Economic authorities see hope in ‘clean transition technologies’
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Alberta is immersed in an energy transition contest that the economic development organizations of Calgary and Edmonton estimate could create 170,000 jobs and pump C$61 billion into the two cities by 2050.
But, according to the authorities, that windfall will only be available if the business-as-usual approach to energy development is abandoned, otherwise job creation and economic activity will be limited to 20,000 new jobs and a C$4 billion infusion.
“A low-carbon transformation of Alberta’s industries and economy will not be without its challenges,” the joint report said.
“However, Alberta stands to gain a strong market advantage by developing clean transition technologies at home. Alberta has considerable technology strengths, energy infrastructure and assets to capitalize on, which also gives the province a unique position in the race to net-zero (carbon emissions).”
The assessment is a smaller version of what is taking place in Houston, self-proclaimed as the “Energy Transition Capital of the World.”
The Greater Houston Partnership says that if its region moves decisively to the forefront of low-carbon transition it could attract up to 560,000 jobs, while failure to act could eliminate 370,000 from the payroll by 2050.
C$2 billion a yearAlberta’s two economic development authorities say the province will need to attract more than C$2 billion a year in new investment by 2030 and reach C$5.5 billion by 2040 to take advantage of the opportunities ahead, a sizeable leap ahead of the C$1 billion of annual spending that is currently taking place.
Their report identifies six sectors with the greatest potential pull in foreign investment and employment creation: electrification, energy efficiency, agricultural technology, hydrogen, digitization and carbon capture, utilization and storage.
Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Alberta is already well-positioned to build on its foundation of 462 clean-tech companies in Calgary and 429 in Edmonton, which have a combined payroll of 15,000, with 137,000 direct and related jobs on the broader clean-tech realm.
But the chances of success may hang on building a more positive relationship between the Alberta and Canadian governments, which seems even more spiteful than usual.
Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the federal strategy is labeled Just Transition that is, among other things, supposed to shepherd oil and gas workers through a brutal time.
‘Cloud cuckoo land’Alberta Premier Jason Kenney flatly rejects the Trudeau approach as coming from “cloud cuckoo land.”
He said there is “nothing just about putting people out of work and there’s nothing realistic about strangling the largest part of Canada’s economy that employs half a million Canadians and is the largest source of government revenues and the largest export industry in the country. It’s bananas to suggest that is possible.”
As the federal government puts it, “Just Transition is an approach to economic, environmental and social policy that aims to create an equitable and prosperous future for workers and communities as the world builds a low-carbon economy. No worker or community can be left behind.”
Kenney scoffs at those high-minded aspirations, while insisting that Alberta accepts the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, supporting billions of dollars in green and clean-tech investment, including net-zero emissions by 2050 from the oil sands.
He never passes up a chance to hammer home a message to Trudeau that achieving more stringent emissions targets is possible by working more closely with Alberta and the petroleum industry.
Scale of challengeThe scale of the challenge presented by the Trudeau administration is to reduce national carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 2005 levels over the next eight years. Prior to setting that revised target last year the goal was a 30% cut.
A 40% reduction is in the realm of 300 million metric tons a year, of which 100 million mt would have to come from the oil and gas sector, although the federal government has yet to specify how it plans to achieve those cuts.
Dennis McConaghy, a retired TC Energy executive, said the list would likely have to come from constraining Canada’s hydrocarbon exports, mandating carbon capture and storage systems for oil sands production and processing operations, raising the national carbon tax above the C$170 per metric ton set for 2030, lowering domestic consumption of natural has for home heating and limiting personal consumption of hydrocarbons for motor vehicle, train or air travel.
- GARY PARK