Canadians have been dealt a good energy hand, but they’re doing a poor job of playing it, by failing to take advantage of a privileged position to develop a long-term energy plan that shifts consumption from hydrocarbons to renewable fuels, says Enbridge Chief Executive Officer Patrick Daniel.
“We tend not to be great visionaries in Canada,” he said before a speech in Toronto.
“Life has been a little too easy for us … we have not had to set great strategy directions in order to be successful.”
The challenge is to map a long-range course so that Canada can compete with countries, such as the United States, whose policies involve more central planning, Daniel said.
“It is hard for us to compete with such countries because they often have a roadmap for development and we just seem to end up wherever we end up and hope that’s where we wanted to be in the first place,” he said.
The consequences of doing nothing could be severe.
“If we don’t (tackle a plan whose goal is to seriously develop renewable energy), I’m afraid future winters are going to be long, cold and expensive for all of us.
“In the past we’ve ducked a few energy shortfall scares. I don’t think we’ll be so lucky in the future unless we act now.”
Current proposed projects need to be builtDaniel urged the Canadian government to lead the way, but said the pressure is on everyone to help develop a broad, two-pronged vision.
He said the first need is to get current proposed projects built to solve the urgent supply solutions that are needed in North America, ranging from liquefied natural gas projects to wind farms.
Although companies should not get carte blanche to go ahead with all projects, the “net effect is giving every stakeholder a veto means that we are going to undermine the public good and the public necessity,” Daniel warned.
“It’s almost impossible in our business now to propose any kind of project without strong public opposition from one group or another,” he said. “It really doesn’t work if we … object to all projects and then turn around and wonder why prices are up.
“In Canada we try to make everybody happy. We can’t do that. We have to look at the broad public good.”
He said the public opposition has posed a problem for the energy industry over many years and is getting worse, such as the “relatively small number of people” who are standing in the way of the Alaska and Mackenzie gas projects.
Daniel’s second prong requires an easing up on energy consumption while plans are developed to encourage the development of wind power and stationary fuel cells.
“Laying out where we think we want to be … 5 years, 10 years, 25 years down the road is very important,” he said.