Energizing our future: supercharging Alberta’s energy diversification
The way the world produces and uses energy is rapidly evolving and Alberta is at the forefront of this dramatic change. Investments made today in diversifying, promoting and scaling the development of our energy resources - and carbon-reducing technologies - will have profound and long-term impacts on our economic prosperity.
The growing need for sustainable energy
The urgency and need to address climate change and its impacts have grown in step with the increasing demand for renewable and green energy solutions. Countries around the world have been urged to act. Many have made commitments and ambitious goals, including a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 undertaken by all the G7 nations, including Canada.
Green, renewable or clean energy broadly encompasses products, services and processes that are aimed towards reducing the negative impacts of energy production and usage on the environment. This includes:
Technology or innovation aimed at reducing (or mitigating the impact of) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Processes and services aimed at improving performance efficiency
As countries look to reduce emissions, the global energy mix is expected to shift, with greater focus placed on using more sustainable forms of energy. The diversification of the energy mix and the shift towards decarbonization presents compelling economic opportunities for Alberta and Canada, based on our resource potential, extractive experience and the wide array of innovations aimed at reducing emissions that are already in development.
Investing in diversity of green innovation
Alberta is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the energy innovation space given the breadth and depth of our expertise in the energy industry. Promising work is already underway in the province, including development of renewable energy (e.g., wind and solar), hydrogen, and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technology.
While continued investment and the scaling up of technologies and processes in these areas is important, it is also beneficial to invest in diversifying our low-carbon energy resources. Many experts predict that the energy profile of the future will be a mix of molecules, rather than a singular focus on one source of energy. To this end, other areas of potential for Alberta include sources such as hydropower, nuclear, and geothermal.
It is estimated there are still more than 11,500 MW of remaining economic hydro potential in Alberta for both reservoir and run-of-river projects.
Alberta has historically lagged in nuclear power development compared to other provinces in Canada. Recently, efforts towards developing nuclear reactor technology, most notably in the form of the Alberta government investing in small modular reactors to cut oil sands emissions, but more support is needed in this area.
Due to our location and terrain, Alberta holds some of the largest potential in Canada to execute geothermal projects. This an area Alberta is uniquely positioned to thrive in, as geothermal is not a heavily used resource in Canada.
Demand for electricity is expected to increase in the coming years alongside the growing demand for more sustainable energy solutions, especially in the industrial and transportation sectors. Innovative solutions for grid modernization and large-scale battery storage will become increasingly attractive as technological exports.
Continued efforts in these areas are needed to ensure promising technologies can be adopted, scaled and eventually distributed.
Capturing our potential
Alongside mitigating the impacts of climate change and protecting our planet, green technology presents opportunities for economic growth in Alberta, especially as an export. Green projects exemplify leadership in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, as well as gain attention from global investors demanding responsible energy development.
To maintain and build our presence as a leader in the development of green energy, technology and innovation space, industry, government and businesses need to concentrate sustained efforts towards:
Widespread commercialization of emerging innovations
Greater adoption and commercialization of new and emerging innovations. Government has a role to play by helping scale businesses and investing in developing technology at all stages of the innovation value chain. Investment certainty is needed to support the scaling of innovation in the energy industry.
Promoting our innovations globally
Promoting our innovations to other countries and leveraging assets during trade negotiations and partnerships. Promoting green innovations not only gives us another asset to leverage in trade talks but will support implementation of sustainable solutions worldwide.
Continued collaboration in industry
Large scale and continued collaboration from industry. The Pathways to Net Zero initiative announced earlier this year by five companies representing 90 per cent of oil sands production is an important and compelling example of the energy industry coming together to invest in game-changing technologies that will ensure Canada’s energy resources will be sustainably developed for decades to come.
Businesses need to commit to shared initiatives to implement more sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions long-term to achieve larger-scale success and gain access to broad expertise. Accelerators, incubators and innovation hubs, such as Greentown Labs and the recently announced Energy Transition Centre in downtown Calgary can support and promote technological innovation in every step of the value chain.
Preparing for the energy future
Alberta’s energy diversification efforts and investment in multiple forms of green energy will be instrumental in ensuring our province remains a global leader in energy production and innovation. Continued collaboration with both industry, government and academia is necessary if we are to position our economy for success going forward.