Climate and Energy: Other countries are watching Canada
Chief Sustainability Officer
Enbridge is a North American leader in delivering energy. Products and services delivered by the company include oil, natural gas, renewable electricity and energy efficiency programs.
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1- The Canadian public needs to play a key role in forming the country’s vision for its energy future.
2- Canada needs both disruptive technological breakthroughs as well as incremental improvements to successfully complete its energy transition.
3- Canada should build upon its expertise in energy and economic efficiency to lead the way to the world’s clean energy future.
Canada should lead the world’s energy transition in three sectors: in new and scalable opportunities in efficient and renewable sources of energy; in improvements in the carbon reduction of traditional oil and gas; and in new integrated and increasingly digitized systems for energy.
What does the creation of the Generation Energy Council tell us about Canada’s vision for the future of the energy industry?
Well, for one thing it certainly confirms that a lot of Canadians are interested in the topic of Canada’s energy future. Some 360,000 Canadians participated in the Generation Energy dialogue convened last year by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). It is arguably the most extensive public conversation our country has had about the future of energy in a Canadian context.
“Some 360,000 Canadians participated in the Generation Energy dialogue convened last year by Natural Resources Canada. It is arguably the most extensive public conversation our country has had about the future of energy in a Canadian context.”
The Generation Energy Council is just one element in a broader initiative led by Natural Resources Canada Minister Jim Carr to engage Canadians on what the future of energy in our country could look like. The “Gen En” dialogue was launched in 2017 and involved meetings, consultations and workshops with Canadians from diverse communities, backgrounds and perspectives. It was a national discussion that has included representatives from indigenous communities and different levels of government, as well as from youth, business, labour, and environmental and research organizations.
The Generation Energy Council is now reviewing all of the input that has been provided to date and is putting together a report for Minister Carr that will help support the next phase in this conversation. Many Canadians believe the way we use and produce energy is in a period of transition and transformation driven by a number of new imperatives. One is the imperative to manage climate risks and meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals under the Paris Agreement. And another is the imperative to ensure that our Canadian energy sector stays ahead of broader structural shifts now occurring at both the global and local level in the fundamentals of energy supply, demand and technology.
Generation Energy slices into the challenges inherent to the energy transition from a unique perspective. It is rooted in the belief that in order to realize the energy future Canada wants and needs, Canadians from all walks of life need to be able to see themselves in it.
Are we relying too much on cleantech initiatives and technology in general, to address some of our greatest energy-related environmental challenges in Canada?
It was interesting that at last year’s Holland Day event in Calgary organized by TheFutureEconomy.ca, both Michael Crothers from Shell and Ginny Flood from Suncor made the distinction between innovation that is transformative in nature and innovation that is incremental. Sustained success in clean energy means that Canada needs innovation aimed at achieving big technological breakthroughs as well as innovation that continuously improve efficiency and effectiveness on a day-to-day basis.
“Sustained success in clean energy means that Canada needs innovation aimed at achieving big technological breakthroughs as well as innovation that continuously improve efficiency and effectiveness on a day-to-day basis.”
The advances that have and continue to be made in pipeline safety and integrity are probably a good example of incremental innovation. Unlike, for example, a breakthrough in energy storage technology, pipeline safety is often the result of continuous improvement in the practices and technologies that underpin performance. For me at least, transformational innovation is about the big “step outs” that can change everything but take more time. For example, can we take the carbon out of a barrel of oil and make something else with it?
“We have an opportunity to capitalize on the existing scale and capacity of our energy sector to further diversify the range of energy and clean technology products, services and solutions that Canada has to offer.”
Overall, Canada needs a combination of different types of innovation, both technological and social. Current energy-related initiatives on innovation – such as the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and Evok Innovations – are achieving progress by embracing multiple approaches.
Many corporate and government strategies on innovation are also taking a much more targeted approach. Alberta, for example, has a history of globally significant innovation and investment in energy processes and systems that maximize resource and economic efficiency. And many of the technologies that are reducing heat, waste, water and greenhouse gases in Alberta’s energy sector can also do the same thing in other large industrial processes. We have an opportunity to capitalize on the existing scale and capacity of our energy sector to further diversify the range of energy and clean technology products, services and solutions that Canada has to offer.
What are the key areas of focus that enable Enbridge to maintain an ecofriendly status that many other companies struggle to attain?
When you are a large energy company dealing with evolving regulatory and public expectations on social and environmental issues it is immensely important that you understand what matters most to the people who matter most to you.
Enbridge has three sustainability priorities that help inform decision-making at our company. These are safety and environmental protection, indigenous and stakeholder inclusion, and climate and energy solutions.
Our businesses, employees, customers, shareholders and operating communities consistently identify Enbridge’s performance in these three areas as fundamental to the company’s economic success. In addition, we continually validate and align these priorities with input from ongoing engagement with Indigenous groups and other decision makers, as well as with input from individuals and groups that have an interest in our projects and operations.
What is the future of the Canadian oil and gas industry in an increasingly regulated carbon-constrained environment?
If we want to be able to provide Canadians – and the world – with reliable and affordable energy that also reduces GHG emissions locally and globally, then we need to be able to leverage Canada’s current strengths and strategic advantages in energy and clean technology to develop new ones.
The reality is that for a natural resource and trade-oriented country like Canada to influence the global conversation on climate and energy, we have to approach it from a position of leadership in public policy, technology and access to new investment and capital flows.
“For a natural resource and trade-oriented country like Canada to influence the global conversation on climate and energy, we have to approach it from a position of leadership in public policy, technology and access to new investment and capital flows.”
So what does that kind of leadership look like? Canadians have a lot of different answers to that question. But for many of us it involves leadership in at least three areas; in new and scalable opportunities in energy efficiency, electrification and renewables; in improvements in the carbon performance and cost efficiency of our incumbent energy systems for the use, production and export of crude oil and natural gas; and in new integrated and increasingly digitized systems for energy at both community and industrial levels.
What impact does Canada’s energy transition have on the international stage?
Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has energy security. There is tremendous global interest in how Canada is going to navigate the unique challenges and opportunities that we have on climate and energy issues.
“If Canada can find pathways that work for us [in terms of growing a prosperous and inclusive economy while making progress on climate and energy issues], the rest of the world will beat a path to our door to learn more about the systems, technologies and people behind that kind of success.”
I attended the UN Conference on Climate Change last year in Germany. Being there really brought it home to me that the rest of the world is well aware of the many challenges inherent to growing a prosperous and inclusive economy while making progress on climate and energy issues. It was equally clear that if Canada can find pathways that work for us on this journey, the rest of the world will beat a path to our door to learn more about the systems, technologies and people behind that kind of success.