At last week's meeting of Premiers to discuss a national energy strategy, Brad Wall was alone in calling for less emphasis on renewables/climate change and more focus on oil and gas.
In this blog we take a look at his track record to see whether renewables have enjoyed excessive support vis-a-vis hydrocarbons. We then consider the damage that Premier Wall's "relentless oil and gas boosterism" is doing to the very industry he is seeking to support.
First - the track record;
- Saskatchewan recently opened the heavily subsidised Boundary Dam coal-fired carbon capture facility. It will result in losses of approximately $1-billion for SaskPower over its lifetime. This will materially increase electricity prices for all Saskatchewan electricity users for the foreseeable future. Boundary Dam will however increase profits for Cenovus Energy (an Albertan oil company) and it will do so by substantially more than $1-billion. As it would happen, Cenovus was the largest donor to the SaskParty in 2014 (and also in 2013 & 2012).
- Saskatchewan's power generation sector has Canada's highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Despite having only 3 percent of Canada's population, Saskatchewan has one third of the highest greenhouse gas emitting power stations in the country.
- Saskatchewan's power generation sector has the second lowest use of renewables in Canada.
- Since 2006 Saskatchewan's installed wind capacity has increased 15 percent. The corresponding figures for Canada - 564 percent, the USA - 467 percent, the World - 397 percent and the European Union - 168 percent.
- Saskatchewan currently generates 2.7 percent of its electricity using wind turbines. This is the second lowest use of wind energy in the country and is despite the fact that we have the best wind resource in Canada.
- Saskatchewan is one of the few (if not the only) North American jurisdictions to have reduced its use of electricity from wind turbines in the last 8 years.
An objective analysis hardly supports the idea that there is excessive focus on renewables. On the contrary: Mr Wall has surreptitiously used taxpayer funds to massively subsidise coal and oil while engaging in a policy of active neglect of our world-class wind and solar resource.
It is disappointing that the party which claims to be all about encouraging private sector initiative (see Point 1 of the SaskParty's 'Guiding Principles') appears to be doing the exact opposite in the energy sector. It is also ignoring public opinion which overwhelmingly wants more renewables and believes Government policy has been deficient.
One can only hope that in time Mr Wall will realise that his current energy strategy is significantly reducing the chance that the wider Canadian and US public will support the pipeline projects that he wants (KXL, Northern Gateway and Energy East). Mr Wall, like Mr Harper on the national stage, is turning out to be the oil industry's worst enemy. How ironic that Alberta's new NDP government, by adopting a more nuanced energy strategy, may be significantly better for Western Canada's oil pipeline aspirations than either Premier Wall's SaskParty or (former) Jim Prentice's PC Party in Alberta.
Until Mr Wall gets with the energy program one can but hope that the other premiers, even if they choose to pay lip service, do not become overly distracted by his views on the subject. Indeed - that seems to be what is happening.