EnErgy’s nEw EnvironmEnt
Nuclear energy’s place in the West The environmental upsides and downsides
A changing climate What Obama’s focus on global warming and green energy means to Canada
Danger in the nursery New report paints a grim future for birds that nest in the boreal forest
Boosting the underground economy Alberta utilities seek to generate interest in CO2 capture and storage
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water finding common ground B.C. finds that balance is possible as coalbed methane takes a big step forward by Darrell Stonehouse
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Alberta utilities seek to generate interest in CO2 capture and storage
Creative services supervisor
Boosting the underground economy
by Nordahl Flakstad
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land Danger in the nursery New report paints a grim future for birds that nest in the boreal forest by Jacqueline Louie
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feature Nuclear energy’s place in the West The environmental upsides and downsides to the much-debated power source by Tricia Radison
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politcs & policy A changing climate What Obama’s focus on global warming and green energy means to Canada by Darrell Stonehouse
departments 4 Editor’s note 5 Envirobytes 26 Renewable energy 27 Alternative energy
24 Q&A with an expert 28 Just the facts 29 The final word
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the atomic answer grEg, my bEst friEnd in gradE 5, had the coolest dad. Greg’s dad had a MG convertible; my dad drove a station wagon. Greg’s dad took the family out to eat a lot; my dad didn’t. Greg’s dad bought Greg a yellow five-speed stingray bicycle; my dad had this notion that if I wanted a new bike, I would have to earn it. I had only known Greg for less than two years when a moving van pulled up in front of his house and he was gone. But early on in our friendship Greg explained that this would happen. He had already moved four or five times by age 10. Greg’s dad was an engineer. His specialty was building nuclear power plants. When I was in Grade 5, I was sure that by now, nuclear energy would be as common as electricity. It would power our homes—even our cars. The atom was our friend. Thanks to people like Greg’s dad, nuclear energy would bring humankind to a new level and life in the 21st century would be free of problems. So much for a 10-year-old’s view of the future. True, a number of nuclear generating plants were built, but for a variety of well-documented reasons and arguments, nuclear energy never became as mainstream as many of us once believed. So why are Alberta and Saskatchewan—provinces rich in fossil oil—looking so closely at using nuclear energy now? Simple, because industries and governments worldwide are seeking ways to lower greenhouse gas production. They also need to respond to concerns about the availability of hydrocarbons, and address increasing energy demands. In Alberta in particular, where the oilsands have a reputation as the poster child of environmental destruction, nuclear energy could be a clean, viable power source. There could also be economic benefits. As Duane Pendergast, principal scientist at Computare, explains: “If we were using nuclear energy instead of natural gas for production and upgrading in the oilsands, the natural gas…could be sold, possibly bringing us more royalties.” In this issue we look at what role nuclear energy could play in western Canada. We also explore President Barack Obama’s push towards a greener America and what that could mean for the oilsands, a key economic driver of Canada’s economy. For those of you not familiar with Air Water Land’s history, this was a once-a-year magazine published as an annual supplement to Oilsands Review. Now we’ve expanded our audience and our frequency—to four times a year. Following JuneWarren Publishing’s merger with the Nickle’s Energy Group, we’ve built an even stronger web presence with the redesign (and renaming) of energyevolution.ca. Think of it as an evolution of an already great resource. Let me know what you think. ~ Chaz Osburn
Coming nEXt issUE: A look at the coal to liquids phenomenon and the rise of clean coal with capture and storage
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envirobYtes Automakers on emissions: look at the fuel AIR The quality of Canadian gas and diesel has a direct negative impact on tailpipe emissions and overall fuel consumption. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Pembina Institute and commissioned by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada. The report shows fuel economy and vehicle emissions are inextricably linked to fuel quality. It examines fuel characteristics such as sulphur and
detergency in gasoline and other elements in diesel. “For these fuel characteristics, Canada is lagging behind best practices,” the report says. The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada says fuel can either optimize or degrade vehicle
components. Pointing to a report conclusion that lean-burn engine technologies could result in fuel economy improvements of up to 15 per cent, the group says the gasoline sold here contains too much sulphur. As a result, Canadians are not experiencing the economic and environmental
benefits of these technologies. The report looks at ways to improve fuel quality and investigates fuel quality characteristics, the impact of fuel on the performance of vehicles, and ways to improve Canadian fuel quality. It also identifies shortcomings in the government’s approach to fuel quality.
exxon Mobil CeO favours carbon tax AIR The top executive of the world’s biggest oil company has called on the U.S. Congress to enact a tax on greenhouse gas emissions in order to fight global warming. Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive officer Rex Tillerson pushed
the tax in a speech in Washington in January. “My greatest concern is that policy makers will attempt to mandate or ordain solutions that are doomed to fail,” Tillerson was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal.
Bantrel Co. has been recognized for efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Calgary-based Bantrel says it has become the first engineering, procurement, and construction company in the world to be certified as “carbon free” by Carbonfund.org. For those not familiar with carbonfund.org, it’s a noted non-profit organization that supports renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation projects around the world with the goal being to reduce CO2 pollution and hasten the transition to a clean energy future. Bantrel manages its carbon emissions in a number of ways. The company employs energysaving measures in corporate buildings and facilities, aggressively promotes waste and consumption minimization, reuses and recycles building materials, limits employee air travel, and makes energy investments through carbonfund.org to offset carbon emissions it cannot avoid producing. “Environmental sustainability touches every part of Bantrel’s
A first for an ePC company operations, from the way we design our plants to how we execute our projects,” says Bantrel vicepresident Mike Gordon, who chairs the company’s corporate Environmental Steering Committee. According to Bantrel, the company actively seeks project development partners to help develop new carbon neutral energy projects. Says Gordon, “This is a very strategic way that we’re challenging the status quo in the energy industry.” Bantrel, which operates primarily in the energy, chemical, and power industries, has designed and built some of the largest and most complex industrial facilities in Canada. Its current portfolio of projects is valued at more than $20 billion. “Bantrel’s carbon reduction and offset program serves as an example for all Canadian companies,” carbonfund.org president Eric Carlson says.
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Cooler year, warmer period LAND If you thought 2008 was cooler than previous years, you were correct. Well, somewhat correct. Last year was the coolest year since 2000, according to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in the United States. But that doesn’t mean you should toss out concerns about global warming. The Goddard scientists there analyzed surface air temperature measurements and have concluded that 2008 was the ninth warmest year “in the period of instrumental measurements.” That period extends back to 1880. The scientists also said the 10 warmest
years on record have all occurred between 1997 and 2008. Climatologist Dr. James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute, says the planet’s cooler temperature last year is due in part to the fact that the sun is just passing through solar minimum, the low point in its 10 to 12 year cycle of electromagnetic activity, when it transmits its lowest amount of radiant energy toward Earth. The analysis found that the global average surface air temperature was 0.44°C above the global mean for 1951 to 1980, the baseline period for the study. Most of the world was either near normal or warmer in 2008 than the norm. Eurasia, the Arctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula were exceptionally warm, while much of the Pacific Ocean was cooler than the long-term average.
