Energy East setback a sign of flawed process

30 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Delays caused by the replacement of a panel reviewing the Energy East Pipeline project show that Canada’s regulatory system is flawed and must be fixed, says a former CEO of proponent TransCanada.

Hal Kvisle said Thursday the recusal of a National Energy Board panel in early September just after hearings on the controversial project began was a victory for activists whose only objective is to block the process.

“I think it’s another failure of (the) regulatory process in Canada that we can’t even commence a regulatory process without it coming off the rails,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“It’s regrettable. I’ve been making the point to the government of Canada for about 12 or 13 years there needs to be significant improvements in the regulatory process and here we’ve just had it thrown in the ditch again by people whose objective is really just to stop the whole thing.”

The NEB’s review broke down after hearings in Montreal were disrupted by protesters. Critics charged the panel was biased after learning that two of three panellists met last year with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, then a consultant for TransCanada.


NDP says Alberta will have 30 per cent renewable power by 2030 but questions loom

Alberta’s NDP government says it’s committed to having 30 per cent of the province’s electricity supply come from renewables by 2030, but opposition parties are taking aim at what they say is a vague plan that could leave taxpayers on the hook.

The NDP’s climate change strategy, released last fall, set a target of 30 per cent power from sources such as wind, solar and hydro to accompany the plan’s accelerated phase-out of coal power by 2030.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says that target is now “firm” and the province will support the creation of an additional 5,000 megawatts of renewable power that will bring in at least $10.5 billion in investment.

“Alberta will lead forward, not go backwards,” she told reporters Wednesday after speaking at the Alberta Power Symposium at the Telus Convention Centre.

But details on how the province will reach its target — and the financial cost to the province — remain sketchy.

The province’s climate change panel called for an auction system where producers will bid for contracts that will include government support for the development of new renewable capacity.

The government’s website says that $3.4 billion out of the nearly $10 billion expected to be collected from the incoming broad-based carbon tax over the next five years will go toward “large scale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology.”

But Phillips said the province can’t yet put a price tag on how much it will spend to subsidize renewable development.

And while there will be an auction system, how it will function is still being developed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator, which will oversee the program.

“There are many different ways to structure renewable procurement,” said Phillips.

“We are currently examining how that looks in Alberta so that we get the least-cost procurement. What we know about renewables is they lower the price for consumers.”

About half of Alberta’s power came from coal-fired plants in 2015. Alberta Energy estimates that as of June, about 39 per cent of the provincial capacity of 16,300 MW came from coal and 44 per cent from natural gas. Phillips said Alberta expects about 70 per cent in 2030 will be generated by natural gas.

Patrick Bateman of the Canadian Solar Industries Association said he anticipates the cost to the province will ultimately be low because of the competitive bidding process.

But he said there needs to be revenue certainty for potential producers, perhaps through mechanisms such as contracts that would see the province top up revenue if it dropped below a certain level, for projects to go ahead.

“We’ve got a situation where investment in any generation technology is a challenging prospect … for any new generation we’re going to need to see the new policy certainty the minister has been describing today,” he told reporters.

Proponents say that wind projects that would produce about 6,800 megawatts and solar projects responsible for 600 megawatts are already being proposed for development in Alberta.

“We’re not looking at getting government subsidies necessarily for all of these 7,000 megawatts in the queue to come online,” said Evan Wilson, regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

“It’s waiting to see what the system is going to look like, waiting to see what the policy will look like and how that will shape the market moving forward.”

While the government’s announcement was hailed by companies such as TransAlta, it was met with skepticism by opposition parties.

In a news release, the Wildrose Party said the NDP should release the full economic costing of its plan, including the impact of the early shut down of coal-fired power plants and the increase in natural gas generation.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t provide any more certainty for Albertans,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean. “The minister should release her government’s own internal analysis today.”

The Progressive Conservatives questioned how the government expects to attract private sector investment after launching a legal battle with three power companies over their relinquishment of power purchase arrangments for coal-fired electricity.

Liberal Leader David Swann said he supported the government’s initiative but said the NDP had left Albertans in the dark over its plan.

“Until we know how it’s going to work, all those investment dollars are going to be on the sideline,” added Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark.

