the strategy will influence, and be influenced by, factors beyond our boundaries. Global financial markets have a large bearing on the ability of our companies to raise capital. Many of our energy customers are outside Alberta and a few are outside of North America. Some of the companies that operate within Alberta are headquartered elsewhere. The federal government plays a hand, largely through the National Energy Board, an independent federal agency that “promotes safety and security, environmental protection and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest,” and also through its initiatives to address climate change. In turn, through income taxes, equalization payments and other means, we are substantial contributors to the national well-being. Dynamics in neighbouring provinces impact us. Human capital migrates readily. Building greater capacity and support across all stakeholders is vital to any strategy.
As Albertans, we are not in control of everything that goes on here, but we do have an important say. We are the principal owner of the resource. We have the levers of this
strategy at our disposal. And we will exercise our obligation to influence other factors, both inside and outside Alberta, to ensure to the extent possible that that alignment
exists with our path forward. You can expect to see deliberate steps taken in order to achieve productive alignment in policy, regulation, programs and initiatives.