And now for something really unscientific...

The Canadian Energy Strategy was released in July and was immediately criticised by some as pandering excessively to renewables/climate change and by others as giving a free lunch to oil and gas. All of which goes to show that you can't please all the people all of the time.

Nonetheless the document is interesting and worth a read.

Rather than summarising an already brief and well-written document, here's something a little different: a comparison of the frequency of occurrence of certain words/phrases. We took a stab at a representative set of keywords. We then compared their frequency of occurrence in the Canadian Energy Strategy with the same in the Energy Strategy's precursor - 'A Shared Vision for Energy in Canada' from August 2007.  And here is the unscientific result;

Source:  'Canadian Energy Strategy July 2015' and  'A Shared Vision for Energy in Canada.August 2007'.

Despite (or because of ??) the liberal dose of subjectivity employed, there are nonetheless a few interesting points arising;

1) Not enough focus on oil and gas? In July Premier Brad Wall stood alone amongst the Premiers in criticising the document for not doing enough for the oil and gas sector. Certainly a quick look at the word count indicates a sharp drop in the number of references to oil (20 to 11) and natural gas (12 to 4). That could be interpreted to mean less political support for those sectors. But a lack of such support is hardly surprising given the sharp fall in the price of oil since June 2014 (from $115 per barrel to $45 today) and natural gas (from $8 per million BTU in 2008 to $2.80 today). The Premiers want to diversify their economies and who can blame them for that?
Heck - if Alberta and Saskatchewan had been more proactive about energy sector diversification they might have avoided this headline on Monday ('Alberta has lost 35,000 oil-patch jobs since January') or this from January when Alberta-based Cenovus announced that it is 'cancelling the "bulk” of its conventional drilling plans in Alberta and Saskatchewan'. By the way: Cenovus was the beneficiary of the $1-billion Boundary Dam subsidy. Doh - maybe not such a good 'investment' after all. 

Source: David Ward: American Wind Energy Association. August 2015. Rippey Wind Farm - Iowa

Source: David Ward: American Wind Energy Association. August 2015. Rippey Wind Farm - Iowa

2) Excessive focus on renewables? Hardly! The number of references to wind and solar was unchanged, from 2007 to 2015, at 14 and 4 respectively.

When you think about it this could be taken as a distinct lack of support given that, from 2007 to 2015, the installed capacity of Canadian wind grew by 566 percent from 1,500 megawatts to 10,000 megawatts. To put that in context - that equates to additional invested capital of $17-billion. Hardly chicken feed - unless working with big chickens. 
These words from the 2015 Energy Strategy document (page 5) speak volumes for why additional political support for wind would be justified. 

 

"Projected capacity for wind power generation in Canada is estimated to be as high as 55,000 megawatts, which could supply about 20 per cent of the country's electricity requirements." (page 5)

 

In the same vein: it is of note that the recently announced US Clean Power Plan opens up significant export opportunities for Canadian wind energy - particularly from the Prairies given our world-class wind resource. These exports cannot happen in a vacuum and need new transmission capacity: see Point 4 below.

3) Climate change and carbon. There is a massive increase in the mention of both 'carbon' (30 incidents) and 'climate change' (21). While obviously upsetting for some; this is neither unwarranted nor surprising given that we are moving rapidly to a carbon constrained world. In that world, like it or not, carbon emitters will have to pay for their emissions i.e. we are talking financial liabilities.
Saskatchewan, given its third highest in the world per capita carbon emissions (2nd graph on this page), should be concerned about substantial contingent financial liabilities. At least the other premiers are.

4) Electricity: transmission.  This did not even figure in 2007 and, while 4 mentions in 2015 is hardly grounds for a Juno, it is nonetheless significant. The 20th Century was all about coal, oil and gas. These forms of energy are certainly not going away anytime soon but electricity will undoubtedly play a much larger role in the 21st Century with the introduction of Distributed Generation, Smart Grids, Intelligent Electricity and Electric Vehicles to name but a few.
A modern, competitive and non-discriminatory (see point 5 below) electrical grid will obviously be critical and it is encouraging to see that the Canadian Energy Strategy is finally beginning to recognise this fact. (See page 26 'Delivering Energy to the People').

5) Electricity: non-discriminatory access. OK we cheated: this is not in our original keyword list but nonetheless gets a mention because it's a BIG deal. On page 12 of the 2015 document is this;   "Ensure open and non-discriminatory access to electricity transmission systems consistent with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Open Access Rules."

FYI The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is an independent U.S. agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. As concerns electricity specifically: the Commission's core responsibility is to "guard the consumer from exploitation by non-competitive electric power companies".  

Well that seems quite clear!

And, while on the subject, we do have some questions about why it is that wind energy in Saskatchewan pays a transmission fee which is more than two times higher than it is for coal.  FERC might have something to say about that. For anyone interested in the technical details - FERC Order 888 'Promoting Wholesale Competition Through Open Access Non-Discriminatory Transmission Services by Public Utilities'.   

 

 

In summary: the reduced emphasis of the Canadian Energy Strategy on 'traditional' energy sources (oil & gas) seems entirely reasonable given the dramatically lower prices they are attracting in world markets together with the substantial liabilities they will incur in the carbon-constrained world into which we are moving.

Canada has an excellent wind potential and Saskatchewan has a best-in-Canada wind and solar resource. Couple this with the substantial layoffs currently taking place in the oil and gas sector, together with the significant employment opportunities available in wind and solar, and it seems only logical to conclude that the level of support, for non-hydro renewables, is not excessive and is instead entirely justified.