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For months now, Danielle Smith has made it abundantly clear she has no intention of complying with the federal government’s 2035 target for net-zero electricity. But with Alberta’s booming solar and wind industries consistently exceeding expectations, including the province’s own forecasts, she apparently decided not to leave anything to chance. The negative impact of her government’s six-month moratorium on major new wind and solar projects will be felt for years, with investment and jobs flowing to less ideologically rigid jurisdictions.

You know, like Texas and Oklahoma.

Smith’s half-baked explanation on her Saturday call-in show involved blaming Ottawa and its net-zero electricity target for the decision. “How can I bring on additional wind and solar if I’m not able to secure the reliability of my power grid by being able to bring on natural gas peaker plants? That’s the heart of the problem,” she said.

This is obvious nonsense, not least because the federal net-zero target makes plenty of allowances for Alberta’s relatively high proportion of non-renewable electricity and the absence of hydroelectric baseload power. "For Saskatchewan and Alberta, I would say that natural gas with carbon capture is going to continue to be part of the conversation," Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last month during the unveiling of a new solar project in Drumheller. He also noted that small modular reactors and nuclear power — a popular idea among Smith and the UCP — can also play a role.

The real problem here is that Wilkinson and Smith don’t inhabit the same factual universe. In Wilkinson’s world, the energy transition is already well underway, and Canada’s choices involve getting with the proverbial program or missing out on billions of dollars in capital flows and investment opportunities. He understands that while oil and gas jobs are under the twin threat of automation (see Suncor’s recent layoffs) and imminent declines in demand for oil and gas, there are more than enough opportunities in clean energy to fill the void.

In Smith’s world, though, even accepting the underlying premise that the global energy economy is in transition is heresy. "We're just not going to do anything that is going to damage our economy or do anything that's going to indicate that our oil and gas sector is going to be phased out," the premier said at a Stampede breakfast in Calgary. During her July 29 interview with CBC’s The House, Smith reiterated her belief that demand for Alberta’s oil and gas will be higher in 2050 than it is today. This implies that she doesn’t believe Canada will come even remotely close to hitting its 2050 net-zero targets, and the rest of the world won’t do any better.

That falls somewhere between wishful thinking and wilful blindness given the various forecasts by reputable organizations like the International Energy Agency, Rystad Energy and Wood Mackenzie that all have global demand for oil dropping as much as 75 per cent by 2050. That blindness is also apparent in Smith’s inability to recognize the enormous progress on costs that’s been made by wind and solar project developers or the opportunities they clearly see in Alberta. On her most recent Saturday show, she suggested renewable electricity was a bad fit for agricultural parts of the province because it performs more poorly in the winter. But as University of Alberta economics professor Andrew Leach pointed out, crops like wheat and canola aren’t exactly thriving in January.

Ottawa, for its part, isn’t backing down. On Tuesday, it released a major new report on the need for a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 and how it sees that coming to fruition. It also floated the suggestion that provinces looking for additional federal funding for things like carbon capture and storage or hydrogen — tax credits worth tens of billions of dollars — would have to sign off on its 2035 net-zero electricity target first. “We are certainly considering that,” Wilkinson told The Canadian Press.

He should. Alberta, after all, has already signalled its intentions here. Given that its electricity grid accounts for more than half of all electricity-related emissions in Canada, and it will be governed for at least the next four years by a party that’s happy to sacrifice jobs and investment to own the libs, it’s time for Ottawa to respond accordingly. That means bringing forward its net-zero electricity target and requiring Alberta to sign on if it wants to access those billions in clean energy credits.

Danielle Smith's decision to impose a moratorium on new wind and solar projects makes it clear that it has no interest in meeting Ottawa's net-zero electricity target by 2035. Why it's time for the Liberal government to fight fire with fire.

It also means moving forward immediately with so-called “contracts for difference”, financial instruments that will protect clean energy projects from any changes to the carbon price that a future government — hello, Pierre Poilievre — might contemplate. With one conservative government already pulling the rug out from under their feet, you can understand why they’d be increasingly nervous about another one doing the same down the road.

And it means throwing federal money and muscle at the construction of an expanded intertie between British Columbia and Alberta’s electricity grids, one that would put many of Smith’s concerns about renewable energy storage to rest — that is if they were open to things like reason and evidence. As economists Blake Shaffer and Mark Jaccard wrote back in 2020, “Rather than displacing wind and solar, large hydro facilities with the ability to increase or decrease output on short notice can actually enable more investment in these renewable sources. Expanding the transmission connection, with Site C on one side of that line, becomes even more valuable.”

Whatever Ottawa does, though, it shouldn’t expect a reasonable or rational response from Alberta’s government. Smith has decided, whether out of political necessity or pure spite, to build an intellectual firewall against the change that’s happening outside its borders. It has already set fire to an entire sector of its economy in order to facilitate its retreat from reality, and it will resist the Trudeau government’s clean energy targets as a matter of principle, not policy.

How far will Smith go in the name of protecting the oil and gas industry’s interests and preserving its control over Alberta’s future? To paraphrase a certain former prime minister: Just watch her.

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Renewable energy, though not perfect (but what is) means more jobs and investment, cleaner air and water, electric machines that use energy more efficiently and quietly, allows individuals the opportunity to contribute to their own energy use and clearly represents the future if we still have one, somehow some people think it's a conspiracy.
All we can do is continue to educate and one person at a time will start to see the light.

I certainly hope Ottawa wins this struggle against O & G Fundamentalism. But I wish they'd scrap the idea that carbon capture is going to help. It will never work well in places like gas fields where the fugitive emissions have many paths of escape. SMRs are another false hope. By the time they're working, it will be too late and we'll be left with their toxic waste.

I think it's just about the federal government's strategy of dividing and conquering irrational and hostile conservative governments with money, thereby calling their bluff on several fronts like pretending that they actually take climate change seriously OR the basic rule of law that validated our Supreme Court's ruling on federal climate change initiatives OR Canada's basic constitutional framework, not to mention democracy itself.
So in the context of flouting the international, rules-based world of law and order on a whim, we should regard conservatives as being comparable to Putin at this point.

I completely agree, carbon capture on a large scale is an unproven technology & the oil and gas industry is using it as a smokescreen to keep doing what they have always been doing. Not unlike tobacco companies claiming vaping as a means to help people quit smoking. A boondoggle.

Ahhhh! But we're CCS *leaders*!!! "Already" 15% of its use is in Canada!!!
Danielle is just where Wilkinson was a couple of years ago. For different reasons. Wilkinson because one climate leader in cabinet is enough, perhaps ... and Danielle because in her mind, all development stopped some time around when she hit puberty.

Interesting times....times that seem to demand more of us step up and be the leaders we've been waiting for. Everyone needs to remember by what a slim margin Smith won the recent election in Alberta. Roughly half the voting public are already not with her. She can continue to alienate reasonable Albertans with her one woman 'war on renewables', but the climate is changing in front of our eyes, regardless of Danielle's fantasies of holding back the future.

Solar is better every year....and the costs are coming down as well. Albertans will be looking into those federal rebates for moving our homes closer to net 0, and many of us will be deciding now is the time to declare our intentions of being part of the green future. Distributed solar is the most efficient, micro generation should see a significant spike in the months ahead.
One little UCP gaggle of reactionaries can't stop the future....though they will make a lot of noise trying.

"Smith Declares War on Sunshine."

That's one take on this irrationality. I agree that the feds need to double down on efforts to decrease emissions using the power of grants and subsidies for renewables and beefing up regulations.

The feds could also build a provincial boundary crossing smart grid with interties and mass battery storage and pay Alberta farmers, First Nations and private homeowners for their renewable power to sell outside of Alberta.

Let Smith try to stop them when the legal precedent for federal energy projects was already court tested for TMX.

Correction: Solar PV is more efficient in cold climates, not less. The key is to store the energy and average the calculations annually which makes up shorter Northern winter days with longer summer days, something bound to become more important as AC becomes more common in summer.

What does Smith think will happen when the price of oil inevitably drops below the threshold of profit in the oil sands? Trick question! She's not thinking at all. Her devotion to Oil and Gas will really hurt Alberta in the long run. Once the price hits a certain marker the big guys will shut down the plants, lay everyone off and disappear leaving the Alberta taxpayer to clean up the tailing ponds, orphan wells and everything else. I'm surprised that Albertans didn't figure out that the oil industry didn't love them after Stelmach's push to increase the province's share of oil royalties. The industry response was not "we love you, Alberta and you deserve a raise." They punished the province and the the True Believers blamed the premier.

That's a pretty accurate picture. One thing I would add is the penchant for Alberta politicos to expertly cajole the feds into pumping years of subsidies into O&G after years of guilt tripping and blaming the feds for everything.

There is no evidence that the feds won't be goaded into paying billions of federal taxpayer dollars to take on Alberta's environmental liabilities, but then the feds will then be subjected to the reaction outside of Alberta. That will likely only increase Alberta's insecurity and position in confederation.

These are facts of life there; someday someone in power will call them on it.

"....discomfiture with its position in confederation..."