In an updated report Wednesday, the Pembina Institute estimated that an accelerated phase-out of coal generation in Alberta could result in 600 fewer premature deaths, 500 fewer emergency room visits and save nearly $3 billion in socio-economic value of avoided health outcomes linked to coal pollution between 2015 and 2035.

— With files from The Canadian Press

[email protected]


Twin Butte area rancher’s solar insight

Pincher Creek Voice

Monday, September 19, 2016

Quentin Stevick

Quentin Stevick / Oldman Watershed Council blog – When I heard that our provincial government was interested in Green Energy, Anne and I got all excited. I have been using portable solar powered water systems since about 2002 to pump water from surface locations to our cattle to provide them with clean, fresh water and to prevent pollution of water bodies by these same livestock. I have learned many things: one of which is “Energy free does not mean labour and maintenance free”.

I felt the next step would be solar power for our ranch. The following information is current to mid April 201

I have a quote from a local contractor to install a 10.4 kW grid tied, roof mounted array of 40 X 260 watt solar panels. I already have an East-West orientated building which would be ideal for the project. The quote to me is $32,800.00 plus GST.

The most recent power bills I have are the complete year Dec. 15/2014 to Dec. 15/2015. Our total bill was $2823.84. We used a total 11,307 kW for this year. The actual power cost was $904.56 or approximately 32% of the bill. Anne gave me a link to Growing Forward 2 and I contacted Kelly Lunn and received the following reply. “Any electricity exported from a Micro Generator will only be used to credit against the electricity consumption at the meter; none will be applied to distribution (line) charges. Any electricity that you produce that you can use for farm loads at the time it is produced will reduce imported electricity, so will reduce the (relatively small) variable portion of Transmission and Distribution”. As of May 23/2016 Growing Forward 2 is not accepting applications.

My take-away is this:

When we were in Germany visiting one of my former students at her farm near Fulda, she was constructing a new barn and installing solar panels on it. The program available to her would generate approximately 12% return on investment.

I believe the following:

  1. The electricity providers should be required to accept enough electricity on an annual basis to off set total charges (in our case about $2900/year) not just the approximate $900 under the current regulations.
  2. A cap should be placed on the maximum power that could be generated so we do not have solar “farms” created that would cause the same blight on our landscape the wind farms create with their large foot print which fragments the land with roads and transmission lines.
  3. Individual houses and apartment buildings should be allowed the same advantages and access to the grid as farms so we can lower the reliance on fossil fuels.

The Alberta government is seeking public input on the new Energy Efficiency Alberta agency. Stakeholders, Indigenous communities and interested Albertans are being asked how to best promote energy efficiency and community energy systems across Alberta. An open house was recently hosted in Lethbridge where you could speak to panel members and technical experts. We encourage you to participate in the Energy Efficiency Alberta consultation before September 30, 2016.  Click here to share your thoughts and ideas. Click 

Editor’s note: Quentin Stevick is also the councillor for MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 Division 1.

Alberta gov’t. targeting for 30 per cent green power by 2030

15 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald

J.W. Schnarr

[email protected]


Alberta’s provincial government is shooting for 30 by 30 when it comes to green power generation.

On Wednesday, Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s minister of environment and parks, announced the government’s firm target of 30 per cent of electricity used in the province set to come from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, and solar, by 2030. The other 70 per cent would come from natural gas after the complete phase out of coal-fired generation.

“We solve problems,” Phillips said. “We don’t run away from them. Tackling climate change is no different. Alberta will lead forward and not go backwards.”

Details of the plan are still being worked out and are expected in the coming months. Phillips called energy production “the backbone” of modern economies.

“Going forward, the success of the electricity industry will also be increasingly judged on its ability to thrive and support a carbon-competitive economy,” she said.

In order to facilitate this goal, the government is intending to support 5,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity for Albertans through the Climate Leadership Plan.

That plan states the government intends to collect $9.6 billion over the next five years through the carbon levy, with $3.4 billion tagged for largescale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology projects.

An estimated $10.5 billion in new investment is expected to flow into the provincial economy by 2030, according to a government news release. This will mean at least 7,200 new jobs for Albertans as projects are built.

Projects would be awarded by “competitive procurement,” or a bidding process, the details of which are expected in November.

Phillips said there are a number of ways the government may encourage more development of renewable energy generation, and that further details will be rolled out in the coming months.