New group will push hydrogen technology The Canadian Hydrogen Association and Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Canada have merged. They’re now known as the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. The organization says it will work closely with government and industry partners on Canada’s existing hydrogen and fuel cell technology demonstration and market development projects such as BC’s Hydrogen Highway, Toronto’s Hydrogen Village, and the Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle
Mitsubishi takes stake in lNG terminal LAND Kitimat LNG Inc. has signed a deal with Mitsubishi Corp. that will see the Japanese company acquire terminal capacity and an equity stake in Kitimat LNG’s proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal.
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Natural gas from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin will be shipped via pipeline to the terminal. Once there, the gas will be chilled to -160ºC, at which point it becomes
liquefied natural gas (LNG). The liquefied gas will be stored in full containment tanks and then shipped in specially designed ships to markets in Asia, where demand for clean natural gas has been growing.
Kitimat LNG last December received approval from the federal government for its liquefaction terminal. The provincial government OK’d the project in January. Neither side revealed financial terms of the deal.
Program. The new group will also encourage the commercialization and adoption of hydrogen and fuel cells in Canada. “One of our goals is to show government and investors how hydrogen and fuel cell technologies work together with oil and gas, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, and batteries to create new jobs and deliver efficient, clean energy to all Canadians,” says John Tak, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian
Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. As well, the association plans to expand the efforts of its predecessors in championing the sector while providing more benefits to its members including delivering workshops and conferences, promoting the sector internationally, and advocating for continued and enhanced partnerships with Canadian governments. The organization has offices in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal. Its website is www.chfca.ca.
underground economy Alberta utilities seek to generate interest in CO2 capture and storage by Nordahl Flakstad
apturing and storing carbon dioxide below ground could give new meaning to the term “underground economy.” Now, two Alberta-based utilities with huge coal-fired power plants are looking to capitalize on this movement. Last fall, Epcor Utilities Inc. and TransAlta Corp. landed on the short list of about 20 companies, including some operating in the oilsands, that want to tap into the $2 billion the Alberta government has earmarked for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. Alberta and its premier, Ed Stelmach, have touted CCS as key to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions long suspected of bringing changes to the earth’s climate. Successful CCS projects would go a long way in improving Alberta’s environmental image worldwide. Stelmach has said he hopes to give the go-ahead to three to five CCS projects this year. There is an argument that coal-fired plants, with CO2 capture at a few sites, allow for greater efficiency than widely dispersed oilsands operations. Certainly, TransAlta and Epcor consider themselves just as deserving of a piece of the funding as the oilsands players. When they submitted their plans to the government, the two utilities probably were further advanced with their initiatives than those of their oilsands counterparts. TransAlta’s entry is the Pioneer Project. It is a proposed demonstration plant described as one of the largest CCS facilities of its kind in the world and the first such large-scale facility with an integrated piping and underground storage system. Significantly, Project Pioneer would be an adjunct to one of TransAlta’s existing coal-fuelled power plants in the Wabamun area west of Edmonton.
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PHOTO: JOEY PODLUBNY
If it goes ahead as planned, Project Pioneer will be one of the largest carbon capture and storage facilities in the world. If the technology is used across other sectors, the captured C02 could be used for enhanced oil recovery—something other companies are doing in places like Weyburn, Sask., as shown here.
Alstom Canada, a subsidiary of a major French electrical equipment and technology supplier, has been contracted to provide the proprietary chilled ammonia process capable of capturing a million tonnes of CO2 a year from flue gas released by burning coal. (That’s about 20 per cent of the five megatonnes of CO2 that the Alberta government is intent on capturing as a result of its CCS funding.) TransAlta considers Alstom’s the most energy-efficient and low-cost CCS technology. In the past year, the partners have spent $12 million on preliminary front-end engineering and design. Besides Alstom, TransAlta has brought aboard TransCanada Corp., known for its extensive experience in moving and storing gas. TransAlta president and chief executive officer Steve Snyder hopes to add more partners with expertise and technology to Project Pioneer. With provincial funding forthcoming, it could be in operation as early as 2012.
“As I understand it, the province would like to see a range of different projects from different sectors.” ~ David Lewin, Epcor’s Senior Vice-President, IGCC development Once advanced engineering is completed later this year, it should narrow down cost, which Snyder projects at between $300 million and $500 million. While this is hardly small change, TransAlta’s president stresses that this post-combustion process is much less costly than dealing with CO2 through a pre-combustion process at a new power plant— possibly costing $5 billion—that has a built-in CCS system. That, maintains Snyder, makes retrofitting a better bet. Existing coalfired plants in Canada, or for that matter China and India, with 20- to 30-year life expectancies are unlikely to close. “There is no way that China and India are going to shut down these plants, so if we retrofit those plants with this technology, that’s a real win for the environment,” contends Snyder, who chaired the CanadaAlberta ecoEnergy Carbon Task Force. Epcor has a proposal to add a CCS pilot project to its existing Genesee 1 plant, west of Edmonton. But Epcor also is considering a CSS system for a new 270-megawatt integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) generating station that would run on synthetic gas produced from coal. The plant would be Canada’s first near-zero-emission coal-fired generating station. It’s an ambitious project expected to cost at least $2 billion and builds on groundwork done by the Canadian Clean Power Coalition. Formed eight years ago with a membership that includes several Canadian and U.S. utilities, the coalition encourages clean-coal
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technologies, notably clean-burning synthetic gas technology to fuel power-plant boilers. For Genesee 1, Epcor proposes a post-combustion amine scrubbing process. It contends that would reduce by 8 to 10 per cent the amount of CO2 released by burning coal. The cost has not been announced. That difference in technology is deliberate, and, suggests David Lewin, Epcor’s senior vice-president for IGCC development, “as I understand it, the province would like to see a range of different projects from different sectors.” Lewin and TransAlta’s Snyder support this buffet approach to test what works best in specific situations and industries. Meanwhile, for three years, Epcor has led and paid one-third (along with Natural Resources Canada and the Alberta Energy Research Institute) of $33 million for front-end engineering and design on the 270-megawatt IGCC. Last year, Epcor selected a Siemens subsidiary as the licensed provider of the gasification technology for the project. Like TransAlta’s Project Pioneer, each Epcor project would capture more than a megatonne of CO2. The CO2 would either be injected under pressure for long-term storage into Alberta’s abundant saline aquifers or alternatively into “empty” oil and gas reservoirs. “Both approaches will be viable,” says Dr. Bill Gunter, a long-time Alberta Research Council researcher and a world-leading CCS expert. He is confident the CO2, once injected, will stay in the ground. After all, Gunter stresses, the CO2 would replace the oil and gas that remained sealed in these same formations for millions of years. A second option is selling the CO2 to enhance oil production in aging reservoirs. In theory that opens the possibility of oil producers paying for the CO2—thereby offsetting some CCS costs. Cleary, the utilities would like to tap that revenue source. Their success, according to Gunter, may depend on convincing oil producers that they should pay for the CO2. Oil producers may argue, however, that by taking the CO2 off the utilities’ hands they are doing them a favour. The greatest risk of CO2 release, Gunter asserts, occurs during and shortly after the liquefied gas is injected under pressure. Over time, as the CO2 moves out and is trapped in the formation, the risk of release also dissipates. Gunter says it is not unreasonable that some form of monitoring may be needed at sequestration sites for up to a century. Last fall, the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council identified regulation and long-term liability among issues still requiring resolution before widespread CO2 sequestration proceeds. But the major barrier to any project remains cost. Until costs are lowered, the price of power generated at a power plant with CCS initially will be about double that of electricity from conventional coal-fired facilities. “The technology is not economic relative to today’s market price,” says TransAlta’s Snyder. “The only way to move it forward is if the market-price gap can be met, and it will require government support to do that.” awl
finding inding common ground
B.C. finds that balance is possible as coalbed methane takes a big step forward by Darrell Stonehouse
t took eight years, but commercial coalbed methane development has finally arrived in British Columbia. Louisiana-based Canadian Energy Partners earlier this year announced gas sales had begun from eight wells on its over 50,000 acres of land near the community of Hudson’s Hope in northeastern British Columbia. It’s an accomplishment that did not come easily. There were years of give and take between local community members and Canada Energy Partners and its Calgary-based partner to iron out concerns—including environment concerns over water—about coalbed methane development, says Canada Energy Partners president and chief executive officer Ben Jones.
