When some people think of energy and Alberta they think of oil rigs, pipelines and the politics around it — all of which are making headlines, again. And loudly. But there’s more to Alberta’s energy story. It’s about how expertise and innovation are paving the way for a new future of energy.
While demand for energy continues to climb globally, Alberta is actively working to reduce its emissions and build out its renewable energy industry. It’s a delicate balancing act. The 2017 World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency notes that fossils fuels continue to be the key source of energy despite the ongoing integration of renewable sources into the energy mix. Meanwhile, Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan seeks to cap oil sands emissions to 100 megatonnes per year, reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025, and end pollution from coal-generated electricity by 2030. The province also has a goal to generate 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, which includes adding up to 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy through private sector investment of about $10-billion. It’s a move aimed at cleaning the air, creating jobs and diversifying the economy. But is Alberta ready to make the shift?
The shift is already happening
Turns out, Alberta is a province that’s already home to a number of renewable energy companies, and some of these companies work directly with traditional E&P companies to help them operate more efficiently by using less water, waste and energy. While the backbone of Alberta’s economy is still traditional energy extraction, production and distribution, more resources are going towards supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.
In reality, there is no “choice” to change. Energy is just one of many sectors, ranging from retail to financial services, being disrupted by new technology and changing consumer sentiment. But just as consumers continue to shop and bank both online and in person, they will continue to rely on traditional oil and gas production while also adopting new forms of energy, such as solar and wind.
While it’s easy to separate the concept of old and new sources of energy, there’s a lot of commonality and work done between the two, says Graeme Edge, cofounder of Calgary-based energy industry executive search firm McLaren Dion Edge.
“It’s not one or the other,” says Mr. Edge, who also co-founded Energy Disrupters, an energy consultancy that’s hosting its first thought leadership event in Calgary on May 15 and 16. “Energy is hugely important to the Canadian economy. What we need is a more balanced discussion around energy, which recognizes that oil and gas are important, but we also need to invest in other areas as well.”
Alberta appears well poised for the next era of energy that includes a combination of traditional and clean tech sources, says Curtis Stange, Chief Customer Officer of ATB Financial.
Mr. Stange says large E&P companies are making significant investments in new technologies that will help support the transition to a low-carbon economy. The shift is being driven in part by technological advances, as well as the drop in oil prices in recent years, a change that forced companies to cut costs by finding efficiencies.
Supporting the next phase of growth
ATB, the largest financial institution headquartered west of Toronto, supports both traditional and renewable energy companies. They provide various financial services needed to prepare for “uncontrollable factors” driving change in the industry such as technology, regulation, commodity prices and consumer sentiment, explains Mr. Stange.
“We look at ourselves as an influencer and a catalyst to help drive disruption,” he says. “Banks have to reimagine how value is created for shareholders and customers alike, with profit levels maintained. We understand the need to be able to respond to disruption with new ideas and innovations.”
An example is ATB’s recent adoption of blockchain technology, which is used to help streamline processes ranging from cross-border payments to securities settlement. ATB is working with a number of oil and gas companies to use the blockchain to handle monthly transactions on oil settlement day.
While still an emerging technology, Mr. Stange says blockchain is more transparent, cost-efficient and has fewer risks of human errors with spreadsheets and other administrative work that comes with the current settlement day technology.
ATB is also supporting the build-out of the renewable industry. It’s a major financier of solar projects and developed a lending program for consumers and small business customers that install solar systems in the province. The bank is also a backer of carbon offset developer Blue Source Methane ULC, a subsidiary of Blue Source Canada, an installer of low emission pneumatic devices at well sites. Mr. Stange says Blue Source is an example of a company that bridges the traditional and new energy sectors. “It’s good for the E&P companies and it’s good for the environment,” says Mr. Stange.
“The shift is driven by price, as well as changing sentiment and social awareness from consumers and businesses about where their energy is coming from.”
Mr. Stange says ATB is listening closely and leaning in to support both traditional and renewable energy companies’ transition to the future of energy by helping Alberta lead the way.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.