“We have several thousand megawatts that are in the regulatory queue, both solar and wind,” she said. “There have been some hydro projects discussed as well. So we know the appetite for investment in this province among renewable players is significant.” The province’s Renewable Electricity Program will be a way to solicit investment in Alberta’s electricity system to meet the target, while ensuring projects come online in a way that does not impact grid reliability and is cost-effective. The program will be run by the AESO.

To be eligible, a project must be based in Alberta, be new or expanded, be five megawatts or greater in size, and meet the Natural Resources Canada definition of renewable sources.

The program will be based on recommendations provided to government by the AESO. The government is also looking at the rules surrounding small-scale and micro-generation.

Phillips said coal-fire power generation costs the province millions in health-care dollars and contributes to lost lives.

“Coal emissions have a very human and environmental cost,” she said.

Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter


Large yield expected from sugar beet harvest

15 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald

J.W. Schnarr

[email protected]

The annual sugar beet harvest is about to get underway, and with it a reminder for local residents to keep an eye out for the hauling trucks that will soon be hitting southern Alberta roads.

More than 200 local farmers will defoliate and harvest about 28,000 acres of beets over the next eight weeks, working around the clock. Piling grounds where the beets are stored are located in Taber, Picture Butte, Vauxhall, Tempest, Enchant, Coaldale and Burdett.

There is a limited amount of time to get beets out of the ground and to the processing plant, meaning trucks will be hauling beets at all hours of the day.

“There are going to be trucks on the road at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 4 in the afternoon,” said Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers.

“So everyone is asked to be mindful of that. Especially in areas where they are piling locations. There are always lineups of the beet trucks getting ready to unload. Everybody is doing their best to get sugar beet harvest off, and we just ask people to be cautious around the trucks.”

This year’s sugar beet harvest is split into two parts. Garner-Skiba said this year the harvest is starting early, with a mini harvest to run from Thursday to Oct. 3. “Our main processor needs some sugar sooner rather than later,” she said. “So we are going to be delivering around 6,000 acres early on in the harvest.”

The main harvest will begin Oct. 3, and run to about the end of October. Beet processing is set to ramp up on Sept. 20 in Taber at the Roger’s Sugar factory.

“They will probably be slicing beats until the end of January,” said Garner-Skiba.

She said the crop appears to a good one this year, in spite of the hail and chaotic weather over the summer. Sugar beet yields are expected to be between 26 to 28 tonnes per acre and over 100 million kilograms of sugar is expected to be extracted from this year’s crop.

Alberta and Ontario are the only remaining provinces still growing sugar beets, and Ontario ships their harvest to Michigan for processing as U.S. sugar.

“Southern Albertans should be extremely proud of the fact that we are home to the only truly Canadian sugar that exists,” Garner-Skiba said. “Not only are sugar beets grown here, but they are refined here.”

Further, she noted the history of southern Alberta agriculture and sugar beets are intertwined, as new Canadians coming to the area were once hired to work the fields. Later, some became landowners themselves.

“This is a long history in southern Alberta that we should all be proud of,” said Garner-Skiba.

She asked local residents to consider supporting local sugar production as the fall baking season begins.

“I would like people to ask themselves if they are buying Alberta sugar,” she said. “Are you buying sugar that is manufactured in Brazil or Mexico? Buy local. Look for that Roger’s sugar, because it is our sugar, beet sugar. It is truly made-in-Alberta sugar.”

Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter


Hearings on Energy East pipeline a circus

1 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Demonstrators for and against the Energy East pipeline project were out in force Monday when the National Energy Board opened the Montreal phase of its national hearings on the project. The anti-pipeline crowd, however, not content to make their point out in the street, pushed their way into the hearing room, shoved the security guards aside and broke up the meeting. The energy board members, ill-prepared for the antics of the demonstrators, were driven from the room and the hearing was called off.

The Energy East pipeline, using the path of TransCanada’s existing natural gas pipeline, would pass under the St. Lawrence River near Montreal and then lead to a terminal near St. John, N.B. It would allow for refinement and export of bitumen from the northern Alberta oilsands.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who had been scheduled as the first witness, has been leading the area opposition to TransCanada’s pipeline project, complaining that members of the energy board had previously met privately with Jean Charest, a former Quebec premier and more recently a lobbyist for TransCanada. He wanted this week’s hearing called off because of that. When the energy board tried to hold the hearing anyway, the protesters appeared and broke it up, achieving what Mr. Coderre was not able to do through political manoeuvring. Mr. Coderre walked out of the adjourned hearing, calling it a circus.

