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How Saskatchewan is Driving Small Wind Producers Out of the Market

It would have been the first 100 per cent community-owned renewable power project in North America.

Located just south of Swift Current, Sask., the $90-million project would have generated 35 megawatts (MW) of electricity from wind turbines and solar panels with electricity sold to the provincial utility, SaskPower.

But SaskPower had other plans for the region — specifically, a $700-million natural gas power station.

On Dec. 2, it was announced that the gas power station — which will emit one million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, equivalent to putting 211,000 cars on the road for a year — wouldn’t require a federal environmental assessment.

Two days later, SaskWind, the provincial wind energy association and key promoter of the proposed Swift Current wind and solar project, shut down after four years of operation.

Off the Wall: Saskatchewan Premier’s Bizarre, Contradictory Climate Plan

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has repeatedly argued that putting a price on carbon would be bad for the economy — but experts say Wall’s own climate change strategy will end up costing the province more per tonne than the federal government’s plan, while failing to be nearly as fair or effective as a carbon tax.   

Much of Saskatchewan’s climate strategy centres around the SaskPower Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, which cost $1.5 billion to build (funded mostly by SaskPower ratepayers and a $240 million investment from the federal government).

Tweet: When we think about reducing emissions cost-effectively, BoundaryDam stands out as how not to do it http://bit.ly/2eIGOEj #skpoli #cdnpoliWhen we think about how we can reduce emissions most cost-effectively, [Boundary Dam] probably stands out as an example of how not to do it,” says Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada.

Fact Check: Outlook for Coal Not Quite What it Used to Be

Coal pollution in China

This is a guest post by Benjamin Thibault and Andrew Read of the Pembina Institute

Coal Association of Canada (CAC) president, Robin Campbell is currently touring Alberta with a series of “ACT information meetings.” He is making a number of assertions about the province’s coal industry and Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan. We feel that some of the points being raised by Campbell need to be addressed. This is the second blog post to address those claims and to reiterate the importance of Alberta’s pledge to phase out coal power pollution.
 
As our first fact check showed, the CAC has been disseminating some misinformation on coal’s contribution to air pollution in Alberta. Another bucket of inaccuracies centres around the long-term future of coal — both locally and internationally — and the potential for coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) in particular.

Low Expectations for Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s High Emissions

 
The summer of 2010 was a bad year for Saskatchewan. Record floods, winds, and hailstorms led to 175 communities declaring states of emergency, and costing the province over $100 million. “The Summer of Storms” also made it the worst year ever for insurers, with $100 million in crop insurance payouts.
 
Premier Brad Wall, a man once described by Maclean’s as “standing athwart history yelling ‘I’m not sure about this!’ ” responded to the string of natural disasters with a telling quote: “The one thing the province cannot control is the weather,” he said.
 
Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, the type of extreme weather that cost it so dearly in 2010 is symptomatic of what models predict for the province under a changing climate.
 
Sure enough, extreme weather was yet again making headlines and shutting down entire cities in 2014.
 
On carbon emissions, the province is Canada writ small: both are small emitters in their larger contexts, yet large emitters per capita. Saskatchewan is the biggest carbon source per capita in the country, with three quarters of the province’s energy coming from coal and natural gas, although it plans to reduce that to 50 per cent by 2030.
 
Wall’s philosophy on climate change appears to be to downplay the significance of actual emissions while encouraging innovation in Canada that can be exported to larger emitters — tackling carbon on a larger scale than what can be done in the Canada’s relatively small arena.

Did the Alberta NDP Overpromise in Pledge to Spend Money on Public Transit Instead of Carbon Capture?

A single mention in 25 pages — that’s how frequently “public transit” was referenced in the Alberta NDP’s recent election platform.

But the brief mention was couched in a massively ambitious plan to redirect huge subsidies from sketchy carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to the province’s neglected public transportation system. But that plan might be more complex than the party realized due to contracts with companies nearly ready to put major CCS facilities online.

On an online forum, the NDP made this campaign pledge: “We will end the Progressive Conservative’s costly and ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage experiment and reinvest the 2015/16 component of this project into construction of public transit, which will help reduce families’ transportation costs and reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.”

Transportation is hugely significant contributor to climate change. The sector expected to account for 24 per cent of Canada’s emissions by 2020 according to the most recent Environment Canada projections (second only to the oil and gas sector at 27 per cent). So the availability of public transportation, which means less individual vehicles on the road, can help municipalities deal with growing emissions.

Unfortunately, there are few details as to what the NDP’s plan actually entails.

Alberta’s New Head of Climate Change Plan, Diana McQueen, Blows Smoke While Province Fails to Act

We will continue to have a strong economy while meeting the 2020 [climate] targets … and we will meet those.”

It was a bewildering statement, like something out of a poorly scripted political drama. The idea that within the next five years, Alberta  the province responsible for over 35 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012  would meet its emissions targets would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.

But that’s what was said.

