Buildings: Retrofits and Innovations

Canadian Task Force for a Resilient Recovery

“An independent panel of experts making up the Canadian Task Force for a Resilient Recovery have released a preliminary report just last week that includes “5 Bold Moves for a Resilient Recovery” after COVID, the first of which is a proposed $27.3B federal investment in climate-resilient and energy-efficient buildings. The building retrofit package serves as the keystone of a proposed total $49.9B clean economic recovery package. A final report and supporting materials are expected to be released in September.”

“The other 4 recommended “Bold Moves” include:

  • Jumpstart Canada’s adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
  • Go big on growing Canada’s clean energy sectors.
  • Invest in the nature that protects and sustains us.
  • Grow clean competitiveness and jobs across the Canadian economy”

“The Task Force’s overall goal is to make Canada’s economic recovery from COVID ‘resilient and sustainable’, getting Canadians back to work at the same time as supporting the jobs, infrastructure and growth that will keep Canada competitive in the clean economy of the 21st century. The 5-year investments and policy measures go beyond short-term stimulus to put Canada’s economy on a low-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable and competitive pathway over the next 1-5 years, by 2025.”

“To ensure effectiveness, our proposals are optimized for three criteria:

• Economic – yielding timely, lasting economic benefits and jobs

• Environment – supporting the environment, clean competitiveness and climate resilience

• Equitable and Feasible – addressing implementation, and with attention to youth, women, Indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups.”

Six Recommendations for Building Retrofits

The task force made six recommendations related to improving the efficiency of the country’s building stock:


“Expand public-private financing facilities for building retrofits”

“Objective: Create a well functioning building retrofit market that sustains jobs and manages health and affordability concerns.”

“How: By using a $13-billion public investment to leverage $35 billion in private capital through de-risking and co-investment strategies, and enabling regional efficiency finance networks through standardized project origination and underwriting approaches, and aggregation and warehousing of projects to attract large institutional investors.”


“Expand existing provincial and municipal building retrofit programs, enhancing energy efficiency and climate resiliency”

“Objective: Accelerate the retrofitting of existing home and building stocks across Canada, creating jobs, improving energy efficiency and resiliency (including flood proofing), cutting energy costs, reducing energy poverty, increasing Indigenous participation, and advancing zero-carbon heating systems.”

“How: With $10 billion for expanding the scale and scope of existing provincial and municipal energy efficiency and resilience program portfolios.”


“Objective: Create new jobs and ensure there are sufficient skilled workers, particularly among women and Indigenous, to meet demand for energy efficient and climate resilient retrofit and building projects.”

Train a diverse green building workforce

“How: By investing $1.25 billion in workforce development for energy efficiency and climate resiliency, including for enhancing access to training programs and for developing new approaches.”


Demonstrate large-scale standardized retrofits

“Objective: Transform energy retrofit approaches and develop economies of scale for Made-In-Canada innovative retrofit techniques.”

“How: With $2 billion to select a diversity of large-scale demonstration projects through a competitive process, and applying innovative techniques to significantly reduce the cost, time, and customer disruption of deep energy retrofits.”


“Work with provinces to ensure that new buildings meet stringent net-zero and resilience codes, and that a newly developed Resiliguide rating system can enable the financial sector to incent building resilience.”

“Objective: Reduce emissions from Canada’s building sector and improve the resilience of homes and businesses to the effects of climate change.”

“How: By introducing the new national model building code incorporating net-zero and resiliency measures, in the next year, while also providing incentives for provincial uptake; collaborating with provinces and the private sector on adoption of building energy performance and resilience disclosure requirements; and investing $2 million to integrate a ‘ResiliGuide’ rating, to measure the climate resilience of buildings, into the Energuide for Homes certification system.”


“Create an Indigenous Infrastructure Fund to bolster investment in sustainable infrastructure in Indigenous communities across Canada”

“Objective: Drive investment in critical infrastructure, improve access to private capital in Indigenous communities, and enhance Canada’s innovation and industrial base.”

“How: By creating a rotating $1-billion-per-year, non-lapsing infrastructure fund, capitalized by the federal government and administered by an Indigenous-led governance structure.”

Task Force for a Resilient Recovery: Preliminary Report July 2020

Types of Retrofits as Listed by Natural Resources Canada

“When you do an energy-efficiency retrofit on your building, you upgrade its energy-consuming systems. Retrofitting may involve improving or replacing lighting fixtures, ventilation systems or windows and doors, or adding insulation where it makes economic sense. It also means including energy efficiency measures in all your renovation and repair activities.”

“A thorough retrofit gives you a chance to audit your building’s energy performance. The retrofits you undertake can reduce your building’s operational costs – particularly if it is older – as well as help attract tenants and gain a market edge.”

“You can use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to support your retrofit initiatives. Benchmarking can help you to identify opportunities and to track and monitor investments once implemented, whether for minor, major or deep retrofits.”

Minor retrofits

“With minor retrofits, you target ‘low-hanging fruit’ – modifications that are low-cost, easy to implement and that offer good value for the money and effort invested.”

“This could include:

  • Sealing with caulking or spray foam
  • Adding insulation
  • Upgrading lighting systems”

“Although they are relatively simple, these projects can make a big difference to your building’s energy consumption.”

Major retrofits

“With a major retrofit, you take a more holistic approach. Your retrofit could include:

  • Replacing window glazing and doors
  • Updating inefficient heating and cooling systems
  • Installing low-flow faucets with sensors and automatic shut-offs
  • Installing sub-metering”

“This level of retrofit is still minimally disruptive to your building’s occupants.”

Deep retrofits

“With a deep retrofit, you undertake an extensive overhaul of your building’s systems that can save you up to 60 percent in your energy costs.”

“Deep retrofits can be disruptive to your building’s occupants, so it’s best to time them with tenant turnover or other major changes to your occupancy.”

“Measures may include:

  • Significantly reconfiguring the interior
  • Replacing the roof
  • Adding or rearranging windows for increased daylight
  • Replacing the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system with a renewable technology like a ground-source heat pump”

Why invest in energy retrofits?

“By investing in retrofits that make your building more energy efficient, you will lower your energy costs, reduce your maintenance requirements, create a more pleasant interior environment for your occupants, increase the value and productivity of your building, and reduce your environmental footprint.”

Major Energy Retrofit Guidelines: help for your retrofit project

“Looking for some guidance on how to carry out a major energy retrofit project at your facility? Natural Resources Canada’s Major Energy Retrofit Guidelines are designed to help you understand when, why and how to undertake major energy retrofits and are divided into individual modules to help you identify the best opportunities for your building type.”

The Guidelines are currently in development, and modules will be posted here as they become available. Check back for the following modules:

How Do Provinces Measure Up?