Mr. Coderre and his allies turned it into a circus and hurt their messaging. Had they allowed the hearing to proceed, Mr. Coderre’s complaints about the energy board would have been exposed as totally fake. The invasion of the hearing room and cancellation of the hearing spared Mr. Coderre from exposing his complaints to rational study.

In January 2015, National Energy Board chairman Peter Watson and two commissioners met with Quebec representatives from a wide range of groups: municipal associations, chambers of commerce, mayors (including Mr. Coderre) and former premier Charest to seek their advice on how to engage with the province. This was an entirely appropriate step toward ensuring they listened sensitively to all relevant points of view. When these meetings were disclosed by the National Observer news website a month ago, the energy board at first denied Energy East was discussed in the meetings, which was a foolish thing to do. Then the board backed away from its denial, creating an appearance of impropriety.

Board members are perfectly free to meet with advocates of Energy East such as Mr. Charest and opponents of the plan such as Mr. Coderre in order to ensure everyone interested in the subject can get their views before the board in its hearings. How can Mr. Coderre complain about Mr. Charest attending such a meeting when Mr. Coderre himself was also there?

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has been urging Canadians to have confidence in their institutions and especially in the National Energy Board. That will be easier to do when the board shows it has the muscle to protect the integrity of its public hearings. The board should overwhelm Mr. Coderre with the facts and reduce him to silence. It should hire enough security guards to ensure the public hearings can in fact happen and the facts of the case can be widely understood.

Rational study may lead to the conclusion that the Energy East pipeline should be built. For that reason, Mr. Coderre and the protesters will do all in their power to prevent rational study from happening. The energy board should be ready for them.

An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press (distributed by The Canadian Press)


China extends canola deadline

1 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald


China says it will lift a fastapproaching deadline to introduce rule changes on Canadian canola shipments that threatened to inflict damage on the multibillion-dollar sector.

Starting today, the Chinese government had planned to enforce tighter regulations on the amount of foreign materials — such as weeds, other crops and detritus — permitted in canola exports from Canada.

But after a meeting Wednesday in Beijing between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the two countries announced the existing rules would stay in place as they continued to negotiate a long-term solution.

The two sides disagree on the level of foreign material, known as dockage, that should be considered acceptable in Canada’s canola exports to China. The Chinese government wants the contamination cut by more than half.

The canola dispute was expected to dominate the trade agenda during Trudeau’s high-level meetings during his first official visit to China.

“We’re happy to reassure Canadian farmers that (at) the Sept. 1 deadline we will be able to continue with the current regime of canola and we (will) work together very closely towards a longterm solution in the coming days and weeks ahead,” Trudeau said.

Speaking through a translator, Li said both sides have “shown flexibility” on the issue.

He noted that while China itself is a large canola producer, it has no intention to keep its door closed to other exporters. But he said Chinese producers and consumers have concerns that disease could be imported.

“We believe that both sides will be able to make some mutual adjustments with the larger picture of China-Canadian trade and ties in mind,” he said.

National Energy Board cancels first day of Energy East hearings in Montreal after protests

August 29, 2016

MONTREAL — Protesters chanting anti-pipeline slogans forced the cancellation Monday of the first day of hearings in Montreal into TransCanada’s Energy East project.

The head of the hearings for the National Energy Board said the federal regulatory body will try to resume proceedings Tuesday.

“TransCanada will not pass,” screamed one protester as police dragged him away from a downtown conference room.

Police made three arrests. Two men aged 35 and 44 were charged with assaulting a police officer and with obstruction of justice, while a 29-year-old woman was charged with obstruction of justice.

The 35-year-old man remained detained as of early Monday afternoon, while the two others were released.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, along with the mayor of Laval and other municipal representatives, walked out of the hearings not long after the demonstrators charged in.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian PressA demonstrator confronts Montreal mayor Denis Coderre as they disrupt the National Energy Board public hearing into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project.
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian press

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian pressA demonstrator is taken away by a police officer after disrupting the National Energy Board public hearing into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project proposed by TransCanada Monday, August 29, 2016 in Montreal.

