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Power lines lead into Calgary. According to an analysis by the office of Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, various provisions contained in the draft regulations mean that 73 of Alberta’s 86 natural-gas-fired power plants will still be able to operate in some capacity beyond 2035.Jeff McIntosh/The Globe and Mail

Almost all of Alberta’s natural-gas-fuelled power plants could operate in some capacity after 2035 under Ottawa’s draft clean electricity regulations, according to a federal government analysis, throwing into question the province’s assertions that its power grid is under threat.

The federal Liberal government released the proposed regulations in August. The unprecedented intervention into electricity policy is aimed at ensuring that non-emitting power serves as the backbone of Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Alberta’s United Conservative Party Premier, Danielle Smith, has labelled the plans irresponsible and unconstitutional, arguing they will doom the province’s power grid, which relies heavily on natural gas.

The goal of the regulations is to reduce emissions from Canada’s power grid to close to net-zero by 2035, a timeline Ms. Smith says is unrealistic. Alberta instead proposes a 2050 target – the same year Canada’s entire economy is due to hit net-zero under federal ambitions.

The Alberta government argues that the impact on natural-gas-fired power will result in unaffordable and unreliable electricity, and has repeatedly painted scenarios in which Canadians won’t be able to turn on their lights and are left without heat in the middle of winter.

The Alberta Electric System Operator, which is in charge of planning and running Alberta’s electricity network, also said last month the province cannot decarbonize its grid by 2035 without putting consumers and businesses at risk of blackouts and surging power rates.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault dismissed that as “misinformation, designed to inflame not inform.”

According to an analysis by his office, various provisions contained in the draft regulations mean that 73 of Alberta’s 86 natural-gas-fired power plants will still be able to operate in some capacity beyond 2035.

Those include allowances for using natural gas when consumer demand is highest, and letting plants that have carbon-capture technologies produce power. Existing plants will also be grandfathered into new regulations, with a guaranteed a minimum 20-year lifespan to operate without carbon-capture technologies, starting as late as 2025.

“Because of the flexibilities we’ve built in, there is no cliff for natural gas plants,” Mr. Guilbeault said in an e-mail.

“The draft regulations are designed with at least 12 years before they come into effect, giving time to attract investment and adjust decision making.”

The spat about the draft clean electricity regulations reflects an increasingly fractious Alberta-Ottawa relationship.

Ms. Smith said Wednesday on social media she planned to testify before Parliament’s Environment and Sustainable Development Committee next week as part of the group’s study of climate change and emissions-reduction targets in the energy sector. She wrote to the committee on Oct. 10, informing it of her intention.

But Ms. Smith would not have been able to testify. Protocol dictates that only people specifically summoned through a motion voted on by the all-party committee can appear as witnesses, and the committee specifically invited Suncor Energy Inc. chief executive officer Rich Kruger, along with Alberta’s Energy and Minerals Minister, Brian Jean, and its Utilities and Affordability Minister, Nathan Neudorf.

It’s something of a moot point anyway, committee chair Francis Scarpaleggia said in an interview, because that meeting isn’t going ahead.

He said the point of the meeting was primarily to hear from Mr. Kruger about why his company is abandoning climate targets that had been previously laid out in the face of a climate emergency. In August, the CEO of the oil sands giant said the company should focus on its roots as an oil company, rather than the longer-term energy transition. Those remarks rankled Ottawa.

But when Suncor declined the committee’s invitation, Mr. Scarpaleggia said, the appetite for the committee meeting evaporated.

Ms. Smith wrote in her letter to the committee that she wanted to testify because the federal government had provided “inconsistent and often misleading information” about the new clean electricity regulations, failed to disclose modelling and assumptions used to design the new rules, and ignored Alberta’s unique open energy market.

Her press secretary, Sam Blackett, said in an e-mail Thursday the Premier wanted to speak at the meeting given the significance of the issues to Albertans, Canadians and the energy industry.

Mr. Scarpaleggia countered that he doesn’t have a mandate “to start inviting other people, regardless of whether they are in a rush to attend or not.” Mr. Blackett said Ms. Smith would be happy to attend should the committee reconsider its decision or schedule any new meetings in the future.

Alberta’s provincial government is spending $8-million on an advertising blitz to make its case against the draft regulations. That includes around $4.2-million for advertising media buys outside of Alberta, and approximately $2.5-million for buys within the province across TV, radio, print, web, social media and billboards.

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