British Columbia is leading the way in building efficiencies with the government implementing more stringent building codes. Second is Quebec where you see the government using carbon pricing revenue to support programs. Third is Ontario where the government requires all buildings to report their energy usage, always a good place to start when making changes. Nova Scotia, in 4th place, is offering the best rebates and incentives for citizens such as audits for houses and incentives for upgrades for things like insulation as well as free LED light bulbs. Efficiency Nova Scotia is providing the Bright Building awards to businesses and commercial buildings to proudly display which is a way to attract new building tenants and and impress current ones, while ensuring one’s building operates more smoothly – saving money and time. FYI Alberta ranks 6th. From this list it seems that government leadership it a big help towards energy efficiencies. From our reading there seems to be a lot of awareness and preliminarey work going into planning how to get our older buildings more efficient, but we have a long way to go towards taking sufficient action.

Financial Incentives To Be More Energy Efficient, By Province

Natural Resources Canada has created a long list of what incentives for building efficiencies each province is offering to businesses and citizens. We were happy to come across this web site, as it seems incentives come and go and are hard to keep track of and, as well, we obviously are all in need of encouragement to be efficient beyond seeing our energy and water bills go down. Check out the attached link

Wood High Rises and New Building Codes

CBC What On Earth, February 2020 explains how we can now build taller buildings of wood in Canada.

“Tall towers have defined cities as ‘jungles’ of concrete and glass. But what if we built highrises out of wood instead?”

“Proponents say that could have two benefits:

  • The wood stores carbon for the lifetime of the building, which (temporarily) prevents it from entering the atmosphere.
  • It would reduce emissions linked to steel and cement production. The latter is the second-largest industrial emitter in the world, after the fossil fuel industry, generating seven per cent of global emissions.”

“A five-storey residential building built with wood can store up to 180 kilograms of carbon per square metre — three times more than a high-density forest with the same footprint, according to a new study from U.S. and German researchers.”

“Right now, just 0.5 per cent of new buildings are constructed with timber. But if we pushed that up to 10 per cent, those buildings could store 10 million tonnes of carbon per year. And if 50 per cent of buildings were built with wood, they could store up to 700 million tonnes of carbon a year, the researchers estimate. “

“Not only that, but building with timber would cut emissions from steel and cement manufacturing by half.”

So why haven’t we been doing it?

“One problem is that the most common wood product used in modern construction until now — the two-by-four — doesn’t have the strength or versatility needed for constructing tall buildings, said Anne Koven, director of the Mass Timber Institute, which is based at the University of Toronto.”

“But in the 1990s, researchers in Austria and Germany invented cross-laminated timber (CLT), which uses adhesives to bind smaller pieces of wood into sturdy, fire-resistant panels and beams. ‘It’s an engineered wood product for building on the scale of cement and steel,’ Koven said.”

“Designers, engineers and architects, including Russell Acton of Acton Ostry Architects in Vancouver, saw that and similar new products as an opportunity. ‘It was kind of like, now that we have engineered wood and we have an environmental interest, why not explore mass timber to get it back in use?’ Acton said.”

“There was also another barrier: the maximum height for most wood buildings allowed by building codes in Canada was six storeys. Until now.”

“Acton and his team got a special exemption to build Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia and the tallest wood building in the world when it opened in 2017.”

“Since then, some provinces — most recently Alberta — have changed their building codes to allow high rises of up to 12 storeys. When it’s revised later this year, the federal building code will also allow that height.”
“Across Canada, there are plans to build more wood highrises, from 12-storey condo projects in Victoria and Esquimalt on Vancouver Island to 30-storey wood towers in Toronto proposed by Google as part of its Sidewalk Labs development. Acton’s firm is working on the Arbour, a 10-storey building slated for George Brown College in downtown Toronto (see photo below).”

“Despite the budding interest, Acton warns that builders haven’t yet worked out the “most economical” configurations for towers made of wood. For example, Brock Commons in Vancouver cost about seven per cent more than a similar building of steel and concrete.”

” ‘Everybody’s doing it for the first time,’ Acton said. ‘It’s in its infancy.’ “

— Emily Chung, CBC What on Earth

In-Pipe Power-Generate Electricity when You Turn on the Tap

In CBC What on Earth, March 5, 2020 we read “Halifax is the first city in Canada to exploit in-pipe power. In a 2014 pilot project, it installed a turbine — basically a water pump that runs in reverse — in a single pipe in a Halifax suburb. Since then, the 31-kilowatt turbine has been generating roughly enough electricity annually to power 25 homes and selling that back to the grid for about $30,000 a year.”

“The energy comes from the fact that water is under high pressure when it flows downhill from a water treatment plant. That pressure has to be reduced as it moves through the system, ‘or else it would just be blowing the taps into people’s homes,’ Campbell said.”

“Typically, the system relies on pressure-reducing valves that use friction to release the extra energy as heat. Capturing the energy is a matter of running the water through a turbine instead. The turbine, which is made by U.S.-based Rentricity, has an estimated 40-year lifespan and has required little maintenance so far.”

CBC What On Earth:

Thoughts About Our Own Home Efficiencies

This is what the David Suzuki Foundation emailed on February 12, 2020

“Canada is one of the top per-capita energy consumers in the world. How we use energy matters a great deal. And, by becoming more energy-efficient, you pollute less AND save money.”

“Consider making some or all of these small changes that, together, can really add up:

  • Change to energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Install a heat pump in your home. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from one location and transferring it to another.
  • Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold or warm water (not hot).
  • Hang-dry your clothes when you can and use dryer balls when you can’t.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Look for the Energy Star label when buying new appliances.
  • Winterize your home  to prevent heat from escaping and try to  keep it cool in the summer without an air conditioner.
  • Get a  home energy audit to identify where you can save the most.”

Voluntary Carbon Off-Setting

We found this BBC article by Sarah Reid offers further insight into what the future might hold for more sustainable travel through new carbon-offsetting platforms that let “consumers (travellers) remove carbon emissions instantly and permanently”. 

Climeworks is a “Swiss start-up that pioneered a technology that sucks carbon out of the air and turns it into stone, effectively removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere instantly, safely and permanently.”  The CO2 removal efficiencies are indeed noteworthy, if true, as is the fact that the removal is permanent.

“In terms of efficiency, one tree removes approximately 25kg of CO2 per year, making one Climeworks CO2 collector 2,000 times more efficient per area than a tree,” said Jan Wurzbacher, co-founder and co-director of Climeworks, which in June was named among 100 Technology Pioneers of 2020 by the World Economic Forum.”

Mobilising travellers

In June 2019, Climeworks became the first company in the world to launch a personal carbon removal via DAC (direct air capture) service to the public, with a subscription of €7 per month funding 85kg of carbon per year being turned into stone.”

“Now a new permanent carbon removal platform, aimed at travellers and launched in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), has joined the movement to help offset the whopping 8% of global emissions that the international travel industry is responsible for…Tomorrow’s Air launched its own online carbon-removal service (June, 2020) in partnership with Climeworks.”

To read the full BBC article, including how the Climeworks technology works:

Climeworks home page:

Tomorrow’s Air home page:

Carbon Capture Innovations, and, Rewilding

Trees are vitally important to our success in tackling global warming and climate change.

