Canada could be energy superpower, say experts
Canada needs huge national projects comparable to the building of the transcontinental railway or the oil sands to become a sustainable, environmentally sound, energy superpower, energy experts meeting in early October at the University of Calgary say.
Three bold technology projects, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars and a coordinated national strategy, will make Canada a global leader in addressing the ‘collision’ between energy and environment that will dominate this century, delegates to the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE) Energy Pathways workshop say.
The CAE workshop was hosted jointly by the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE) at the University of Calgary, and by the Alberta Energy Research Institute, the strategic energy technology arm of the Alberta government.
More than 80 delegates from the public and private sectors across the country –including universities, research organizations, industry and all levels of government — took part in the all-day workshop Friday.
Sponsors of the workshop and the CAE Energy Pathways project which recommended the three national projects strategy are: Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Energy Research Institute, Alberta Research Council, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Suncor Energy, Petro-Canada, EnCana Corp. and Hatch Group.
"Over the past 250 years, great projects have defined who and what are today as Canadians," says Richard Marceau, CAE member and provost at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
"To bring us together as a nation, Canada has a history of meeting staggering geographical and technical challenges," Marceau says. "As before, these three national projects will unleash enormous economic potential and create incredible competitive advantages for Canadian industry."
The Calgary workshop focused on ways to implement "Recommendation 1" of the CAE’s /Energy Pathways Task Force Phase 1 — Final Report/ (available at http://www.acad-eng-gen.ca/ under "Publications"). It called for the launching of three national technology projects.
Such projects represent a commitment by Canada to plan and implement major energy programs that have both economic and environmental benefits, and involve significant public/private sector participation at federal, provincial and regional levels.
The three recommended projects are:
· Gasification, at a nation-wide scale, of fossil fuels and biomass to produce electricity and hydrogen. (Gasification technology uses steam and oxygen to convert a substance — such as coal — to a gaseous fuel.)
· Reduction of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, by capturing carbon dioxide and transporting the gas for long-term geological storage and/or use (to enhance oil recovery, for example).
· Upgrading national electrical infrastructure linked to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass (and including ways to store such energy), and to large-scale, low-emissions generation such as hydroelectric and CANDU nuclear power.
CAE member Clem Bowman, founding chairman of the Alberta Oil Sands Technology Research Authority (AOSTRA) in 1975, called for an initiative of similar scope and initial funding (about $380 million in today’s dollars) as the $100 million then-Premier Peter Lougheed committed to AOSTRA. Creating the single-purpose research body spurred commercial development of the oil sands industry.
"The time for action has arrived," Bowman says. "By launching a few key initiatives now, we can ensure that a 2100 retrospective will conclude: ‘Energy — an impressive Canadian success story!’"
"The vision from the Calgary workshop and in the CAE report is clear and compelling," says Robert Mansell, ISEEE Senior Fellow. "The key task now is to develop and sustain the focus, enthusiasm and commitment necessary to achieve the major, long-term benefits for Canada."
The Calgary workshop is the first in a series of CAE workshops focused on implementing all the recommendations in the CAE Energy Pathways report. A second workshop, on "Recommendation 2" on bioenergy, is scheduled for May 2008 and will be hosted by the University of Western Ontario. Initial stakeholder planning on "Recommendation 3," dealing with the full breadth of Canadian energy opportunities, is underway. Progress also has already been achieved in laying out a university-based laser fusion program for Canada as the basis of “Recommendation 4."