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water Coalbed methane production did not just happen in northeastern British Columbia. Canada Energy Partners CEO Ben Jones believes concerns about water quality were triggered by stories of landowners’ experiences with CBM and water quality in Wyoming.
PHOTOS: JOEY PODLUBNY
Canada Energy Partners is a 50 per cent owner of the project. GeoMet of Calgary owns the other half and acts as operator for the project. Jones says he began pursuing coalbed methane opportunities in the Hudson’s Hope area in 2000. In 2001, after securing financing from friends and family, he bought his first leases in the area. At that time, the company operated under the name Peace River Corp. Peace River Corp. began exploration in the area in 2002, drilling two wells on Crown land. In 2003, it applied to drill three more wells. “That’s when the community became aware that this wild and crazy guy from Louisiana had leased 50 square miles of land in the area and was looking for coalbed methane,” he recalls. “The people got really riled up.” In February 2003, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission held a public meeting on the company’s plans for the area. Over 200 local residents showed up. “There were a number of voracious opponents to the project,” Jones recalls. “Two weeks later we held Peace River’s first public meeting and 150 people came out. We had a four-hour discussion. There was pretty vigorous debate, but I think the community at that point decided they weren’t enthusiastic about our plans but that they would give us the benefit of the doubt. As long as we did things right, they said they could live with it. It was a probationary period, if you will.”
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water British Columbia has strict water disposal regulations.
The company proceeded to drill the three wells. “The sky didn’t fall,” Jones says. “Volcanoes didn’t erupt. Things were pretty quiet until 2004, when Hudson’s Bay Oil & Gas, a subsidiary of GeoMet, took over operation of the project and the primary responsibility of consulting with the community. Since then they’ve spearheaded most of the consultations.” Looking to wyoming Jones says he believes most of the early concerns about coalbed methane exploration at Hudson’s Hope were driven by the landowners’ experiences in the Powder Basin in Wyoming, where produced water has been used on the surface. “The No. 1 concern was over water,” he recalls. But what makes British Columbia different was the provincial government’s strict produced water disposal rules. “Basically, the B.C. policy outlaws surface discharge of produced water so the analog to Wyoming was a mute point,” he explains. “There will be no surface disposal. The water produced is very saline so you couldn’t dispose of it on the surface anyway.” Terry Webster is a buffalo rancher and councilor for the District of Hudson’s Hope. She says Canada Energy Partners were wise to drill their
first wells on Crown land before going to the local community for support for their project. “The ranchers could see what impact the exploration would have on their land and the company could see whether their project was viable,” she explains, adding despite the current calm the community is still taking a wait-and-see approach as development happens. “Some people aren’t opposed to development, and some are opposed. Mostly, it depends on how actively they farm their land.” Webster says now that development has gained a foothold in the region, the community is looking to both industry and government to ensure that it is done in a sustainable fashion. Water remains a major concern, especially surface water use by industry. “For fracturing purposes, each CBM well uses around 250,000 gallons of water,” she says. “Shell alone plans on drilling 1,000 wells so that adds up to 250 million gallons of water. Talisman Energy is exploring for deep shale gas here and it uses three to five times the water for fracturing that coalbed methane uses. Crew Energy is exploring shallow shale and it needs big fractures too. On top of that there’s water used for drilling. That’s a lot of water coming out of the ecosystem. It’s all surface water and once it’s used, it’s gone.”
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PHOTO: JOEY PODLUBNY
Terry Webster, a councilor for the District of Hudson’s Hope, B.C., says her community wants a cumulative effects study looking at potential future developments and their impact on the watershed.
Webster says the Hudson’s Hope community wants the provincial government to deal with a number of outstanding issues concerning water before development takes off. This includes a cumulative effects study looking at potential future developments and their impact on the watershed. “We could end up with more oil and gas wells here than anyone has ever seen,” she says. “At earlier meetings with the government, a cumulative effects assessment was brought up, but the government said there was no sense doing it at that point of time because no one knew if the resource would be economic. It seems like now would be a good time to do it.” “The study could show there’s not a problem,” she adds. “But if there is it’s their responsibility to do something. The big problem, I think, will be finding a balance.” Webster says as part of any environmental assessment the community would like to see local aquifers mapped. “The assumption is [that] because the drilling is far below the water level, there is no way for any contamination to happen, but we don’t know that. It could be part of the study,” she says. More water monitoring wells are also needed, Webster adds. There are only two such wells in the region. A new protocol is also needed to outline who is responsible for testing community water wells. Industry has been doing the testing voluntarily. Webster says rules need to be spelled out clearly through an agreement.
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watEr wELL woEs New rules are also needed to help landowners with water well problems that may be caused by industry. Currently, when a well goes dry it is up to the landowner to hire a hydrologist to prove whether oil and gas drilling was the cause. This can cost thousands of dollars. If the oil company disputes the findings, court costs can add even greater expense. Worries about surface disturbance are also a concern in the community. The B.C. government has promised wells will be limited to one per 160 acres. But given the potential that thousands of wells may be drilled in the area, it will have an impact. “This is a very beautiful area,” Webster says. “When you suddenly start fragmenting the land you lose some of that beauty.” Jones, Canadian Energy Partner’s chief executive officer, says that while he expects there to be challenges ahead, he is confident the industry and community will be able to work their way through them. “It’s been a real pleasure to work up there,” he concludes. “There are a lot of good people in the community. I hope and believe our project will be an asset to the people and they will be pleased with it in the long run.” If so, coalbed methane development will boost B.C.’s status as a key energy producer—with an eye on the environment. awl
r e y G r e s N r u A DiN the N e at n h t irds ands b r o e f a’s oils r u t u t im f r Alber r g ts a st nea n i a uie r t p eal fore e Lo o n i p l ue w re he bor Jacq e y n b A in t
t has been described as a green scarf across the shoulders of North America. Canada’s boreal forest, stretching some 1,000 kilometres, is a bountiful ecosystem—a montage of interrelated habitats consisting of rich woodlands with towering dark green pines, white birches, and aspens. As much as 30 per cent of the forest is wetlands. Pristine lakes and meandering rivers are abundant.