As the Earth’s ‘lungs and liver,’ trees, and especially forests,  provide a critical healing role by removing carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gas emissions from the air, retaining these, as ‘carbon sinks’ if left undisturbed, while also releasing life-giving oxygen back into the environment.

Photo credit Lucy

Trees also play a role in moderating some of the negative impacts of climate change, by for example, helping to reduce flooding, strengthening resilience where they promote ecosystem biodiversity, and in some cases, acting as fire retardants, when their own native forest biodiversity is sustained and protected.

Changing human behaviour and economic practices to avoid for, reduce and offset, harmful greenhouse gas emissions remain the key, however, to our long-term success for generations ahead.

In past Blogs, we have looked at ways in which we, as individuals, may become more knowledgeable and mindful of our own carbon footprints (see, for example the Carbon Calculators in the Resources section , and, Lucy’s New Year’s Resolution blog post  We have profiled community action (e.g., Eden Mills, Ontario); country, international and NGO actions; and, illustrated business and economic sector actions to lead transformational change toward a viable, healthy carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, future.

Some, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), argue that stepped up action on capturing carbon emissions is needed, even while the main focus should continue to be on avoiding and reducing emissions in the first instance. They say human efforts and innovations are needed to augment the heavy lifting done by trees – the scope and scale of the climate change challenge is just that enormous.

So, today’s post looks at innovation in carbon capture. Admittedly, it remains a controversial topic. Some are concerned that it distracts and detracts from keeping a necessary laser focus on reducing or ideally avoiding, emissions.

First, let’s start with this helpful CBC primer on what is carbon capture, and why some view it as so important for the way forward.

Photo credit Jim

“Carbon capture: What you need to know about catching CO2 to fight climate change”

“If global warming is caused by too much carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by human activities, intercepting those greenhouse gases before they reach the atmosphere — or, better yet, sucking them right out of the sky — sounds like a logical solution.”

“That’s the promise of carbon capture technologies, one of the few climate change solutions that doesn’t just reduce the amount of carbon emitted, but can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere, thereby generating ‘negative emissions.’ “

“It may in fact be essential if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial times — the more stringent of two targets under the Paris accord that aim to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Last year’s special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found carbon dioxide removal was needed in every successful scenario to cancel out emissions from sources for which no mitigation measures have been identified — things like long-distance air travel and cement production.”

Photo credit Lucy

“The International Energy Agency calls carbon capture a ‘critical tool in the climate energy toolbox.’ “

“Here’s what you need to know about the technology.”

What is carbon capture?

“It’s a range of technologies that either: 

  • Stop carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, often by “filtering out” the carbon dioxide en route to the smokestack of a facility such as a power plant or factory. 
  • Remove carbon dioxide that’s already in the air, a process known as ‘direct air capture.’ “

“In both cases, the CO2-containing gases or air are typically absorbed by a solvent or solution, and then separated out again later.”

“So far, most carbon capture projects around the world have been the former, as carbon dioxide concentrations are much higher coming out of a source like a furnace — CO2 makes up just 0.04 per cent of the air — making it cheaper and easier to extract.”

Photo credit Jim

What happens to the carbon after it’s captured?

“It can either be:

  • Permanently stored underground (carbon capture and storage).
  • Converted into a carbon-containing product (carbon capture and utilization).”

“Most of the projects in Canada so far have been carbon capture and storage, where the carbon dioxide is used to push more oil out of aging oil wells and then stored underground in air pockets in the porous rock of depleted wells, with a “cap stone” on top to prevent leakage.”

Where are carbon capture plants located?

“As of 2018, there were 18 large-scale commercial facilities in operation around the world, five under construction and 20 in other stages of development, according to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, a think-tank based in Melbourne, Australia.”

“Four are located in Canada:

  • Boundary Dam, a coal-fired power plant operated by SaskPower that started capturing carbon in 2014.
  • Quest, an oilsands project run by Shell Canada that started capturing carbon in 2015.
  • Weyburn, which captures CO2 from a North Dakota-based coal gasification and power plant, and transports it by pipeline to the Weyburn oilfield in Saskatchewan.
  • Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, which is set to begin operations later this year, and will take emissions from the Redwater Fertilizer factory and the Northwest Redwater (NWR) refinery currently under construction to aging oil reservoirs in central and southern Alberta.”

Readers may want to learn more by reading the full CBC article (September 2019), which includes a discussion of why some view it as crucial technology even though currently it is not making much of a dent in emissions, and the reasons why others remain “sceptical or critical of carbon capture,”:

Promoting Innovations in Carbon Capture and Utilization

Below are links to a CBC article and the website, both of which profile innovations in carbon capture and utilization, supported through incentive funding by two groups – Emissions Reduction Alberta, and, Canada’s Oilsands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) in partnership with the Xprize Foundation.

Why would Emissions Reduction Alberta put up $35 million to promote business innovation in carbon capture?

CBC offers one compelling explanation – “The potential may be big. A McKinsey & Company report last year done on behalf of the Global CO2 Initiative said that carbon products — especially in concrete, plastics, fuel, and carbon fibre — could be a market worth between $800 billion US and $1.1 trillion US by 2030.”  To learn more about innovations by companies such as CarbonCure’s enhanced concrete, read the full article (March 2017) at:

This website offers the goal and rationale for the purse prize for the “$20 million NRG COSIA CarbonX Prize” aimed at developing “…breakthrough techonologies to convert CO2 emissions to usable products.” It also profiles the contest’s 10 international finalists chosen from among 27 semi-finalists, which you may also view in this two-minute finalists’ videoclip (click the link, then scroll down).

The finalists come from Scotland, India, China, the US and Canada and are grouped into two “tracks” – five teams in the Wyoming Track that will “demonstrate conversion of CO2 emissions at a coal-fueled plant in Gillette, WY.,” and five teams in the Alberta Track that will “demonstrate conversion of CO2 emissions at a natural-gas fueled plant in Alberta.”

The four Canadian finalists are:

Carbon Upcycling Technologies (Calgary): “Led by Apoorv Sinha, the team is producing enhanced graphic nanoparticles and graphene derivatives with applications in polymers, concrete, epoxies, batteries and pharmaceuticals;”

Carbicrete (Montreal): “Led by Dr. Mehrdad Mahoutian, the team is producing cement-free, carbon-negative concrete that uses waste from steel production on an alternative to traditional cement;”

CERT (Toronto): “Led by Dr. Alex Ip of the Sargent Group at the University of Toronto, the team is producing building blocks of industrial chemicals;”

CarbonCure (Dartmouth): “Led by Jennifer Wagner, the team is producing stronger, greener concrete.”

Photo credit Jim


Last word for today goes to Nature and, of course, the trees.

There is a recent, growing movement in Europe – rewilding – that takes the idea of tree planting for climate action to another  level.

Here’s what the website says about rewilding:

“Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.”

Rewilding Europe presents its compelling case for rewilding in its 101-page Annual Review 2019 report:

From climate change mitigation to enhanced health and wellbeing, nature has the answers to many of society’s most pressing challenges. On International Biodiversity Day, Rewilding Europe’s latest annual review shows how investing in wild nature can make the world more livable for everyone.”

