Alberta Next—What's Next For Energy And Environment In Alberta

Bennett Jones LLP


Bennett Jones is one of Canada's premier business law firms and home to 500 lawyers and business advisors. With deep experience in complex transactions and litigation matters, the firm is well equipped to advise businesses and investors with Canadian ventures, and connect Canadian businesses and investors with opportunities around the world.
Members of the Bennett Jones' Energy and Energy Regulatory groups attended the Calgary Chamber of Commerce's recent "Alberta Next Series on Energy and the Environment" event...
Canada Energy and Natural Resources
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  • Alberta is well-positioned to get Canada back on top with clean and responsibly produced energy.
  • Most of our current problems are, at their root, political and can be corrected over time.
  • Decarbonization goals present a major opportunity, if we can only seize them.
  • AI's energy needs are increasing as rapidly as the technology itself, but AI can also help optimize industry processes and maximize efficiencies.

Members of the Bennett Jones' Energy and Energy Regulatory groups attended the Calgary Chamber of Commerce's recent "Alberta Next Series on Energy and the Environment" event, eager to hear from industry leaders and policy makers on the latest developments in Alberta's rapidly changing energy sector. Also in attendance were hundreds of representatives from major renewables, technology, and oil and gas companies.

The former Premier of British Columbia and Senior Advisor at Bennett Jones, Christy Clark, opened up the discussion with a fireside chat that touched on the benefits of Canadian energy, the future of pipelines, and the deep talent pool here in Canada.

Regarding Indigenous partnerships and energy projects, Ms. Clark said that "[r]econciliation is not just about apologizing. It's about eliminating poverty."

Ms. Clark stated that Canada can play a meaningful role in the world by selling Canadian resources, on our terms, to replace thermal coal and other high-carbon processes. However, taking 12 years to complete the TMX expansion project sends the wrong message to the rest of the planet and capital about where to invest. She also said that energy companies can work across industry to identify barriers in the province and help the government make good policy decisions.

One of the biggest issues Canada faces right now, and other panelists at Alberta Next agreed, is that the current regulatory regime is lengthy, unpredictable and unstable. Solidifying and streamlining regulatory processes, including leaving regulation entirely up to provinces where possible, would go a long way to help spur investment once again in Canada.

Sustainability and a Circular Economy

Cenovus' Jeff Lawson and NOVA Chemical's Rocky Vermani treated the audience to a lively discussion on advancements to technology and operations in the race to make our economy more sustainable.

Mr. Vermani touched on advancements in polymer production that will lead to more easily recyclable materials. This is in line with NOVA's goal to drastically increase plastic recycling rates (which are surprisingly dismal at a real rate of 9 percent, despite all of our recycling containers). We need to shift from a "cradle-to-grave" economy to a "cradle-to-cradle" economy by changing product design to support circularity (recycling), and by improving recycling infrastructure.

We can look at the circular economy as a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to use resources smartly and create value.

Mr. Lawson discussed how Cenovus is currently looking at over 70 different technologies to help reduce emissions. Cenovus has already reduced its methane emissions by 60% with the goal to reduce them by 80 percent by 2030. However, despite the trillions of dollars spent to diversify our energy sources, the energy supply has only moved about 3 percent off fossil fuels.

Canada's energy industry has some of the highest standards in the world for sustainability, diversity, and environmental stewardship—we can proudly compete with any other supplier on the planet, whether that be Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Venezuela as examples. The world needs our energy, but in order for this to happen, we need to remain competitive by streamlining regulatory processes and maintaining policy certainty.

Innovation and AI to Combat Emissions

In a panel discussion on how AI and innovation will help contribute to decarbonization, Dr. Ghada Nafie shared her experience co-founding her nanotechnology company, Litus. Dr. Nafie remarked that there needs to be more support in taking new ideas from a prototype stage into commercialization. There is no shortage of talent here in Canada; we simply need to find a better way to make bright ideas into a reality.

On the data side of things, Torrie Turner of Microsoft shared the ambitious steps her company has taken to reduced emissions, starting by committing to zero carbon electricity by 2025. Ms. Turner shared that Microsoft is opening a new data center around the world every 3-5 days which only contributes to Microsoft's energy demands—already equal to that of the United Kingdom. Ms. Turner believes that by focusing on sustainability and decarbonization efforts, big tech and big data companies can make a major impact on world energy needs and lower carbon emissions, even while actually consuming more energy, directly through artificial intelligence.

Kevin Krausert shared his experience as CEO of Alberta's inaugural energy venture capital fund and energy technology venture studio, Avatar Innovation. Mr. Krausert noted that while data centers are the future, they currently use 3 percent of the world's electricity, and that is supposed to increase to 12 percent by 2035. The key will be to figure out how to decarbonize in that time frame. The challenge, he succinctly stated, is to deliver abundant energy to a world that says it wants to be "net zero". However, he said that sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective, such as the incredible reduction in emissions created by the humble LED lightbulb.

Key Takeaways

The afternoon's speakers all seemed to agree that while we may have lost some ground over the past nine years, Alberta is well-positioned to regain its global reputation as a hub for high volumes of some of the cleanest-produced energy in the world. The province has the resources, the talent and the innovation. In fact, 70 percent of clean tech companies in Canada are located in Alberta. As Christy Clark said, we can recover, because we are resourceful.

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