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PHOTO: JOEY PODLUBNY
A flock of geese at Slave Lake, Alta., located in Canada’s boreal forest, gets ready to take off. A new report warns that oilsands production in Alberta’s portion of the forest could have a negative impact on migratory birds that rely on the area to nest.
Each spring and summer, millions of birds across North America come to the forest to breed. Now, a new report warns that Alberta’s oilsands production is taking a heavy toll on migratory birds that nest there. Environmentalists warn that unless something is done, as many as 166 million birds could be permanently lost—an estimate the energy industry takes issue with—within the next five decades.
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The report is called Danger in the Nursery: Impact on Birds of Tar Sands Oil Development in Canada’s Boreal Forest. It was authored by a group of influential U.S. and Canadian environmental organizations—the Boreal Songbird Initiative, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Pembina Institute. The report says that more than half of North America’s migratory birds nest in the boreal forest. The forest, it says, is a globally significant breeding habitat for at least 300 species.
land Virtually every aspect of oilsands development has the potential to affect migratory birds throughout North America, the report says. Loss of habitat is one danger. Others cited: ■
Decreased air and water quality, resulting in toxin accumulation
Health and reproductive problems
Tailings ponds exposure that can lead to birds drowning
“This report focuses on a clearly unintended negative impact of the development of tar sands in Alberta,” says Henry Henderson, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest director. It also “underscores this is not a local problem, but a series of local problems with an overarching continental impact.” “UnsUstainabLE trajECtory” The report, released in December, assessed the long-term potential cumulative impact of oilsands development on birds. It “clearly shows oilsands development is on an unsustainable trajectory,” says Simon Dyer, oilsands program director at the Pembina Institute. Dyer was a contributing author on the report. Says Dyer, “What it shows is that the current environmental assessment process we have in Alberta is failing us.” Dyer says assessments are “still done on a project-by-project basis. They don’t consider the longterm cumulative impact of development.” Canada’s petroleum industry is well aware of the negative impact oilsands development can have. Last year’s deaths of hundreds of ducks on a Syncrude tailings point is still fresh in the minds of many executives. “While industry disputes the numbers presented in the…report, we do not, in any way, deny that there are impacts on the environment and wildlife as a result of oilsands development, and also that we need to work harder to mitigate these impacts,” says Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “A vibrant ecosystem is a critical resource. We are strongly of the view that a balanced discussion that considers environment, economy, and energy supply as equal elements will help us better manage the development of the oilsands and help meet the expectations of Canadians.” Producers disagree with the report’s key findings. That includes the broad range—from 6 million to 166 million—of birds that could be at risk due to development. “We take issue with the numbers used in the environmental advocacy report, including those related to annual bird mortality rates,” Davies says. “The numbers in this report are not reflective of what’s happening on the ground.” Davies says the report fails to address changes in the birds’ wintering grounds in the United States and Caribbean. “Additionally, we don’t believe the representations in the report are indicative of the future environmental impact of oilsands development. The oil and gas industry in Canada is both responsible and very well regulated. Industry has been [trying], and continues to try hard to reduce our impact on the environment, including those impacts featured in this environmental advocacy report.” Reclamation is ongoing at all oilsands sites, Davies notes. About 17 per cent of land impacted by mining is undergoing active reclamation, he says. Jeff Wells, lead author and a senior scientist at the Boreal Songbird Initiative, says the reason for the wide range in the number of birds that could be affected is because researchers considered several different development scenarios and modelled a range of potential impacts. baLanCE nEEdEd “The main point is that many birds and other kinds of wildlife are going to be negatively impacted…beyond what anyone has really considered,” he says.
Wells believes these impacts can be reduced. People, he says, must consider ways to develop at a sustainable pace. They must also seek a balance between development, protection, and managing land in ways that allow wildlife to survive there. The current economic slowdown offers a chance to step back and take a breath, Wells says. “Before things heat up again, let’s look at how we can do this sustainably.” Alberta Sustainable Resource Development is also looking to balance the interests of the energy industry and the environment. “Environment is important, but it’s industry that provides us with the quality of life we have,” says Alberta Sustainable Resource Development spokesman Dave Ealey. He adds that the boreal forest portion spanning Alberta is already one of the better protected natural areas of the province. Ealey also thinks the report “goes too far in making claims about all these birds that won’t ever hatch.” What the focus needs to be, he says, is whether there are sufficient protected areas in place. This is part of what the discussion will be, he notes, as the Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Council planning process goes into effect. (The Regional Advisory Council, established by the Alberta government under the province’s new land-use framework, will provide strategic advice to the government in developing a land-use plan for the Lower Athabasca region.)
“We do not, in any way, deny that there are impacts on the environment and wildlife as a result of oilsands development.” ~ Travis Davies, Spokesman, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
The question of exactly how many birds are lost when habitats are disturbed is still being researched. But “when you take the oilsands mining area and convert it from a forested ecosystem to a non-forested ecosystem, it’s fairly safe to say the birds that require forest are no longer going to be there,” says Erin Bayne, an assistant professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Biological Sciences. Birds will still use habitat where development exists. “But it’s a much reduced set of birds than what you would expect in a mature forest— not as many individuals and not as many species, Bayne says. “The key thing, is the footprint may be bigger in terms of its effect on a species than just the physical disturbance that happens.” What Bayne says the report does is point out clearly that the decisions people make have ecological consequences. Says Bayne: “From all our land-use decisions we are making in Alberta, we are affecting the quality of habitat for wildlife. The question is, what do we want the boreal forest to look like 50 years from now? What level of change are we willing to accept?” They are questions that have importance far beyond the bird population. awl
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Nuclear energy’s place in the West
The environmental upsides and downsides to the much-debated power source by Tricia Radison
anada’s western provinces lay claim to unparalleled expertise when it comes to fossil fuels. But when it comes to nuclear power, they’ve been in the dark. In the past year, the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan established separate panels to look into the nuclear energy issue. As well, a major industry player is in the process of looking for sites within each province that can support a nuclear reactor.