In this report, Readers may learn about the principles of rewilding, European rewilding facts and figures (including engagement by 16 countries), and the impact of rewilding projects in areas with intriguing names such as, the Rhodope Mountains, Greater Coa Valley, Southern Carpathians, Central Apennines, Swedish Lapland, Velebit Mountains, Danube Delta, and Oder Delta.

There is even information to entice those who want to “Make Your Next Vacation a Wild One” !

Photo credit Lucy

Rewilding Britain

Rewilding is catching hold in the UK, with big plans and a widening mission to be announced later in 2020, according to this news item by – “New network to spearhead rapid rewilding across Britain,” – “A new project spearheading rapid and massively upscaled rewilding will be launched by Rewilding Britain later this year, to tackle the nature and climate emergencies, and help boost green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.” The charity explains that —

With nature faring worse in the UK than in most other countries, and many people wanting Britain to ‘build back better’ from the coronavirus pandemic, the charity’s new Rewilding Network will aim to create a rewilding snowball effect by bringing together hundreds of people from across Britain – including landowners, farmers, land managers, community groups and local authorities – who are rewilding land or considering doing so.

Initially the Network will aim to catalyse and support the rewilding of at least 300,000 acres of land – an area the size of Greater Manchester or North York Moors National Park – plus marine areas within the next three years.

Rewilding Britain says bold action is needed to reverse the collapse in UK wildlife, which has left 56% of species in decline and 15% threatened with extinction, and to tackle climate breakdown. Red squirrels, capercaillie, and pollinating insects such as the great yellow bumblebee are among many species facing a bleak future, while returns or rebounds of species like beavers, sea eagles and pine martens are happening slowly.”

“ ‘We need to hit the reset button for our relationship with the natural world, and rebuild our lives and economies in ways that keep nature and us healthy,’ said Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s Chief Executive.”

‘Our Rewilding Network will help propel rewilding to a whole new level – so we can all begin to enjoy a Britain rich in wildlife again, with healthy living systems soaking up millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, and our lives enriched by wild nature and strong resilient communities, regenerative farms and nature-friendly businesses.’ ” 

Read and learn more at:

Photo credit Jim


We all have a regular stream of news coming across our emails or into our lives in some other format. Here are some of ours that inspire our Blog. You might consider adding one of these regular postings coming across your email too.

One Tree Planted 

July 7, 2020

Stream for Trees with Bob Marley

“Love the music of Bob Marley? And trees? We’ve got just the thing to combine these passions in one musical experience. Stream for Trees is a campaign created in honor of Bob Marley’s 75th birthday anniversary this year. It is intended to support the environment while continuing Bob Marley’s legacy of peace, justice, and sustainability. Just connect your Spotify account and start streaming your favorite Bob Marley songs. Every 10 streams will result in one tree planted with us – at no cost to you!”

July 10, 2020

“This month:  enjoy the images and videos on these topics

-Inspirational Quotes about Trees

-Top 5 Nations with the most Forest Coverage

-Restoring the Peruvian Amazon Through Agroforestry in a Buffer Zone”

One Tree Planted also had podcasts, and seem to send newsletters every few weeks and they are very well done.

CBC News

Alberta Carbon Capture Project Hits Another Milestone Ahead of Schedule and Below Cost

“Shell had anticipated operating costs of about $40 per tonne of stored CO2, but the facility’s efficiency is now about $25 per tonne. If the cost of constructing the facility is included, the cost is about $80 per tonne, compared with initial forecasts of about $120 per tonne.

While some carbon capture projects have faced challenges with costs and reliability, Quest has proven reliable, said officials, with less than one per cent of downtime every year. ‘For the most part, it has been relatively smooth. We’ve definitely seen some small things,” said Kassam. “But we had a really well designed project, so we haven’t necessarily encountered some of the larger challenges, I would say, that some other projects have.'”

Since the project was developed, the ownership structure has changed, with Canadian Natural Resources having a 70 per cent stake, Chevron Canada owning 20 per cent and Shell retaining a 10 per cent share of the facility.

“This is an important made-in-Canada success story,” said Tim McKay, president of Canadian Natural Resources, in a statement. “The achievement reflects the collaborative partnership of industry and government along with the commitment of dedicated teams working together to continuously improve operational and environmental performance.”

Shell will be using lessons from the project as it proceeds with a new carbon capture project in Norway, with Total and Equinor, after the companies made a final investment decision on the proposed Northern Lights facility in May.”

Google News

Will Bank of Canada’s New Boss Emerge as Canada’s Finance Climate Change Champion?

We will return to the topic of Canada’s COVID recovery plan in a future blog as we, along with many others in various sectors of society, including environmental groups, citizens and business leaders, view this as a critical and unique moment for AND-AND decisions (vs either-or choices) to put Canada’s economic future back on track, in a way that secures a healthy, livable, and sustainable future habitat for us all.

This Toronto Star article gives us insight into the background of one key business influencer – Bank of Canada’s new governor, Tiff Macklem – and hope that he will bring big picture integrative thinking to the tough and critical decisions ahead.

“…But climate action isn’t new to the incoming BoC governor. While serving in his previous job as dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Macklem was head of Canada’s Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance, which delivered a detailed report last year to the minister of environment and climate change and the minister of finance.

“The panel came up with 15 policy recommendations, some of them directly addressed to the BoC. Recommendation 8, for example, is to embed climate-related risk into monitoring, regulation and supervision of Canada’s financial system. It endorses the BoC’s decision to build climate-related risks into its Financial System Review process and develop a multi-year research plan focused on climate-related risks to the macroeconomy and the financial system.”

“…Governor Macklem put this recommendation in his own words in an address in Toronto last year: ‘Put simply, climate-conscious risk management and investment need to be part of the everyday savings and investment decisions made by individuals and businesses across Canada.’ ”

CBC: What On Earth

We receive this newsletter regularly to our email.

On July 9 the topics were:

-taking solar panels to the next level

-follow the sun-how dual axis solar panels work

-how grizzly bears have learned to live with humans

“What on Earth, a new CBC Radio 1 series about climate change, is now also hitting the airwaves. The 9-week series, hosted by Laura Lynch, launched July 5 across Canada. Listen to What on Earth every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. in Newfoundland. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen anytime on CBC Listen.

BBC Documentary

Judy Dench’s My Passion for Trees. This documentary follows Judi Dench as she explores the lives of trees, discovering how they feel, how they communicate and how they fight off invading armies and extreme weather.

David Suzuki Foundation

One feature we like especially about this foundation’s approach and website is how the foundation creates and sends letters urging governments to take action on climate change, and offer the ready option to sign your name if you wish to support the message. They are more radical and activist than most other organizations we follow. You may donate to them as a charity, and currently money is focused on greener energy for Canada.

May 28, 2020 Email Newsletter from David Suzuki Foundation Topic:

“Government committed to modernizing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, but a leaked memo reveals the oil industry is using COVID-19 as a pretext for pressuring Ottawa to postpone amendments.”

