Tuesday was the first day of the First Session of the Twenty-eighth Legislature of the province of Saskatchewan and accordingly it was opened by Her Majesty's Representative (the Lieutenant Governor) with the 'Speech from the Throne'.
There was good news for renewables and, despite what some are saying, Premier Wall did not label climate change a 'misguided dogma': he's too politically savvy for that.
Although delivered by the Lieutenant Governor, the Throne Speech is prepared by the Government (i.e. the SaskParty) and represents their agenda for the forthcoming session. Consequently it provides clues to Premier Wall's plans for the province in general and the energy sector in particular.
There was, surprisingly, a significant amount of positive material there for clean energy proponents and we've identified three notable themes: Developing Renewable Energy, the New West Partnership and Keeping Saskatchewan Strong. [FYI: page and line references are taken from the formal record of the speech on Hansard.]
Developing renewable energy
In November the Wall government made a major commitment to renewables (installed capacity will be doubled such that, by 2030, renewables will be half of total capacity and will generate 44 percent of electricity).
Some (ourselves included) initially suspected this was no more than a pre-election ploy to 'get out the green vote'. As a consequence it was encouraging to see the renewable energy commitment confirmed in the Throne Speech (pp 8);
Well - that seems quite clear.
New West Partnership
What relevance to renewables? Actually quite a bit.
Pretty much every technical study which has examined the electrical integration of wind and solar has concluded that electricity networks need to be well connected with neighboring jurisdictions across a broad geographical area. Unfortunately the Saskatchewan grid has minimal connections with Alberta, Manitoba, Montana and North Dakota and this is a significant impediment to optimal development of our world-class renewable resource. Inter-provincial trade barriers are a major part of the reason and, as a result, efforts to lower them are to be welcomed.
BTW: SaskPower has already concluded some limited agreements for using Manitoba hydro to balance wind variability. Alberta and British Columbia have had discussions on the same subject (albeit on a significantly larger scale). The New West Partnership appears to offer an appropriate forum within which to continue the process.
Keeping Saskatchewan Strong
The theme, of 'standing up for Saskatchewan' runs through the speech. It starts on page 5;
For Saskatchewan's nascent wind and solar industry; "keeping Saskatchewan strong" should mean developing our best-in-Canada wind and solar resource in a manner which ensures maximal benefit for Saskatchewan companies, communities, farmers and individuals. To achieve this it is important that our decision-makers learn from out-of-province experience while simultaneously not allowing our nascent renewable energy policy to be dictated by that experience to the detriment of Saskatchewan's long-term interests.
So what's all this about the Premier trashing climate change??
Towards the end (pp 8 & 9) in the paragraph 'Standing up for Saskatchewan';
Some have assumed the 'misguided dogma' to be Climate Change and have reacted accordingly (DeSmog & this petition). However it is not clear why since climate change is not even mentioned in the speech.
There is now scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, the public is increasingly concerned (see the figure below from a Yale/George Mason study) and looking to their politicians for action. Whatever one might say about Premier Wall: he's a savvy politician and as such acutely attuned to public opinion. It therefore seems highly unlikely he would label climate change as 'misguided dogma'.
Indeed and since the Premier never misses an opportunity to stir the opposition pot, the 'misguided dogma' is more likely to be the NDP's 'LEAP' manifesto not least of the reasons being that LEAP is contentious even within the NDP.
The Premier's Throne speech showed a considerable and positive change in attitude towards renewables as well as a number of encouraging policy priorities on the subject.
The Premier did not however label climate change as 'misguided dogma' and those who would claim otherwise do themselves a disservice. The reality is that most voters care about the environment and would prefer to work in a sustainable industry than a dirty one. However it is also true that the vast majority of voters care more about jobs and the economy than they do about the environment. Premier Wall knows this and so has positioned himself as a staunch defender of jobs and the economy.
The argument about climate change has been won. The challenge in Saskatchewan is now to demonstrate that low carbon solutions, such as wind and solar, are not only better for the environment but also for the economy. That should be easy: the US wind and solar industry generates 6 times less electricity than coal, but already employs 4 times more people.