So why is the west looking so intently at such a potentially explosive issue? Nuclear energy has been part of the mix in Ontario for over four decades. Today, 20 of the nation’s 22 reactors are located in that province. They produce about half the province’s power. Although there are those that would disagree, all indications are that the technology has been working in that province without any
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PHOTO: JOEY PODLUBNY
Environmentalists have been critical of greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s oilsands projects, such as those shown here. But being a good environmental citizen is not an issue confined to Alberta. Lyle Stewart, minister of Enterprise and Innovation in Saskatchewan, says, “We would be very insulated from [some environmental criticism] if we could use nuclear as the power for our oilsands.”
serious incidents or danger to the public for over four decades. Still, the provincial government has stated that the percentage of Ontario’s energy mix made up of nuclear energy will not increase going forward. Instead, it plans to focus on energy conservation and developing renewables. “Adding more nuclear beyond the existing supply of 50 per cent is not in Ontario’s plans or in Ontario’s interest,” said Ontario’s deputy premier and minister of Energy and Infrastructure, George Smitherman, in an October 2008 news release. Western governments obviously believe it may be in their best interests to add a little atom splitting into the mix. On one level, the factors driving western interest in nuclear energy mirror those driving global interest. morE rEaCtors EXpECtEd According to the Canadian Nuclear Association, 31 countries were using nuclear power generated by 439 reactors as of March 2008. In his Canada West Foundation report, Prairie Atoms: The Challenges and Opportunities of Nuclear Power in Alberta and Saskatchewan, author Duane Bratt says the International Atomic Energy Agency expects between 75 and 300 reactors to come into operation around the world by 2030.
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Governments the world over are casting about for solutions to greenhouse gas production, rising energy demands, and concerns surrounding the availability of hydrocarbons. Nuclear energy, which proponents hype as clean, is an increasingly popular solution. For Alberta and Saskatchewan, cutting greenhouse gas production is a necessity in terms of both global image and economic success. Each province relies on energy development to provide significant economic benefits. Those benefits are threatened by the view that such development, particularly in the oilsands, destroys the atmosphere. “We are fighting, with Alberta, against that—to re-brand ourselves and to try to talk Americans and others out of that particular environmental stand,” says Lyle Stewart, minister of Enterprise and Innovation in Saskatchewan. “Just the same, we would be very insulated from that if we could use nuclear as the power for our oilsands.” Reducing the amount of natural gas used by the oilsands industry would be good, too. “Right now, if we were using nuclear energy instead of natural gas for production and upgrading in the oilsands, the natural gas we’re using could be sold, possibly bringing us more royalties,” argues Duane Pendergast. He
PHOTO: BRUCE POWER
NuCleAr eNerGy iN CANADA pLant
nUmbEr of rEaCtors
4 (2 operating, 2 in safe storage)
4 (2 operating, 2 being refurbished)
845 and 872
1 (being refurbished)
Source: Canadian Nuclear Association
is the principal scientist at Computare, an Alberta-based think tank focused on energy and the greenhouse gas management aspect of climate change. Bruce Power, the Ontario-based nuclear power giant exploring the possibility of bringing the technology to the west, isn’t focused on providing steam and power for the oilsands. Its plan is to add nuclear to the grid as part of the provincial energy mix. “The provinces decide what they want in their energy mix, what type of energy sources they want to be included in what produces their electricity,” explains Steve Cannon, spokesman for Bruce Power. “That’s why we’re working closely with the Alberta government, and Saskatchewan government as well.” Bruce Power has chosen a site 30 km north of Peace River as the “preferred option” for a potential plant in Alberta. In January the company pulled its application in to build a plant near Lac Cardinal. A feasibility study by Bruce Power in Saskatchewan gave the company enough confidence to move forward with site identification in that province. “It looks like 1,000 megawatts of electricity could fit nicely, if it was generated from nuclear power,” Cannon says. He adds that the company based its determination on potential future demand and the ability of the province to export surplus electricity. what’s at stakE There may be more at stake for Canada’s west than protecting hydrocarbon royalties and increasing the amount of available power. In his report, Bratt argues that Alberta and Saskatchewan risk losing out on significant dollars if the provinces don’t cultivate a nuclear energy industry. “If Alberta and Saskatchewan do not establish a foothold in the nuclear industry now, they will be left behind as Ontario and New Brunswick exploit national and international opportunities,” he writes. Canada’s nuclear industry already generates $6.6 billion per year. It also employs 21,000 people directly with another 40,000 employed indirectly. As projects go through around the globe, Ontario in an ideal position to capitalize on its nuclear know-how. It can export technology, components, knowledge, and trained workers. New Brunswick, which has one reactor and plans to build a second, has developed a nuclear centre of excellence that will help it take advantage of global opportunities. Bratt’s recommendations include creating nuclear technology undergraduate programs and a western centre for excellence to allow Alberta and Saskatchewan to take part in the action. But he goes further. He urges both provinces to take steps to increase the returns on uranium. Canada is the largest uranium producer in the world. Most is mined in Saskatchewan. “Geologists are also discovering uranium pockets in the Athabasca Basin along the Saskatchewan border as well as central and southern Alberta,” Bratt writes, “so there is an opportunity for Alberta to get involved in the front end of the nuclear industry.”
Pendergast believes that uranium will ultimately become a much more valuable export for western Canada. “The energy from Canada’s exports of uranium, based on the once-through kind of reactors that we use now, is about equal to the energy from our exports of fossil fuels,” he says. “When nuclear technology is fully developed and we utilize all the energy available from uranium, the amount would be about a hundred times the amount we are extracting now.” As uranium prices increase and royalty regimes change over the coming decades, royalty income from uranium could become much more important to Canadians. Saskatchewan has an opportunity to develop value-added industries such as fuel enrichment and fabrication facilities. Bratt sees this happening in Saskatchewan, an observation he bases this on the province having a long industry with uranium and more familiarity with nuclear energy as a result. He compares the province’s nuclear panel with that of Alberta’s to illustrate his point. “There is one nuclear scientist out of McMaster [on the Alberta panel], but the others are business professors and energy academics and Harvie Andre [former MP and president of an oil and gas supply company],” says Bratt, from his office at Mount Royal College in Calgary. “Contrast that with the Saskatchewan government, which also formed a panel. Its mandate was not to look at the pros and cons of nuclear power. It’s about how to maximize the industry in the province of Saskatchewan. Totally different mandate and, if you look at the panelists, they’re all the major industry players.” But Saskatchewan’s Stewart is firm that the mandate and members of the Uranium Development Panel do not indicate wholehearted government support of nuclear power. “The [panel] is a task force to review all aspects of the nuclear cycle,” he says. “We’ve made some preliminary moves down the nuclear power road on the basis of polls that suggested that Saskatchewan people were interested in that. But we haven’t committed ourselves to anything.” Neither province is prepared to move forward with nuclear energy without public support. “The Alberta government created the Nuclear Power Expert Panel to gather information and prepare a report to serve as an objective factual basis for a fully informed discussion on the issue,” says Derek Cummings, spokesman for Alberta Energy. “The next step will be to engage Albertans on the information presented by the expert panel and collect public feedback, so that the Alberta government will be informed by the range of views that exist on nuclear energy.” The panels don’t have an easy task when it comes to getting the facts about nuclear energy. Bratt says: “If you go to the Pembina Institute, they published a study about two years ago and they had nothing good to say about nuclear
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PHOTO: BRUCE POWER