The ButterflyWay Project

The Suzuki Foundation and its website offer valuable educational, research and community-based partnership initiatives too, including for example the Butterflyway Project, a “citizen-led movement growing  highways of habitat for bees and butterflies across Canada.”

This link will take you to maps, videoclips, and inspiring local stories from across Canada of how hundreds of volunteer Butterflyway Rangers and Butterflyway Schools are making a difference for a greener, pollinator-friendly world, one local neigbourhood habitat at a time

Edmonton Journal Newspaper

JULY 7, 2020

Free Virtual Summer Garden Concerts

The “Edwards Summer Music Series Goes VIRTUAL in 2020.”

“Starting Thursday, July 16 at 7 p.m. a new concert in the garden will be released each week.”

“The Edwards Summer Music Series is back… but will be going ONLINE this year with eight FREE intimate concerts in the garden showcasing contemporary Canadian talent, all filmed within the beauty of the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Tonight’s (July 16th’s) kick-off concert will feature OKAN, self-described in their bio as “a women-led contemporary Afro-Cuban roots and jazz” group

Canada Rain Forest + Salmon

Photo by Lucy

In our June 25th Blog post on Tree Groups and Tree Careers (, we learned that the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation was listed by in its the “Directory of NGOs working in the Forest Sector in Canada.”

This piqued our curiosity, and we wondered about the tree and salmon connection.

The Canadian Youth Biodiversity Network’s blog post about British Columbia’s Temperate Rainforests satisfied this curiosity, and replaced it with another “…Salmons are anadromous: they are born in freshwater and live up to a year sheltered in the nutrient-rich streams of the rainforest; they then move out to the ocean where they mature and bring rich nutrients from the ocean back to their birth stream where they will spawn.”

Now we wanted to learn more about Canadian rainforests which are home to many living Canadian treasures, even iconic species, and including trees that are 1000+ years old. Wow.

The Temperate Rain Forest of British Columbia

It turns out that British Columbia’s temperate rain forests are important and at the global level, rare, making up one quarter of the world’s total, and according to Sierra Club BC, have “…the largest carbon storage capacity per hectare on earth. Halting logging of endangered old-growth forest will help reduce BC’s carbon footprint and allow salmon, bears, wolves and many other species a fighting chance to adapt to a warming world.” (There’s that tree-salmon connection again.)

Sierra Club BC “works to support people stewarding abundant ecosystems and a stable climate, while building resilient, equitable communities.”

This non-profit’s mission statement is succinct with a sweeping embrace that resonates with us at Friends4Trees4Life –  “A healthy, life-sustaining planet, where humans respect the dignity and interdependence of all living beings.” ( and,

Photo by Lucy

Great Bear Rain Forest

Imagine living for more than 1000 years. Isn’t there something awe-inspiring and reverant about such an achievement?

Thankfully, some people in BC felt compelled to act to protect this ancient life. They also had the necessary stamina, focus, creativity, respect and resilience that was needed to succeed as they worked toward their goal for more than a decade.

This backgrounder explains the history and important trailblazing success achieved, after fifteen years of continued efforts, negotations and collaboration among the B.C. and First Nations governments along with environmental organizations and several forestry companies , in order to protect the Great Bear Rain Forest for future generations.

“Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) in the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most comprehensive conservation and forest management achievements of this scale on Earth. The goals of Ecosystem-Based Management are twofold: low ecological risk (maintain 70 per cent of the natural levels of old-growth across all rainforest types) and high levels of human wellbeing. The measures set a new global model for forest conservation that strengthens indigenous rights, increases wildlife and ecological resilience, and keeps carbon stored in old-growth forests as a result of avoided logging. The conservation model sustains (and in some cases aims to restore) the long-term health for all types of forest ecosystems in the region. The science-based goal agreed to by all parties, to maintain 70 per cent of natural levels of old-growth ecosystems across all forest types, will be achieved for most ecosystems and exceeded in many. The plan puts an area the size of Nova Scotia under a new legal, scientifi c and principled standard for maintaining forest and wildlife health, and the health of the communities that depend on them, into the future.”

“Eighty-five per cent (3.1 million hectares) of the remote wilderness region’s coastal temperate rainforests will be permanently off-limits to industrial logging. The remaining 15 per cent (550,000 hectares) of the forest will be subject to the most stringent legal standards for commercial logging operations in North America.”

However, the success in protecting the Great Bear rainforest does not mean the work is done. This Sierra Club BC link outlines the remaining challenges and what’s at stake for climate change and biodiversity if BC’s remaining  old growth temperate rain forests continue to be felled at the rapid and unsustainable rates that they are currently being logged

Tree Friends and the Wood-Wide Web

Catherine’s imagination and regard have always been captured by the fact of longevity in living beings.

Her travel bucket list has long included seeing an actual living ancient British hedgerow that is at least 1000 years old. (For a Financial Times article on British hedgerows,

Now, through our Blog research, she knows about old-growth forests closer to home here in Canada and she has added visiting BC’s temperate rain forests in person one day to her bucket list too.

Well, if 1000 years of life isn’t a big enough number to contemplate, we are also learning that some old-growth forests have living trees that are 4000 years old. That’s truly incredible and mind-boggling!

Thanks to Toronto Reader Jim for putting The Hidden Life of Trees on our radar awhile ago.  Today seems like the perfect time to profile this book in our Blog, as we are growing increasingly entranced by the wonder, beauty and now mysteries of trees and tree life that we are learning about.

Author Peter Wohlleben explains in the three interview video clips below how he became motivated to overcome his disinterest in writing (he prefers talking with people about his beloved forests) in order to write The Hidden Life of Trees.

He feels there are some amazing scientific discoveries about trees in recent years worth knowing about and made more accessible and inviting to read for more people than the approach of dry scientific papers on offer to-date. He shares his knowledge with others in his forest walking tours, and now through his book, published in 2016, seeks to reach a wider audience, sharing his forest and the scientific discoveries embodied within it.

Science-based evidence is now available to help us understand how it is that trees work and communicate with each other to create an ecosystem (or tree “family” or “community”) that is protected and can live to be very old. “Mother trees” literally feed, care for and support their children and other aging or struggling trees, in part via vast inter-connected root systems and fungi networks hidden underground (the other WWW, the wood-wide web).

GoodReads offers this clear, succinct and enticing review,

“In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.”

“Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.”

Here’s what the Smithsonian magazine’s science-oriented book review has to say about the author, and the science underpinning this book, It introduces Readers to some of the scientists who are continuing the work of studying how trees communicate, including UBC’s Suzanne Simard, professor of forest ecology.  It also provides an introduction to Simard’s and others’ studies into how “mycorrhizal networks” work – the underground fungal networks that work in concert with underground tree root systems to facilitate tree communication, exacting a ‘fee’ of 30% of a tree’s sugar production for their transmission “service”.