And by Diana McQueen, a former minister of environment, no less. By the very person who’s now leading the revision of the province’s oft-delayed climate change framework.

Back in 2008, the Alberta government, then headed by Progressive Conservative leader Ed Stelmach, brought forward a fairly weighty climate change strategy. Goals were set, policies outlined.

Our targets,” wrote Stelmach, “are based on sound research not wishful thinking.”

The strategy promised that by 2020, the province’s annual emissions would fall by 50 megatonnes below “business-as-usual” numbers  in 2008, that number was  232 megatonnes per year.

But according to Environment Canada’s most recent projections for emissions, Alberta’s annual output will instead grow to 287 megatonnes a year — an overall increase of 55 megatonnes, which means that the target (a 12 per cent increase from the 2005 number) will be missed by a full 27 Mt.

Fossil Fuel Industry Arguments for Carbon Sequestration Cause Uproar at COP20 UNFCCC Climate Talks

UNFCCC COP20

A side event at the UNFCCC COP20 climate negotiations in Lima, Peru was disrupted Monday when climate activists and individuals representing communities on the frontlines of energy development flooded the presentation hall and staged a ‘walk out’ on fossil fuels.

The event was hosted by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and the Global CCS Institute and featured Lord Nicholas Stern and David Hone, Shell’s chief climate advisor, as speakers.

The talk, originally entitled “Why Divest from Fossil Fuels When a Future with Low Emission Fossil Fuel Energy Use is Already a Reality?,” was inexplicably renamed “How Can we Reconcile Climate Targets with Energy Demand Growth” and focused on the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a technological solution to carbon emissions that cause global warming.

A citizen group formed outside the venue holding a banner that read “get fossil fuels out of COP” and used the acronym CCS to spell out “Corporate Capture ≠ Solution.”

UN Report Lays Out Canada’s Path to 90 Per Cent Emissions Reductions by 2050

Canada can reduce its carbon footprint by 90 per cent, play its part in the fight against climate change and grow its economy at the same time according to a recent report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 

This is a really important piece of analysis for Canada. It shows that we can cut our carbon pollution dramatically by 2050, making a strong contribution to tackling climate change, while growing our economy by over 200 per cent,” Clare Demerse, a senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada says.

By powering transportation, buildings and electricity with largely renewable energy (water-power, wind, solar) and biofuels and applying wide spread use of greenhouse gas (GHG) capturing technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the oil and gas sector the report argues Canada can cut its GHG emissions production by 90 per cent by 2050 based on 2010 levels.

The catch is none of this can happen unless Canada implements policies effectively regulating the production of GHG emissions, something the federal government has so far been unable to do.

Many of the major changes described in the Canadian decarbonization pathway will not occur without strong policy signals, which will require public support and in many cases will be driven by public pressure,” the UN network concludes. 

Alberta Ramps Up “Responsible Energy Development” Sales Pitch in Wake of New Keystone XL Delay

Alberta oilsands tar sands julia kilpatrick

Days after another delay by the Obama administration on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, members of the Alberta government are hitting the U.S. circuit to promote the oilsands and boost their “green” credentials.

Three government officials are heading to key regions in the U.S. to push for continued market access and advertise what Albertan energy minister Diana McQueen calls “our commitment to clean energy development.”

Alberta hopes to showcase investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of a successful emissions reduction plan.

Critics say the Alberta government’s talk about “sustainability” and “clean energy” is not in line with reality.

If you’ve been following the Canadian government’s sales pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline, you’ve probably heard this claim before: ‘Emissions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011,’” writes P.J. Partington, senior federal policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.

However, the reality, Partington writes, is that “since 1990, oilsands production has quintupled, while GHG emissions from production and upgrading have quadrupled.”

Debunked: Eight Things the U.S. State Keystone XL Report Got Wrong About the Alberta Oilsands

kris krug oilsands tar sands

Last week the Alberta government responded to the U.S. State Department's final supplemental environmental impact statement (FSEIS) on the Keystone XL project by emphasizing the province's responsibility, transparency, and confidence that the pipeline is in the “national interest” of both Canada and the U.S.

In a statement, Alberta Premier Alison Redford appealed to the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. Premier Redford pointed out that the FSEIS had “recognized the work we're doing to protect the environment,” saying that “the approval of Keystone XL will build upon the deep relationship between our countries and enable further progress toward a stronger, cleaner and more stable North American economy.”

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Robin Campbell also issued a statement, mentioning Alberta's “strong regulatory system” and “stringent environmental monitoring, regulation and protection legislation.”

Campbell's reminder that the natural resource sector “provides jobs and opportunities for families and communities across the country” was similar to Premier Redford's assurance that “our government is investing in families and communities,” with no mention made of corporate interests.

In order to provide a more specific and sciene-based response to the FSEIS report on Keystone XL, Pembina Institute policy analyst Andrew Read provided counterpoints to several of its central claims.

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