Ontario leads the nation in nuclear energy, thanks to companies like Bruce Power, which runs this plant. Now the company is looking at potential sites in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
power whatsoever. If you go to the Canadian Nuclear Association, which is the lobby group for nuclear energy in Canada, everything is rosy.” Water use is one example of the difficulty the panels—and the public—face when trying to sort out the nuclear issue. “The Darlington and Pickering facilities in Ontario are alone estimated to use approximately 8.9 trillion litres of water for cooling purposes per year—more than 19 times the annual water consumption of the City of Toronto,” write the authors of the Pembina Institute’s Nuclear Power in Canada: An Examination of Risks, Impacts and Sustainability. Proponents disagree. “It’s a bit of a myth to say it uses water, because typically the water goes through the cooling system then comes back out slightly warmed,” Pendergast says. “It’s clean water, not contaminated.” And there are possible techniques that could be used to alleviate any adverse effects of introducing warmed water to the environment. For example, water can be evaporated in a cooling pond or tower before it is sent back into the lake or river. In dry areas, some reactors are designed to use municipal waste water for cooling. Another challenge facing the west lies in weighing the risks. While some of the actual environmental issues may be up for debate, no one denies the dangers posed by radioactive waste. And there’s also the possibility of a nuclear meltdown. In his report, Bratt compares direct deaths attributed to nuclear energy to those attributed to other energy sources worldwide between 1969 and 2000. His conclusion is that nuclear is far safer. In that time, there has been
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one accident at a nuclear reactor and 31 direct deaths. Contrast that to the 1,398 accidents and 32,197 direct deaths that have occurred in the coal industry. Or the 397 accidents and 20,283 direct deaths attributed to oil. “But it’s always the ‘what if,’” Bratt says. “The direct deaths may be low compared to these other sources. But if there was a major catastrophic accident, it would just move it right off the charts.” An option that might provide a solution to some of the challenges is the use of small-scale nuclear reactors. Hyperion Power Generation Inc., based in New Mexico, is planning such a project for the market. The 1.5metre wide reactors pump out 70 megawatts and can be used in multiples to provide more power. They are buried on site and carefully guarded. According Hyperion’s website, the units cannot melt down and endanger the users or the public. Also, they don’t use water for cooling and produce just a softball-sized amount of waste in five years. Bratt is intrigued by the idea of nuclear microprojects. “These are very specific types of reactors designed for dealing with oilsands development, as opposed to putting electricity on the grid,” he says. “I think there is a lot of cost benefit analysis [to be done]. I’d be very interested in looking at their numbers, because the numbers I’ve been seeing are around $30 million per reactor, and that seems really small to me.” Both provincial governments and Bruce Power plan to have extensive public consultation before making any final decisions. Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that one day the sight of a nuclear plant cooling tower is as common—though not as ubiquitous— as a pumpjack. awl
New u.s. administration focuses on global warming and green energy. But what does it mean to Canada’s oilsands? by Darrell Stonehouse
e’ve all hearD PreSiDent BaraCk OBama’S rhetOriC aBOut energy anD the envirOnment. SO the
Big queStiOn in CanaDian energy CirCleS iS whether ameriCa’S firSt BlaCk
PreSiDent will alSO Be ameriCa’S firSt green PreSiDent? anD, if he SuCCeeDS, what might that mean fOr future grOwth in CanaDa’S OilSanDS inDuStry, alreaDy hit By a SerieS Of envirOnmental anD eCOnOmiC SetBaCkS in reCent mOnthS?
politics & policy A cap and trade system being proposed in the U.S. would require greenhouse gas emitters to buy carbon credits up front through an auction.
During the run-up to U.S. elections in November, Obama made numerous promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions and end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels from “foreign” sources. He proposed cutting greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. And he proposed the means to cutting emissions back to these levels is a combination of a market-based cap and trade system, a gradual increase in fuel efficiency in the transportation sector, and a gradual switchover towards low-carbon renewable energy.
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Early indications are the promises were not just campaign rhetoric. In his first few weeks on the job, the new president signalled his intentions to act quickly on all fronts, signing two presidential memoranda ordering the U.S. department of transportation to increase fuel efficiency standards and to allow individual states like California to institute their own fuel standards and greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans. “Increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and trucks is one of the most important steps that we can take to break our cycle of dependence on foreign
politics & policy oil,” Obama said, adding that, “a 40 per cent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day—nearly the entire amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.” Obama also hinted that the U.S. would embrace an international climate change plan, provided all countries participated. “I’ve made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world,” he said. “That’s how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part, just as we are now willing to do ours.” Canadian response to the new administration’s energy and environmental proposals has been measured. Speaking at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Executives, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the federal government is looking for a continental agreement coordinating the two countries’ environmental plans and solidifying Canada’s position as the leading supplier of energy to the U.S. Prentice said that on the environmental front, the deal could contain policies such as a shared cap-and-trade carbon market system and tougher fuel standards. But he added he expects the oilsands to remain an important source of supply for North America into the future. “We need to make sure that it’s done in an environmentally responsible way, but I think the reality is, for both Americans and Canadians, that source is important,” he said. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is cautiously backing a continent-wide energy and environmental agreement, with one stipulation. “We must be part of any discussions that directly impact Alberta’s right to determine the development of its resources,” Stelmach said in January. The Alberta premier added that the current drop in oil and demand and prices is a short-term bump in the road, and oilsands production will be needed to fuel future economic growth. “The economy will need every barrel of oil it can get,” he said, adding, “every drop of oil comes with some environmental risk.” Both the Alberta and federal government are pinning their hopes on carbon capture and storage as the main means to green the oilsands. “Over the past year or two, it has become clear that if Canada is to meet international expectations to reduce carbon emissions in a manner that allows our country to continue to grow and prosper, we need to develop and deploy [carbon capture and storage] as a national priority,” Stelmach said. Alberta is investing $2 billion to make carbon capture a reality. The federal government added to this pool of money in its most recent budget, pledging $1 billion to move carbon capture and storage forward. Stelmach said the investment in carbon capture and storage would “assure the new American administration that Canada is a responsible and reliable partner in meeting our shared objective of reducing greenhouse gases and reducing dependence on Middle East oil by creating a secure supply of energy from within North America—the energy needed to transform the North American economy.” Dan Woynillowicz, director of strategy with the Pembina Institute, says that while it too early to speculate on whether the new U.S. administration will work with Canada on a continental environmental and energy plan, he believes such a system would make sense. “If we had two different systems, it will be problematic,” he says. “Right now in Canada, we have a patchwork of provincial and federal policies and that leaves everyone with no clear direction.” Woynillowicz says it appears the U.S. is going to take a more sciencebased approach to climate change than it has in the past, and he expects it to play a larger role in international climate change discussions as well. He points to the U.S. Congress as one example of the changing attitude in the country. “House leader Nancy Pelosi has promised a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions by year-end,” he notes. “It looks as though things are going to be moving very quickly. Canada is going to have to move quickly to keep up.”