For a balanced perspective, the article also presents some scientists’ critique of Peter Wohlleben’s use of anthropomorphic and emotional language in his writings on trees. The video clip interviews offer the author’s response to such critiques, explaining why he intentionally uses an engaging and more “human” storytelling method for sharing the science-based evidence on trees with others.

This short, two-minute video clip of a Goethe Institut interview will introduce Readers to Peter Wohlleben, whom we found to be delightfully charming, engaging and credible.

If you want more of the Scandanavian accents, here is a second longer interview clip on SVT/NKR/Skavlan (9 minutes),

Finally, Toronto’s own Steve Paiken also interviewed Peter Wohlleben on TVOntario’s The Agenda, in this enjoyable 17- minute videoclip.

Added Tree Pleasures

We now have an added pleasure and challenge for our walks in nature and around the neighbourhood, thanks to Peter’s The Hidden Life of Trees – can we spot trees that are respectful ‘friendly’ trees? (Hint, the forests he manages near the remote village of Hummel , Germany, are populated with beech trees, and the old-growth forests in the Pacific rain forests of western North America where Suzanne Simard conducts her research into tree inter-connectedness include 1000-year old Douglas fir trees).  Happy tree gazing and friendly-tree hunting!


After the Liberals were elected on an environmental platform with a Tax on Carbon, we looked forward to hearing budgetary details, but since they have not arrived, we went online to see what the Government and private industry is doing to green up Canada.

One has to marvel at the research and planning, construction and overall effort being put forth to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint.  It may all be a bit too slow, as we have waited until the last 10 years to make it seriously happen, but it is on its way. It is not being telecast on the national news, but project by project Canada is developing cleaner energy. As Alberta industry creates most of the CO2 emissions, in this Blog post we will focus on what Alberta is/can be doing to reduce emissions.


This is a 130-page colourful, glossy, easy to read booklet we came across online that could not make you more proud to be Canadian. It emphasizes how we are energy rich with forests, oil, uranium, and water. Check it out! It will cheer up your day.

Lucy has opened it and read it about 10 times. Some of its good news is that “green house gas emissions per barrel of oil produced in the oil sands have fallen 28% since 2000 as a result of technological and efficiency improvements, fewer venting emissions and reductions in the percentage of crude bitumen being upgraded to synthetic crude oil.” Also, “(e)lectricity from wind energy is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the world and in Canada. Wind accounts for 4% of electricity generation in Canada, (6-7% in Alberta).”

Another great piece of news is how we are becoming much more efficient in our practices, “Between 2000-2017 Canada’s GHG emissions decreased by 2% while GDP increased by 40%. So GHG emissions decreased 30% per dollar of GDP and 20% per capita.”  It is heartening to see the research evidence on how we Canadians are doing things smarter and much more efficiently.

Note photos in this blog are from the Handbook. Tree photos by Lucy+ Jim

Carbon Levy

The Liberals were elected in the fall of 2019 on a platform supporting a Carbon Tax (federal carbon levy, or GHPPA). Not everyone likes this carbon tax, and some provinces were fighting it in court, but it has been put in place as a means of incentivizing all of us to use less energy and to raise money to re-direct toward further clean energy development. This is clearly one action that the federal government has planned and implemented.  

“This Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GHGPPA)  for  Individuals and Smaller-emitting Companies charges  $30 per tonne of CO2 in 2020, and $40 in 2021 and $50 a tonne CO2 in 2022. This works out to an increase in cost of 4-6 cents per litre of gasoline, and $1.05 per giga-joule for natural gas. Rebates will go to most families making less than $90,000. The rebate amounts are fixed, so you get the same amount regardless of how much carbon tax you pay, which is an incentive to consume less fossil fuel, since the less you burn, the less you pay. This Carbon pricing in Canada is forecast by Environment Canada to remove 50-60 MT of emissions from the air annually by 2022, which represents about 12% of all Canadian emissions. However, Canada needs to reduce emissions to 512 MT by 2030 to meet its Paris Climate Change accord. This would mean reducing annual emissions by about 200MT from the 2018 levels.” (Info source: Wikipedia at:

CBC News notes that, “(i)n his Maclean’s 2015 article, economist Trevor Tombe wrote that ‘pricing carbon is one of the most sensible policy prescriptions to address greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon tax provides a new source of revenue for the government and is a a more efficient means of lowering greenhouse gas emissions than regulatory approaches.’ ”

Photo by Lucy

Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation (TIER)

CBC news informs us about “TIER” and its contributions to reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions. “The Federal Government has accepted Alberta’s TIER plan for regulating Carbon Tax for Large Industrial Emitters like oilsands operations, natural gas producers, chemical manufacturers and fertilizer plants, at $30 per tonne of CO2, in 2020.  All told, the province estimates these types of heavy-emitting facilities account for 55 to 60 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

“TIER encourages regulated facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The regulation applies to facilities which emit more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. It sets out high-performance benchmarks or enables the director to set facility-specific product benchmarks. To meet the emissions reduction requirement, facilities can either reduce their emissions or use emission performance credits, or emission offsets or pay into the regulated fund.” (Info source,,

“Out With The COAL In With The New”

“The Canadian Government has mandated the phasing out of coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, and fortunately it is actually looking to be ahead of schedule. In Alberta coal has gone from 47.4% to 43% of our electric use already from 2016-2018. Most of it is being retrofitted to natural gas production, unfortunately, which has increased from 40.3% to 49% in the same two years. This is still a positive step as coal-fired power plants emit roughly twice as much carbon as gas-fired plants.” (Info source,, Kudos to Ontario, which has already phased out the use of coal for energy.

The PEMBINA Institute’s report on, “Out with the coal, in with the new: National benefits of an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power,” finds that, “Since Atco and TransAlta are moving up their transitioning away from coal to 2020 and 2022 respectively, rather than 2030, there will only be the Capital Power plant in Edmonton to convert. This means that the coal phase out conversion in Alberta will be much ahead of schedule. The TIER levy is working! The obsolete coal workers are being offered either early retirement, or funds for retraining or relocation to help in the transition.”

“Should all of Canada’s coal-dependant provinces replace their coal generation with two-thirds renewable energy and one-third natural gas (as proposed in Alberta), carbon pollution from Canada’s electricity sector would decrease from 85 Mt in 2014 to 34 Mt in 2030 — a decline of 51 Mt in just over 15 years.” Access the full report here:

Orphan Wells Clean Up

“In these challenging times of 2020 with COVID 19 there is Federal aid to Alberta of $1 billion dollars to employ 5200 people to clean up orphan wells and kick-start the reclamation of up to 1000 abandoned wells and commence over 1000 environmental assessments.” (Info source,,

Methane Gas Reduction

Also in 2020 during tough times for the oil patch with a dismal price on oil, and with COVID 19, further notes that the “federal government  is contributing a $750 million methane emissions reduction fund,  in order to  provide employment in Alberta and fulfill it’s commitments to the Paris Agreement to cut pollution.”