Coderre was the first person scheduled to give testimony Monday but chose instead to leave, calling the protests a “masquerade.”

He, along with many provincial politicians and First Nations groups, oppose TransCanada’s project to transport crude oil from Alberta to New Brunswick.

“There are too many problems we are witnessing to accept the project,” Coderre told reporters after he decided to quit Monday’s hearings.

“We’re saying the project (TransCanada) presented is wrong, it’s bad and we don’t have the answers. And frankly one of the main issues is contingency plans, everything regarding safety.”

Last week Coderre asked for the hearings to be suspended after media reports revealed that two of the three NEB commissioners overseeing the review process met former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was at the time a lobbyist for TransCanada (TSX:TRP).

Coderre said he wasn’t calling for the commissioners to resign, but that there was a perception of bias.

Nonetheless, Coderre said it was important for him to give testimony in order for the NEB and the rest of the country to appreciate the concerns of local citizens.

One of the anti-pipeline protesters, Kristian Gareau, entered the room and started chanting and clapping with the other protesters.

He said the entire NEB process is illegitimate because two of the commissioners had met with Charest.

“There is a perception of bias,” said Gareau, 36. “These two commissioners are part of this democratic institution, which has the sweeping power of a federal court.

“So a judge cannot go and meet with people in a back room. It just shows this smug elite privilege which is completely unacceptable.”

The hearings are set for this week in Montreal before moving to Quebec City the week of Oct. 3.


Concerns raised over NEB panel members

25 Aug 2016

Lethbridge Herald


The National Energy Board says it is accepting written comments on motions calling for two of three people to step down from a panel reviewing the Energy East Pipeline over perceptions of bias.

The move follows revelations, first reported by the National Observer, that panel members Jacques Gauthier and Lyne Mercier met privately with Jean Charest early last year while he was a consultant for TransCanada, the company behind the $15.7-billion Energy East project.

No ‘free ride’: Notley

25 Aug 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Premier fires back at power companies in lawsuit

Premier Rachel Notley says the highstakes court fight over millions — if not billions — of dollars in power contracts is about protecting consumers against entitled power companies seeking “a free ride.” Notley made her first comments about the dispute Wednesday in a speech to Unifor union members at their convention in Ottawa.

“When a group of private companies decided to try to off-load onto the people of Alberta up to $2 billion in losses due to decisions that they made under a privatized system that they asked for, they didn’t get the free ride they would have gotten if the Conservatives were still in government,” Notley said to applause. “Instead, they got themselves a lawsuit. “Because there’s a new government in Alberta now. A new government that is committed to protecting the public to whom it is ultimately, completely accountable.”

Notley’s government launched the lawsuit on July 25 over power purchase arrangements, better known as PPAs. The PPAs form the spine of a deregulated electricity system created under the former Progressive Conservative government of Ralph Klein in 2000 to boost competition and bring in lower prices.

Under the system, power companies buy electricity from generators at auction via the PPAs, then re-sell it to the public with the promise that no matter what happens the generators get a reasonable rate of return.

The power buyers were in turn promised in 2000 they could effectively hand the contracts back if the province enacted changes that made the deals unprofitable or worsened deals that were already unprofitable.

In recent months, the companies have returned or have announced they will return a number of PPAs from coal-fired power plants, which the province says could leave taxpayers on the hook for $2 billion over the next few years.

Other analysts have disputed those figures, saying the hit could be half that or less.

Alberta is moving to end coal-fired electricity by 2030, and the power buyers say recent hikes to carbon fees on large generators have made the money-losing PPAs more unprofitable, triggering the give-back.

The province has fired back in the lawsuit, saying its own arm’s length energy regulator overstepped its authority in 2000 by allowing companies to ditch unprofitable PPAs just because they are more unprofitable.

They are also contesting that market forces and other actions by the companies, not just the carbon fee hikes, have contributed to the red ink in the PPAs.

The case has its first hearing in court in Edmonton on Nov. 2.

The respondents include Capital Power, Enmax and TransCanada.

The companies, in statements, have raised concerns about the court action, particularly that the province is trying to change deals entered into in good faith.

Opposition politicians say Notley’s government has only itself to blame, by making changes to carbon fees without understanding the implications.

They also say the lawsuit sends the more alarming message to investors that, in Alberta, deals with Notley’s government are subject to retroactive repeal.