The cap and trade system being proposed in the U.S. would require greenhouse gas emitters to buy carbon credits up front through an auction, unlike other proposals that would see them given freely in the beginning and then traded on a carbon market. Woynillowicz says this makes sense. “It establishes an immediate price on emissions and generates immediate revenues for governments to invest,” he says. “It’s an effective way of sending a market signal that there is a price on carbon and that there is a need to reduce emissions.” Woynillowicz says the Alberta government is too narrowly focused on carbon capture and storage as the answer to cutting oilsands emissions. He says a broader energy plan is needed as the U.S. and other countries move forward on new energy systems.
thE Carbon bULLEt “The Alberta government places so much emphasis on carbon capture, they treat it like a silver bullet,” he says. “They need to build a more comprehensive energy plan with renewables, energy efficiency, and conservation included. They need to develop a real portfolio.” He adds that while right now most emphasis is being put on the upstream emissions from the oilsands, in the future more emphasis will be put on downstream emissions and the trend appears to be a move away from fossil fuels. “There’s too much emphasis on the upstream emissions,” he says. “In the full life cycle, 80 per cent of the emissions are from combustion of the end product. Some of the early indications from the U.S. are they are looking for a new energy economy that will change the way vehicles are built. In the near term, that means incremental improvements on the internal combustion engine, and then hybrids. Then it means moving beyond the internal combustion engine.” Adds Woynillowicz: “We need to be cognizant of these changes and figure out where we fit into this future instead of just focusing on the oilsands.” awl
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Q & A:
“ We WANt tO ChAlleNGe PeOPle tO thiNk BiG”
Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
An interview with the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s president
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Q: What is Canada’s current wind energy capacity? A: We ended 2008 with 2,369 megawatts (MW). Q: Which province leads the nation? A: Ontario ended 2008 with 782 MW. Quebec finished 530ish and Alberta was 520ish. We do expect in Ontario to be closer to 1,200 MW this year. Q: Why does wind energy make sense for Canada? A: Our electricity system faces a number of challenges. One is cost. No matter what source of electricity we build in the future, it’s going to be more expensive. Wind, because it has no fuel costs—it has fixed costs—actually provides an opportunity for us to slow down the rate of electricity price increases going forward. Second, there’s a growing concern about the environmental impacts of the electricity system. Wind is a clean technology. It does not produce any greenhouse gas or air pollution, any water pollution. There’s no radioactive, toxic waste, and therefore represents an environmental step forward. Finally, wind represents a significant economic development opportunity for Canada—both industrial development in terms of wind turbine and component manufacturing and provision of services but also a rural development opportunity.
Q: How so? A: Wind [generation facilities are] going to be built in rural areas. That’s where the best wind resources are. It brings jobs and investment into rural communities. It also helps strengthen rural municipal tax bases, and provides an alternative income source for landowners who lease the land for wind developments. Q: Are there other reasons wind energy makes sense for the country? A: Canada is strategically very well positioned to develop wind energy. We have one of the best wind resources in the world. We have extensive hydroelectric resources, which are good partners for wind. We also sit next door to the world’s biggest electricity market, which provides significant export opportunities. And we have a manufacturing base in Canada that’s struggling through some difficult times and looking for ways to diversity. Wind energy is a technology that is projected to see $1 trillion invested in new developments between now and 2020 worldwide. And it’s expected to create almost two million jobs worldwide in that same timeframe. Yes, there’s an environmental benefit for Canada, but it also represents a real economic opportunity for Canada.
PHOTO: JOEY PODLUBNY
n robert hornung’s opinion, Canada runs the risk of falling behind other nations in the development of wind energy. hornung, president of the Canadian wind energy association, is clearly disappointed with the federal government’s decision earlier this year not to expand and extend the ecoenergy for renewable Power Program, which among other things, is designed to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution. his non-profit organization, headquartered in Ottawa, promotes the responsible development and application of all aspects of wind energy in Canada. last year it released Wind Vision 2025—Powering Canada’s Future, a strategic vision to ensure that wind energy supplies 20 per cent of the country’s demand by 2025. hornung discusses his organization, wind energy in Canada, and other issues with Air Water Land editor Chaz Osburn.
Q: Give us some background on the Canadian Wind Energy Association. Who do you represent and what is its mission? A: We have over 400 corporate members who represent both wind turbine and component manufacturing, wind energy project developers, owners, operators, utilities, and a whole range of service providers. Our mandate is to develop and advocate for policies that would support the deployment of wind energy in Canada with all levels of government, to do public education and outreach, and also to organize conferences and events that provide educational and networking opportunities for all stakeholders related to wind energy.
q&a with an expert Q: Talk about the significance of Wind Vision 2025. A: There’s a huge global investment going on. Canada has an opportunity to capture a growing share of that global pie. To do that we have to identify [wind energy] as a priority. We have to establish competitive policy frameworks so that people will want to invest here. It’s of such a scale of significance.
PHOTOS: JOEY PODLUBNY
The best example we have of thinking big in Canada is, ironically, in our smallest province.
Q: Did the federal government miss an opportunity to advance wind power in its last budget? A: We were obviously extremely disappointed by the fact that the federal government did not expand or extend the ecoEnergy program. At the end of the day, that decision has both short-term and long-term implications for the industry. For the short term, there are a number of projects to be built in Canada by 2011—the original end date for the program—that will now not have access to funding through that program. That will change the project economics for some. The longer-term implication is the fact that wind energy is a global industry. The manufacturers are all big multinationals. They’re going to invest in the places that they feel have the strongest and most stable and long-term policy frameworks. Now there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the Canadian policy framework. How strongly does Canada support wind power? It’s happening at the same time that we see President Obama taking the United States in a different direction. In essence, what we’ve seen is that Canada’s relative attractiveness as a destination for capital investment has gone down. Here we have a sector that has grown globally by almost 30 per cent a year for just about 15 years and now we’re a weaker competitor on the world stage.
In Wind Vision we propose generating 20 per cent [of Canada’s electricity] by 2025. This represents potentially $80 billion of investment in Canada, creating more than 50,000 fulltime jobs. That’s just a tremendous opportunity. Although wind has grown quite rapidly in Canada, there were only 322 MW at the end of 2003. We’ve seen significant growth over the last few years and, in fact, we’re poised for some significant growth going forward. We could be up to 12,000 MW by 2015. But we’re actually losing ground to other countries.
Q: We are? A: In Canada, we didn’t really have very many examples of anybody thinking big about wind energy. The United States Department of Energy released a study last May looking at what the cost would be of moving to 20 per cent [of electricity being produced by wind power] and they determined the incremental cost relative to business as usual would be 50 cents a month on utility bills. We want to challenge people to think big. We have a window of opportunity that won’t always be there. Now’s the time to start having the discussion. We’re saying let’s start thinking like other countries. We’re proposing 20 per cent. Denmark is already there—they want to go to 50 per cent. Germany wants to go to 25. Spain wants to go to 20. The U.S. is looking at 20. So it’s not like we’re proposing anything outlandish. The best example we have of thinking big in Canada is, ironically, in our smallest province. Prince Edward Island has a peak load for electricity of 210 MW. They announced their new wind strategy last October. What they want to put in place 500 MW of wind [generating capacity]. They want to supply 30 per cent of electricity needs of Prince Edward Island from wind and export the rest to the United States. awl
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Polygeneration plant delayed The slumping economy has prompted TransCanada Corp. to delay plans to build a polygeneration plant in southern Saskatchewan. Spokesman Terry Cunha says TransCanada is re-evaluating the projectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s costs and hopes to make a decision within the next 6 to 12 months. Cunha acknowledges that thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s always a possibility the project in Belle Plaine could be cancelled, but insists TransCanada is still committed to it. He says there are benefits for the company and the province in going ahead. The proposed $4-billion plant would generate electricity and other energy by-products such as hydrogen, nitrogen, steam, and carbon dioxide for use at nearby industrial facilities. The plant was to begin operating in 2013.