Photo by Lucy

The provides more details on Canada’s METHANE commitment:

“In 2018, Canada finalized regulations to reduce methane emissions from upstream oil and natural gas facilities, including extraction, primary processing, long-distance transport, and storage. Provisions to track and repair “fugitive” methane leaks and to limit emissions from compressors and fracked gas well completions went into effect in January; facility-wide venting limits and pneumatic equipment standards enter into force three years from now. Canada intends for the new rule, alongside provincial regulations, to fulfil the country’s commitment to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by 40% to 45% below 2012 levels by 2025. That pledge supports Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which sets an economy wide GHG target that specifically included methane.”

Carbon Capture and Storage-Is it Affordable?

The Alberta government website outlines the province’s approach and investments in carbon capture and storage — “For large stationary sources of CO2, like an oil refinery, use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) can help prevent these emissions from entering the atmosphere. Captured CO2 is injected into carefully selected sites deep underground for safe, long-term storage. Alberta has committed $1.24 billion through 2025 to two commercial-scale carbon capture and storage projects. Both projects will help reduce the CO2 emissions from the oil sands and fertilizer sectors and reduce GHG emissions by 2.76 million tonnes each year. This is equivalent to the yearly emissions of 600,000 vehicles.”

We note, however, that the Pembina Institute believes this will ultimately be too expensive to be done, while also un-necessary. In the Institute’s view, “The use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to produce so-called ‘clean coal’ can sound compelling, but a close look at the numbers  reveals that renewables are more than twice as cheap as this early stage technology. And despite significant government investment, the CCS plants in operation today are a tiny fraction of the targets set out in previous years. There is no reason to pay so much more to try to keep coal plants running when affordable proven technology in the form of wind and solar are so widely available today.”

Alberta Green Loan Guarantee

Through the Calgary Herald we learn that, “Alberta has the Green Loan Guarantee program, which supports financial institutions offering financing for clean technology and renewable energy, and the Efficiency Professionals Network, which offers networking, events and resources for individuals working in the sector.”

Renewable Energy

The Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat reports that “(t)he PanCanadian Framework states Alberta will achieve 30% renewable energy by 2030. Right now we are at about 10% but many new projects are underway.”

Wind Energy

“Over the last few years, when the economy was booming and with a deregulation of the electricity market there has been the construction of dozens of new facilities.  Alberta’s biggest source of renewable is definitely WIND which remains at 6-7% but there appear to be a number of projects under construction. Net Metering policies are in place in Alberta to allow for the use of energy at a different time than when it is generated. Enbridge’s Black Spring Ridge Wind Farm near Vulcan Alberta generates 300MW of power with expansion to 1000Mw.”

From Lethbridge News we learn that, “A number of new WIND projects are underway as electricity has been deregulated in Alberta and renewable energy gets continually cheaper over time and companies figure out the best size of project. Help from organizations like the Business Renewables Centre (BBA) is available to coordinate the meeting of business people interested to walk one through the procurement process. There is also federal leadership for the wind and solar procurement process for Alberta. The provincial government does not want to be involved developing projects that cannot start on their own. Dr. James Byrne, a Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, says southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan have, by far, the most sun and wind in Canada on average. This, he believes, presents a great opportunity for Canada to become a world-leading corridor for renewable energy. Renewables are becoming competitive so they no longer need subsidies to be viable and compete. The professor hopes the Government of Alberta will start to support alternative forms of power in a similar way that it supports fossil fuels.”

According to Wikipedia, “Alberta can generate 1665Mw power, Quebec 1649Mw power and Ontario 3756 Mw power from Wind farms, with most provinces having some wind energy.”

CTV News reports, “In Alberta Suncor is is one of 5 companies spending billions of dollars and developing wind farms to be opening in 2021 and this will increase the wind generation in the province by nearly 1000Mw. Suncor’s first phase of Forty Mile Wind farm will generate 200Mw energy. Most wind farms in Alberta are 25% owned by First Nations.”

This is all very encouraging we think.

Trans Alta

In a chart of Electric Generating Stations in Alberta on Wikipedia, we noticed many of them owned by Trans Alta. This company has already met the goal of making renewable energy 30% of their business.

From the company’s website,”Trans Alta is Canada’s Largest Producer Of Wind Energy. Its renewable energy commitment began more than one hundred years ago when the company built the first hydro assets in Alberta, Canada. They still operate those hydro plants today. In 2002, they acquired their first wind farm and have grown wind electricity generation to power the equivalent of over 800,000 homes across North America in 2017. In 2015, they acquired their first solar farm, adding to their diversified mix of renewable energy.”

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Energy

The Calgary Herald reports that, “Solar power makes up less than 1% of Alberta’s energy needs, and is being developed more in southern Ontario. But solar is getting some activity, as we are a sunny province and the price of solar went down over the past decade by 90% making it competitive with natural gas.  Approval of a new mega-project is changing things in Alberta. With infusion of $500 million from a company in Denmark, Greengate Power is building one of the world’s largest operating solar energy projects located on 1,900 hectares of grazing land near the village of Lomond in Vulcan County, Alberta. It’s projected to generate 400 MW of electricity and when complete, company CEO Dan Balaban said, ‘the facility will have 1.5 million solar panels and will provide enough electricity to power 100,000 homes. Construction is expected to take place over two years and create ‘several hundred’ jobs, with about a dozen permanent jobs after the solar farm becomes operational in 2021. The power that will be generated by the project will be injected into the Alberta grid’, he said. ‘The power goes to wherever it’s needed in the province at the time’.”

Some jurisdictions in Alberta still offer rebates for solar panel installations such as Canmore, Banff and Medicine Hat.

Here is another example of Alberta’s solar farms: A 2 MW solar farm in Bassano Alberta, which is now the largest PV system in Western Canada, offsets 100% of the energy consumed by an entire community and a plastic recycling plant near Bassano. This utility scale solar PV farm is not only the first of its kind in Alberta but it is also a significant milestone for the solar industry in Western Canada. This is one of 1800 systems installed by SkyFireEnergy in western Canada.

Photo by Lucy

BioEnergy: Biomass, BioGas, Waste Heat Recovery

Many companies are making Energy out of waste, like a large pond of effluent from a pulp and paper mill offering their water to oil and gas companies to use so they do not need to use fresh water, or the waste from a mill being used to power the mill, or biogas being created from organic waste (decayed vegetables or manure) using an anaerobic digester to power the facility, or the creation of wood pellets. There is a large range of types and sizes of projects and so much innovation going into BioEnergy. (Info source,,

In an article about Biomass Innovation these are key summary points:

“Biomass is the only source of renewable carbon and, unlike renewables such as solar and wind, can be used to produce transportation fuels, products, and materials.”

“Biomass and biological systems are critical to reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Biomass addresses Canada’s primary GHG challenges: Transportation, Climate, and a Resource Economy.”

“Biomass products can be utilized in much of Canada’s existing energy and heavy industry infrastructure.”

“Projects that utilize biomass create long-term, operating jobs that cannot be easily offshored.”

“Bioenergy complements production of high-value, job-creating bioproducts.”

