The federal and provincial governments are aiming to further discussions around a set of proposed energy regulations ahead of an annual global climate conference.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke separately about Alberta’s energy future Thursday afternoon at the Alberta Climate Summit in Calgary.
The two parties are working together on a joint incentive package for carbon capture utilization projects, Ottawa’s proposed Clean Energy Regulations (CER) and a cap on oil and gas sector emissions, Wilkinson said. On oil and gas emissions, he said the federal government hasn’t put forward specific details to the province, while it’s in the consultation period for the CER.
Smith has insisted the CER, which targets bringing Canada’s power grid to net zero by 2035, will put Alberta’s energy stability at risk, saying the province’s 2050 goal is more realistic — a point she reiterated Thursday.
Wilkinson dismissed the notion the federal government wants to create an unstable power grid, acknowledging Alberta’s transition to net zero is “more difficult” but also doable. He added the federal government is “open to (the) conversation” of creating more flexibilities with the CER, and is in discussions with the province.
“The idea that somehow the federal government wants to see blackouts in Alberta . . . that’s just nonsense.”
Smith said she and Wilkinson won’t be meeting during his stay in Calgary, but provincial energy officials in her government “may” meet with him. Wilkinson later confirmed he met on Wednesday night with Brian Jean, the province’s minister of energy and minerals. He said the bulk of conversations around flexibility within clean energy regulations are left to the chair of the working group between Alberta and Ottawa, and didn’t share details around his conversation with Jean.
The federal government is aiming to have a framework for its cap on oil and gas emissions by the end of the year, Wilkinson said, and conversations around those regulations will be happening before COP28, the global climate conference running in late November and early December. He said Canada will have to speak to its plan for the cap at COP given it’s the first country looking at such regulation.
“We have to do it in a way that does not unnecessarily shut in Canadian production and simply move that to Saudi Arabia.”
He said a framework for the regulations will likely come by the end of the year
Canada needs to move faster on renewable energy, Wilkinson said, after an annual energy outlook forecast said demand for all fossil fuels will peak by 2030 regardless of whether new climate-related policies are implemented.
Smith at one point entered an unprompted discussion with crowd members while talking about the feasibility of reaching net-zero goals by 2035.
Following the presentation, Smith said she was a “bit surprised” the debate got slightly heated.
“I knew coming in here that the Pembina Institute has a particular perspective. Their perspective is that Alberta can be 100 per cent wind and solar and batteries by 2030. I just can’t engage in magical thinking here,” she said.
RMA president hopes things can ‘get back to normal’ when renewables moratorium lifts
In an earlier panel discussion, Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin said the ongoing conversations about land use as a result of the province’s moratorium on renewable developments are needed.
“Solar installations have occurred on land that would have been productive,” McLauchlin said.
The moratorium “was a mistake, is a mistake,” said Evan Wilson, vice-president of policy for Western Canada and national affairs at the Canadian Renewable Energy Association. But, he agreed, conversations around land use and reclamation are necessary.
Wilson said CanREA and the RMA are preparing joint submissions to the Alberta Utilities Commission as that body continues with consultations during the moratorium.
“We’re not on the opposite side of anything,” he said.
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Revenue from renewables are in fact propping up towns that would have otherwise suffered from downturns in oil and gas, McLauchlin said, adding many municipalities would be “effectively bankrupt” if not for renewables. “You know who’s coming to save the day is the renewable folks. They honestly have changed the financial profile for many of my members.”
But the conversations around land use and reclamation are important, he said, noting he did not request the moratorium.
“Once the moratorium lifts, hopefully we can get things back to normal,” he said.