James Wilt

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James Wilt is a freelance journalist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a journalism degree from Mount Royal University in Calgary. He regularly contributes to DeSmog Canada, and has also written for VICE Canada, CBC Calgary, Alberta Oil, Fast Forward Weekly and Geez magazine.

Meet The Unsexy Climate Solution That Cuts Energy Bills, Creates Jobs and Saves Rivers

passive house, energy efficiency

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long been criticized for lowballing the potential for renewable power and overestimating future demand for oil and gas.

Such forecasts matter. After all, the Paris-based organization is made up of 29 OECD countries — including Canada and the United States — and regularly produces publications that help member countries plan and coordinate energy policies.

That’s why it was particularly shocking when the IEA concluded in its latest Energy Technology Perspectives report that almost 75 per cent of the emissions reductions needed for its “2°C Scenario” will come from energy efficiency and renewables.

The real superstar of the report was energy efficiency, which the authors estimated would account for 34 per cent of reductions, resulting in global net-zero emissions by 2060.

It’s not the sexiest thing,” Pembina Institute analyst Julia-Maria Becker said in an interview. “People aren't aware of its benefits.”

Triple-paned windows and improved insulations isn’t quite as riveting as, say, a wind farm or geothermal plant.

Q&A: How the Legacies of Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein Hang Over the Oilsands

Oilsands tailings

Alberta is a province renown for its political dynasties.

Since its founding in 1905, only five parties have ruled, with the Progressive Conservatives reigning for a staggering 44 years between 1971 and 2015.

But when it comes to oilsands policy, the province’s compass has been set by two premiers: Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein. Both took distinct approaches, with Lougheed emphasizing managed development assisted by public funding, while Klein allowed industry to largely set the terms of engagement (including far lower royalties and the fast tracking of environmental reviews).

It might seem like ancient history. But it arguably matters more than ever given the complex politics of the current Alberta NDP government, which is juggling a cap on oilsands emissions while also advocating for increased production.

Saskatchewan Did What?! Province OKs Canada's First Geothermal Power Plant

SaskPower DEEP geothermal

Saskatchewan has developed a bit of a negative reputation on the environmental front lately.  

Guess that’s what happens when a premier threatens to sue the federal government over mandated carbon pricing and instead promotes the extremely expensive technology of carbon capture and storage.

That’s why it came as quite a surprise when provincial electricity utility SaskPower announced in mid-May that it had signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) — a contract for guaranteed sales at a fixed price — with geothermal company Deep Earth Energy Production.

The project in Williston Basin is an extremely small one: at five megawatts (MW), it will represent only 0.1 per cent of the province’s current electricity capacity. But it will be the first geothermal power project in Canada and experts say that it’s a huge step forward for geothermal, not only for Saskatchewan but the entire country.

What You Need to Know About New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

On Saturday night, Andrew Scheer was elected as the next leader of the federal Conservatives.

At 38 years old, Scheer was the youngest of the 13 candidates in the race (he’d previously served as the youngest Speaker of the House of Commons in the country’s history, as well as a short-lived Opposition House Leader).

Despite his age, Scheer sported some of the most traditionally conservative policies of the bunch, including on the environmental and climate change front.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the things that Scheer plans to do if his Conservative Party wins the 2019 election, as well as some other key facts to know.

Business Not As Usual: What Kinder Morgan Isn’t Telling Investors

kinder morgan IPO climate change

Kinder Morgan is providing potential investors with shoddy information, according to a complaint filed with the Alberta Securities Commission by Greenpeace Canada last week.

The formal complaint contends the company’s draft prospectus — a legal document prepared for investors ahead of its massive $1.75 initial public offering (IPO) — failed to properly disclose future Asian oil demand and the financial impacts of climate policy.

It turns out that Kinder Morgan used demand forecasts that assume “business as usual” for oil consumption, which effectively means no serious attempt to keep global warming below two degree celsius.

3 Ways B.C. Could Stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline

Christy Clark, Andrew Weaver, John Horgan B.C. leaders debate

The prospect of a new provincial government in B.C. has sparked fresh political debate about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which is opposed by B.C.’s NDP and Green Party, despite already receiving provincial and federal approval.

There are no tools available for a province to overturn or otherwise block a federal government decision,” stated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley this week.

But is that really the case?

The short answer is no.

Trudeau Promised to Fix the National Energy Board. Here’s What His Expert Panel Recommends

Justin Trudeau National Energy Board Modernization

After six months of consultations, the National Energy Board (NEB) Modernization Expert Panel has delivered its long-awaited report.

The results are damning.

In our consultations we heard of a National Energy Board that has fundamentally lost the  confidence of many Canadians,” the five-member panel wrote. “We heard that Canadians have serious concerns that the NEB has been ‘captured’ by the oil and gas industry.”

The 87-page report issued 26 key recommendations to repair the oft-criticized quasi-judicial tribunal, responsible for regulating interprovincial and international oil, gas and electricity projects.

Those include establishing a one-year review process by cabinet to ascertain whether a major project meets “national interest” prior to regulatory review, replacing the NEB with a “Canadian Energy Transmission Commission” and placing a broader focus on interprovincial transmission lines and renewable energy.

In addition, the panel recommended the government create a new agency responsible for collecting information about energy, relocate board headquarters back to Ottawa, considerably improve consultation with Indigenous peoples including an Indigenous Major Projects Office and extend the timelines for review of major projects (which were accelerated under the previous Conservative government).

The Good, The Bad And the Ugly: Where Conservative Leadership Candidates Stand on the Environment

Kellie Leitch

The next leader of the Conservative Party will be chosen on May 27.

While only Conservative Party members are eligible to vote in the ranked ballot election, the outcome will determine who will likely run against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election, so it’s worth paying attention.

Where do the 13 leadership hopefuls stand on energy and environment issues? Well, they’re a bit all over the map. Fear not, we’ve distilled the platforms down into this quick cheat sheet to help you get up to speed on what Canada could be in store for come May 27.

It’s Official: Coal Just Became Uneconomic in Canada

Coal power plant

Marijuana wasn’t the only green thing being celebrated on April 20.

In a somewhat unexpected move, the Calgary-based electricity company TransAlta announced it will accelerate the phase-out of eight coal-fired power units — representing almost 3,000 megawatts of generating capacity — with six of those to be converted to gas-fired generation between 2021 and 2023.

The remaining two will be closed on Jan. 1, 2018.

It makes complete economic sense that they did that,” says Binnu Jeyakumar, electricity program director at the Pembina Institute, pointing to expiring power purchase agreements (PPAs) and an increasing inability for coal to compete with natural gas and renewables.

While calculations vary, it’s estimated that the conversion of the six coal plants to simple cycle gas operations — a process that will cost around $300 million in total — will cut emissions by between 30 and 40 per cent per megawatt hour of electricity produced.

Will Youth Voter Turnout Decide the B.C. Election?

B.C. election youth vote

Only two weeks remain until Election Day in British Columbia and one of the biggest questions to be answered between now and then is how many millennials — voters between the ages of 18 and 34 — are going to get out to vote.

In the past, we’ve had a really low youth voter turnout,” Raaj Chatterjee, a third-year engineering student at Simon Fraser University and organizer with Young Climate Voters B.C., told DeSmog Canada.

I think that’s starting to change,” Chatterjee said.

Especially with events in the States… Tweet: “A lot of people are waking up & being more involved or at least know what’s going on in politics” http://bit.ly/2p2kCLJ #bcpoli #bcelxn17a lot of people are waking up to being more involved or at least know what’s going on in politics.”

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