“Biomass can be the basis for innovation in the CleanTech, BioTech, and AgTech/ForestTech sector.”

Canada has a competitive advantage in biomass supply compared to other nations.

The Alberta government website notes, “The Bioenergy Producer Program (BPP) in Alberta has been extended, with a revised scope, and runs from October 1, 2017 to March 31, 2020. The program is intended to support bioenergy production capacity in order to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuel alternatives
  • create value-added opportunities with economic benefits. ”  
photo by Jim

In a chart on the Natural Resources Canada Energy Fact book we noticed solid biomass i.e., wood/waste, is the second largest renewable energy source  at 23% on a National level. But in Alberta, Biomass is listed at under 1%. It seems most of the solid biomass energy is from logging and pulp and paper mills in other provinces, especially BC and Ontario. This is clearly an underdeveloped resource in Alberta. Some would argue that it is not always a clean form of energy.

An Alberta government report notes,”Stakeholders involved say a report has shown that the potential of wood-biomass as an alternative, high-grade, heating, energy source in rural Alberta is significant. The economic and environmental impact of heat generation from renewable wood resources deserves to be fully integrated into the Alberta energy equation. The Alberta Government, with the participation of all wood-industry stakeholders, should take the lead in the introduction of holistic, and inclusive policies and strategies to support the development and implementation of efficient and cost-effective wood-based, bio-energy projects in the Province.”

The Pembina Institute, which advocate’s for clean energy transition in Canada, suggests Alberta can grow this industry from less than 1% to 6%.

Retrofitting Buildings

Report from Greenpeace, Alberta Green Economy Network and Gridworks Energy Group: Alberta could produce over hundreds of thousands of  jobs by going green. by Gordon Kent.  April 23, 2016 , in the Edmonton Journal.

“The report estimates 68,400 positions could be available from energy efficiency upgrades on more than 183,000 older homes and other buildings, requiring spending of $1 billion over five years.”

Right now in Alberta there are rebates in place for the installation of solar panels on you home in places like Banff, Canmore and Medicine Hat. Edmonton had such incentives in previous years, but no longer. In general incentives or grants to upgrade homes with improved insulation, efficient water heaters or windows or other energy cost savings  are no longer available in Alberta, but were in place a few years back. Lucy recalls such incentives offered on previous homes, and in other provinces, so when they do come around, take advantage of them.

Research what is available where you live. Overall we can look to Nova Scotia for a model of how to make all public buildings like hospitals and schools more efficient. This is another way to emit less CO2 and re-employ citizens. It is surprising how much energy is being lost from our buildings. In a past Blog post we profiled the community of Eden Mills, well on its way toward the goal of becoming Canada’s first carbon-zero community. Replacing old windows to minimize energy loss was one of the main components of the Eden Mills strategy, together with solar panels and tree planting.

Fossil Fuels

The elephant in the room is Alberta’s FOSSIL FUEL industry which accounts for 38% of Canada’s CO2 emissions. Half of the energy produced is in the form of crude oil and another third is in natural gas.  Alberta alone accounts for two-thirds of Canadian energy production. The extraction of oil and gas in Alberta — not consuming it, but just getting it out of the ground — accounts for nearly half the province’s emissions and 18% of all emissions in the country. The USA receives 96% of our oil and gas exports. The consumption of fossil fuels in electricity generation and transportation together accounts for a further 29% of Alberta’s emissions.” (Info source, Parkland Institute,

“ In spite of these staggering numbers on emissions, the five largest oil and gas companies in Alberta plan to increase production until 2022 and then start decreasing. They expect they will still be needed globally in 2040 at about 70 percent of current capacity (decrease 30% over 18 years or about 1.5% a year) and plan to continue creating efficiencies such as automation, modularization and technology. Already many worker have been laid off but there continues to be rapid growth in the industry.  So the oil sands does not appear to be on line  to meet climate change requirements as the expectation is that there should be a 30% reduction over 12 years starting 2018. Maybe the TIER carbon tax will help encourage change, or is it not effective enough for the largest companies? Rather than mandating reductions, the government is approaching this indirectly through a goal of 30% renewable, carbon tax on the gas and oil, and promotion of efficiencies.”


Paul Boothe and Félix-A. Boudreault
Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management Ivey Business School at Western University

According to the Article ‘By The Numbers: Canadian GHG Emissions’ by Paul Boothe and Feli-A. Boudreault of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management Ivey Business School at Western University, the sobering reality is that “Even if all provincial targets were fully achieved, Canada would still need to reduce GHG emissions by an additional 45 Mt in 2020 and 55 Mt in 2030 to meet its international commitments.”

Photo by Jim

The Last Word Goes to the Pembina Institute

While researching this blog we came across articles from the Pembina Institute quite frequently. This is a “non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. ” Here is the Pembina Institute’s Menu of Ways to Green Alberta’s Grid by 2028:

“We can transform Alberta’s electricity supply from a system based on coal and natural gas to one based entirely on a diverse menu of cleaner options. Here are 11 options: 

Efficiency: Decreasing the energy used for each unit of output is the single smartest, cheapest and cleanest way to meet future electricity demand. Savings of 18%

Wind Alberta has one of Canada’s best wind resources, but it has only begun to tap its potential. Alberta currently generates about 7% and could be 23% of its annual electricity supply from the wind. Denmark has generated close to 20% since 2004.

Hydro The Canadian Hydro Association estimates that there is more untapped hydro potential in Alberta and we could increase it as a source of energy from 3% to 5%

Biomass Energy from agriculture and forest waste could become a sustainable source of fuel for generating electricity in Alberta’s rural areas. Increase from 1% to 6%

Geothermal: Natural heat deep under the earth’s surface could provide a sustainable source of electricity in Alberta and play into an existing Alberta strength: drilling. 2%

Cogeneration: Electricity generation using fossil fuels produces the byproduct of heat. Capturing that heat can more than double the useful energy obtained from each unit of fuel. This cogeneration of electricity and heat from a single fuel (e.g. natural gas) could play an important transitional role in supplying Alberta’s industry with heat and power and neighbourhoods with district energy. 7%

Recovered Industrial Energy: Every year the energy equivalent of millions of barrels of oil is wasted as heat that escapes  Industrial up smokestacks in Alberta industrial facilities. In many cases, this heat is of sufficient temperature to generate electricity. 2%

Micro-power A diversity of small-scale technologies , such as solar, wind and cogeneration, could allow Alberta’s farms, homes and businesses to become energy independent while reducing their environmental footprint. 1%

Virtual Power Plants  Remote communicationtechnology could allow the strategic control of large numbers  of small machines or appliances. Temporarily slowing or deferring such resources could displace the need for up to 10% of electricity at peak times. 4%

Power Storage: Technologies that allow electricity to be stored (including pumped water, compressed air and batteries) will facilitate the integration of large amounts of wind power and other variable electricity sources to meet demand.

Carbon Capture and Storage: Carbon capture and storage technologies, although the costs are still unknown, are likely to play some role in cleaning up the province’s existing coal plants.” (Fact Sheet, and Full Report: