A GREENER CANADA

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.

The NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA ENERGY FACT BOOK 2019-2020

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. https://bit.ly/2NJ44E4

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: https://bit.ly/2NHh65d)

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.’ ” https://bit.ly/3dTDgMh

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.” https://bit.ly/2YOiN7g

“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, Open.Alberta.ca, https://bit.ly/3dMdYPZ)

“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, Calgaryherald.com, https://bit.ly/2CZ4Pad) 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: https://bit.ly/2VwPPGU

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, GowlingWLG.com, https://bit.ly/2YJDIbt)

Methane Gas Reduction

Also in 2020 during tough times for the oil patch with a dismal price on oil, and with COVID 19, GowlingWLG.com 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.” https://bit.ly/2ZnKYsv

Photo by Lucy

The IEA.org 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.” https://bit.ly/38fWs5F

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.” https://bit.ly/3eNWfJk

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.” https://bit.ly/3geehVu

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.” https://bit.ly/2Zr1Heq

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.” https://bit.ly/3eP2xZ3

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.” 

https://www.power.technology.com/projects/blackspring-ridge-wind-project-alberta/

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.” https://bit.ly/2VvgB28

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.” https://bit.ly/2BQAjhZ

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.” https://bit.ly/2YOFqIJ

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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generating_stations_in_Alberta

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.” https://bit.ly/2CO3FxU

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’.” https://bit.ly/3dM0JyE

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, AlbertaVenture.com, https://bit.ly/3eMgeYV)

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.https://bit.ly/3idzgJI

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. ”            https://bit.ly/38eZKWv
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.” https://bit.ly/3gdQrZK

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.” https://bit.ly/3gaNFEG

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, https://bit.ly/2YMBHLK)

“ 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.” https://bit.ly/2VzKD4X

BY THE NUMBERS: CANADIAN GHG EMISSIONS

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, https://bit.ly/3dNCFLG and Full Report: https://bit.ly/3dHttbS)

THE FUTURE IS GREEN. 

AND GREEN IS LUCY’S FAVOURITE COLOR!

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