If Alberta Premier Danielle Smith ever gets tired of politics, she has a long career as a de-motivational speaker ahead of her. That was the role she played at the Pembina Institute’s Climate Summit, where her brief fireside chat with television host Dave Kelly was defined by her repeated efforts to discourage everyone in the room about the province’s ability to meet the targets in the federal government’s 2035 Clean Electricity Standard. “I am not going to engage in fantasy thinking and say something is possible,” she told the crowd, “when I know my principal job is to have a reliable energy grid.”

Kelly, to his credit, tried to press Smith on her can’t-do attitude, reminding her that Alberta’s economic history was defined by ambitious goals and technological breakthroughs that helped achieve them. The oilsands, he noted, were seen at the time of their earliest creation as a direct threat to the conventional oil and gas industry — one then-premier Peter Lougheed decided to bet on anyway. It wasn’t hard to see the parallel Kelly was trying to create with wind and solar, on which Smith’s government put a six-month moratorium in September.

Smith wasn’t having it. “There are long stretches in winter where we can go weeks without wind or solar,” she said. “That is the reason why we need legitimate, real solutions that rely on baseload power rather than fantasy thinking. And I am not going to engage in fantasy thinking.” It’s simply not true that there are stretches of weeks on end without wind or solar in Alberta, even in the depths of winter, and combining those technologies with battery storage is already cheaper than new gas-fired electricity in many parts of the province.

But it’s on carbon capture and storage technology where she really shows her hand. Smith is more than happy to brag about Alberta’s track record of “leadership” on the technology, especially in the context of decarbonizing the oilsands. But when it comes to electricity generation and the federal government’s proposed target of 95 per cent emissions reduction, it suddenly falls under the heading of fantasy thinking.

“Right now, the technology’s about 65 per cent,” she told the audience at the climate summit. “The folks in the industry I talk to think we can get to 80 per cent. But no one is going to invest now to get to 95 per cent, with their fingers crossed hoping it will happen when they say they’re going to use the criminal law power to put them in jail or give them fines. No one’s going to do it.”

That will come as a surprise to Capital Power, the Edmonton-based power generation company that’s proposing a carbon capture and utilization project on its Genesee 1 and 2 natural gas units. A final investment decision on that project is expected before the end of 2023. In a corporate update from July 2022, Steve Owens, the company’s senior vice-president of construction and engineering, said: “The project is expected to capture 95 per cent of the CO2 emitted from our repowered, best-in-class Genesee 1 and 2 natural gas units.”

There’s no question the federal government’s clean electricity targets are ambitious — maybe too ambitious. But the surest way to ensure Alberta doesn’t hit them is by refusing to even try and to talk down even the possibility of technological breakthroughs that might get us there. It also guarantees that Alberta will miss out on opportunities associated with the global energy transition, which the International Energy Agency described as “unstoppable” in its latest World Energy Outlook. “It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ — and the sooner the better for all of us,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a press release.

A day earlier, Smith dismissed the IEA as “no longer credible” and suggested it simply works backwards from the outcomes it wants to see. There’s some rich irony there given her own government’s dubious case for an Alberta Pension Plan and the way in which it aggressively shepherds voters toward a preferred outcome of her own. But it also speaks to the degree to which she’s engaged in some fantastical thinking of her own. By burying her province’s head in the sand and pretending the world isn’t changing, she seems to think she can keep that change at bay.

Alas, Alberta just isn’t that important. Yes, by deliberately slow-rolling any efforts to keep pace with the global energy transition, much less get ahead of it, Smith’s government might be able to extend the life of the province’s legacy fossil fuel assets by a few extra years. But this will come at the cost of attracting the sort of new investment and entrepreneurs who will help build that future, to say nothing of the wealth they might create. Who, after all, wants to come to a place where the political leadership is constantly telling you what you can’t achieve rather than what you can?

Keep reading

Zero surprise that Pierre Poilievre endorsed Danielle Smith, the fossil fuel cheerleader.
Having been pestered by the propaganda of Alberta's "Tell the Feds" commercial, I wondered if anyone had already challenged Alberta in court over this, or lodged a formal complaint under the Competition Act. Under the federal Competition Act, it is against the law to make any false or misleading representation to the public for the purpose of promoting a business interest, particularly if it is done deliberately or recklessly. This Act applies to advertising cases in both civil and criminal courts.
I found the Calgary Herald opinion piece "Alberta needs to stop false advertising and support real solutions"
".... The Government of Alberta’s 'Tell The Feds' campaign is using taxpayer dollars ($8 million to be exact) to promote the notion that the federal government’s draft Clean Electricity Regulations (CER) will leave Albertans and Nova Scotians in the dark. (and paying exponentially more for electricity) .
The kicker? There is zero evidence to support Alberta’s claims for Nova Scotia and the declarations being made about Alberta are easily disputable. This puts the campaign in the arena of misinformation and propaganda, clearly aimed at pushing forward the Alberta government’s own goals at the expense of Canadians."

Hi Michael, I lodged a complaint with the Competion Bureau and Ad Standards Canada. Guess what? It turns out political advertisements are exempt from the rules governing false advertising. So they can make up any story they like and it's all good.

Fawcett: "It’s simply not true that there are stretches of weeks on end without wind or solar in Alberta, even in the depths of winter, and combining those technologies with battery storage is already cheaper than new gas-fired electricity in many parts of the province."

In Alberta, solar is negligible in December. Alberta sees long deep-freeze periods without wind. Energy storage will not help if there is no renewable energy to store.
In winter, Alberta will need to rely on its continental neighbours, near and far, for imports of solar, wind, and hydro energy. That will require vastly expanded transmission capacity across North America, west to east and south to north. That's a big project and we need to start working on it.

In North America, solar farms in the American Southwest could supply Western Canada in winter. Spring through fall, prairie provinces supply their neighbours with solar and wind. Wyoming supplies wind power to California. California sends solar power to Wyoming. Quebec supplies the NE U.S. with hydro.
If we can move dilbit to the Gulf of Mexico and Asia, we can move electrons from sunny New Mexico.

And BC Hydro sends power to California through its export arm. And to Alberta -- when its intertie transmission corridor is not under maintenance.

Geothermal has a very good chance to become Canada's Main source of baseboard power, complemented by solar and wind.

This extends to food production in winter, with the southern prairies playing an important role in solar greenhouse technology. Importing food from California forever is just not sustainable given the impacts of climate heating on California and Mexico agriculture and water management. The insolation data for southern Alberta and Saskatchewan backs the notion of Canadian food security under glass four months of the year when backed by renewables and site specific ground source geothermal heating and cooling.

Eavor, an innovative Rock Mountain House based deep geothermal outfit, is making huge inroads with its closed loop system in Germany and the US for both baseboard power and district heating. It expects construction prices to drop as more plants are built. The sites have a lifespan of 30 years.

A national smart grid could be part of Canada's climate solution, which does not have to consider imports from the US to achieve regional balance in clean baseload power in winter or any other time of the year. A Canadian clean power grid should not emulate "Canadian" fossil fuels, of which nearly 80% of which are majority foreign owned (predominantly US and China ) and become subservient to American interests. We are supposedly grown up and should do the heavy lifting ourselves, meaning considering the larger US only as an export market once our domestic needs are met.

"...baseload power...:

I agree. Increasing intertie capacity is critical to sharing renewable resources between Alberta, BC and the US. And of course building the transmission lines to support this energy sharing. Long duration grid storage is also part of the solution as is building a lot more capacity in wind and solar. As renewable capacity, grid storage and electricity imports / exports grow, Alberta's natural gas plants will sit increasingly idle except for a few months in the winter. Combined cycle plants with CCS would still provide a guaranteed baseload year round so the utilities can recoup their investment in CCS. Non CCS gas plants would be fired up to bridge the gaps in winter. These would eventually be phased out as capacity from all the other solutions makes them obsolete.

This is a plan to reduce emissions and create a reliable low cost grid to power Alberta's electrical grid for generations. Smith's plan will leave a huge mess for someone else to clean up. Expensive, obsolete, dirty energy, but keeping a few declining oil and gas corporations in business.

Why is solar negligible in December? Solar doesn't depend on ambient temperature and most areas of the province don't get much snowfall. Snow accumulation can be dealt with in several ways. Alberta enjoys the highest number of sunny days in Canada with up to 18 hours of daylight in summer and over 312 days of sunshine each year. Why import power when you can produce it yourself?

Assuming no clouds, Edmonton gets a maximum of seven and a half hours of relatively weak daylight in mid-December.

I am descended from Eastern Europeans who settled on homesteads north of Edmonton in 1902. Every one of them had a windmill to pump water day and night. A major wind farm was proposed just three months ago at Smoky River, 450 km NW of Edmonton.

Solar is extremely viable in northern latitudes which have much more summer sunlight. Ditto agriculture. Winter limitations on solar do not include efficacy -- PV panels operate at much higher efficiencies in cold weather. The other constraints can be balanced with affordable wind and, eventually, closed loop geothermal.

I'm kind of surprised this whole column went by without any mention of Smith's actually banning new renewable power development. Temporarily, at least in theory, but one way to make sure people can't do something is to directly use the power of government to stop them from doing it.

"Alas, Alberta just isn't that important."

Bang on.

Economics alone are coalescing into a force that has the potential to disrupt Alberta fossil energy to the core, with or without national climate policy.

Smith and too many others in her province are so busy gazing at their own navels to notice the world is passing them by. If they catch some movement in their peripheral vision they dismiss it as not credible without even attempting to counter the data-based evidence of the global rise of renewables.

When the price of oil plummeted in 2014 Alberta was rocked to the core. BC, right next door, didn't even flinch and carried on at an unwavering modest rate of economic growth. When BC threatened Alberta's interests with a lawsuit against TMX, a pipeline that was in excess of Alberta's oil export capacity to begin with, it banned BC wines. Sales went up, not down! Then it threatened to cut off oil to BC. That would hurt, but temporarily until BC could find alternatives like moving to more hydro --and BC gas, unfortunately. Washington state then drew attention to its supply contract for Alberta oil, so the ban was shot down quickly in court.

The lesson here is twofold. First, Canada is a confederation, not a collection of independent little fiefdoms. Second, jurisdictions outside of Alberta can also exercise their own willpower and become more independent from Alberta if they chose to. In BC's case for moving to more electricity is already in play, even if the pace is rather slow. And BC does it quietly.

Being a loudmouth province will get Alberta nowhere, and will only draw more attention to its downfall if it continues to ignore international economic trends in energy.

Lastly, Capital Power should seriously consider diversifying into renewables if common sense prevails and the absurd moratorium is lifted. Carbon capture is way too expensive and that expense will always be passed down to ratepayers who are already suffering under the price manipulations of a gas-fired power oligopoly that is protected by the UCP government.

So much for the professed belief in so called free enterprise in Alberta.