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A sunny future for automaker? A Japanese newspaper is reporting that automotive giant Toyota Motor Corp. is secretly developing a vehicle that will be powered solely by solar energy. According to an Associated Press report, the Nikkei Business Daily newspaper has learned that the electric vehicle will get some of its power from solar cells equipped on the vehicle, which can be recharged with electricity generated from solar panels on the roofs of homes. Eventually Toyota hopes to develop a model totally powered by solar cells on the vehicle, the newspaper reported. If consumers buy it, such a vehicle could have a huge impact on the petroleum industry. It could also turn into a revenue stream for Toyota, which, like a lot of other automakers, is struggling in the global economic meltdown. Developing energy-efficient vehicles has become a priority with all major automakers. Chrysler has plans to produce electric vehicles in the future. And a potential gamechanger could be the Chevrolet Volt. The so-called plug-in hybrid is due to come on the North American market in 2010. For trips of up to about 64 kilometres, the Volt is powered by electricity from the grid and stored in its lithium-ion battery pack. Beyond that, a small engine-generator creates additional electricity. That extends the range of the Volt several hundred additional kilometres until the driver can plug in to recharge the battery.
New initiative could help Canada’s farmers
renewable technologies get thumbs up The lowest-cost government incentive programs are those for renewable heat and power technologies, a study by the C.D. Howe Institute reveals. The report’s authors reviewed the entire portfolio of federal and provincial renewable energy incentive programs for major liquid biofuels, renewable power, and heating options to determine cost effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They found that the lowest-cost government incentive programs were for renewable heat and power technologies, such as wind, solar air, hot water heating, biomass pellet heating, and energy retrofitting strategies. For these programs, mitigation could be realized at $10 to $60 of government subsidy per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent offset, the authors concluded. The authors also found the most expensive government incentives were for liquid biofuels, which ranged between $295 and $430 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent for ethanol and $122 to $175 a tonne for biodiesel. The authors recommended a redirection of federal funds towards more cost-effective carbon mitigation approaches. The report is called Going Green for Less: Cost-Effective Alternative Energy Sources. The authors are Roger Samson and Stephanie Bailey Stamler.
The federal government is touting its new Cellulosic Biofuels Network initiative as a way for farmers across Canada to harness new market opportunities and get higher prices for their crops. The focus of the Cellulosic Biofuels Network is on the sustainable production of ethanol and associated bio-products from cellulosic material. Research done by the Cellulosic Biofuels Network will make possible the creation of biofuels from agricultural waste, which the government says will help Canadian farmers seize new market opportunities in the energy sector. Concordia University, the University of Ottawa, University of British Columbia, University of Saskatchewan, University of Montreal, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and FPInnovations will share nearly $20 million in federal funding for research. “Our government wants to advance agricultural research that will help create economic development opportunities and deliver concrete results for our farmers,” said Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Canada’s minister of National Revenue and minister of State (Agriculture) in announcing the funding.
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JUST THE $4.5 MilliON Latest round of funding for the Petroleum Technology Research Centre, which does research of behalf of Canada’s oil industry and manages the world’s largest carbon dioxide storage project in the Weyburn area
ercentage of respondents to a Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey in March who say there are more benefits than drawbacks to the oilsands
ickname the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, National Institute for Environment Studies, and Japan’s Ministry of the Environment for the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite launched in January. Ibuki, which means “breath” or “puff,” is the first satellite devoted to track global warming. Among other things, the satellite will measure emissions from Alberta’s oilsands.
$25 MilliON amoUnt of grant monEy the Government of British Columbia spent to establish the BC Bioenergy Network
90 Percentage of wood pellets produced in British Columbia for export for thermal power production outside Canada
mount of funding the federal government is giving greenCentre Canada over five years. greeneCentre Canada is a new research facility in kingston, ont., that is meant to revive the Canadian chemical and manufacturing sectors, train personnel, establish new Canadian chemical and manufacturing companies, and build expertise in green chemistry innovation
Sources: BC Bioenergy Network, Government of Canada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources, The Canadian Press
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Of wind power, chickens, and pigs ron montgomery thE oLd fELLow, obviously deep in thought, squinted at the mass of huge whirling blades and, nodding his head, muttered, “You know they just might be right—if too many more of these wind farms go up here, we probably will run out of wind in a few decades.” What a ridiculous thought. Still, it illustrates a simple fact: Wind farms are a hot topic these days. Whether you’re pro, con, or in between depends on where you actually fit into the situation. Kind of like the old chicken and pig story. With a breakfast of eggs and bacon, the chicken is involved. But it is the pig that is totally committed. For a wind project to be successful, one realistically needs both chickens and pigs—although either could be willing or unwilling participants. No one seems to have a valid argument against the fact that harnessing the power of wind to produce electricity makes sense. But in keeping with the chicken and pig theme, where do these massive structures get placed? And whether you’re smack dab in the centre of the project or well away from them, there are very real concerns. In southwestern Alberta, it’s hard to miss the clusters of these large windmills dotting the countryside. But seeing these from a vehicle as an impartial traveller versus someone who has lived in this area for a lifetime on a ranch or farm that is now in close proximity to one or more huge whirlybirds is a completely different situation. Concerns range from aesthetics (completely alters an otherwise beautiful view), to health (this is a worry being expressed more often), to wildlife effects (there appears to be differing views on this subject). For cooperating landowners it seems only right to allow them to enter into an agreement to have a wind farm on their property. Municipalities often have to make some difficult decisions as to where or where not these are placed. There are some rumblings afoot that rather than going on a case-by-case approval process, some areas within a respective municipality will be simply off limits. Again, this will be acceptable to some landowners and not to others. A situation of “it’s my land but now you’re telling me its really not?” but also “so now we have no say in a neighbouring development that we think will create adverse, dire effects for us regardless if this place has been in the family for generations?” An involvement/commitment whether you like it or not? And so on. The unexpected can also occur, which represents the classic chicken and pig combo (in this case, unwilling). A friend was complaining about the pulsating shadows created by a nearby lonely wind turbine at certain times of the day. Jeesh, you gotta be kidding, I think. But a timely visit there indicated that this was indeed a strange occurrence. As the big blades rotated with the sun situated just right, my friend’s otherwise pristine acreage area became a shadowy version of a disco site.
Ron Montgomery is a former area manager with Ducks Unlimited Canada who now writes books, freelances, and does public relations consulting. If you’re interested in contributing a piece for “final word,” please contact Chaz Osburn at email@example.com.
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