Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My thoughts for Alberta's Climate Change plan

Refocusing Oil Sands Royalties
The existing Generic Royalty Regime for the Oil Sands has outlived its original goal for promoting development in the Oil Sands. The Oil Sands have gone under exponential growth over the last 7 years and have greatly surpassed 1997 expectations (i.e. it reached 1MBbls per day of production by 2004 instead of 2015 as predicted in 1997). Industry analysts including Wood Mackenzie have noted that if the Generic Royalty Regime development incentive were taken away, growth in the Oil Sands will likely not be affected.

On a different note, the Oil Sands account for the single highest source of growth of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. The industry is projected to produce 40Mt of CO2e in 2007, approximately 5% of Canada's total emissions. We must begin to offer incentives followed by tougher regulations to this industry to dramatically reduce its emissions over the next 5-15 years.

Given that the Generic Royalty Regime is no longer value added, we should refocus it as an incentive program for investing in GHG emission cutting measures and technologies, and for ongoing low GHG emission intensity performance (i.e. reward a company when it produces a certain amount less of its allowed GHG emission intensity target).

Phasing Out Natural Gas Rebates
The Natural Gas rebate program does not encourage energy conservation or the use of alternative heating source such as the solar powered boiler systems in Okotoks or geothermal energy, which is becoming more popular in Manitoba. These means cannot become competitive if the Government is subsidizing Natural Gas. I believe this rebate program should be phased out by April of 2008 for all middle-to-high income households in Alberta, and the savings should be redirected to a green technology fund.

Electrical Power Conservation Measures
Providing incentives and overuse penalties to reduce electrical power consumption from residential, commercial and industrial facilities should also be considered.

Upgrading Building Codes to R-2000 Standards
In addition, substantially upgrading our minimal residential, commercial and industrial building codes to R-2000 standards would also be a good measure to consider in the coming years.

Consumer Energy Monitoring
In order to assist the population in reducing its energy consumption, we need to allow people to better measure how much electricity and natural gas they are consuming on a daily basis. You can't manage what you can't control, and you can't control what you don't measure. Household electricity meters that produce real-time power utilization metrics can be purchased for as little as $200. I am not familiar if there are similar household Natural Gas meters out there also. In the coming years, I believe we should aim to have all Alberta households equipped with electricity meters.

Automotive Fuel Efficiency
Another major challenge for this province and the rest of Canada will be to dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuel consumption on the roads within the next 15-30 years. In the short term, we should provide incentives for standard transmission vehicles, as they are generally more fuel-efficient (if driven properly) and additional incentives for fuel efficient vehicles as defined by the federal ecoAUTO program (except for the "Flex-fuel Vehicle ecoAUTO Eligibility" AKA. Impala, Sebring, Monte Carlo).

Transit Oriented Development
In the mid to long term, we need to make walking, biking and mass transit the top 3 transportation priorities when developing our cities (similar to Vancouver). We need "Transit Oriented Development" (TOD) to become the standard in every city, which has a population greater than 100K people. This means that when areas are being planned for development or modified, the 3 transportation priorities above need to be on the same priority footing as providing water, sewage and electricity. We need to revamp and retrofit our existing cities to make them compatible with TOD concepts. In order for this to be successful, I believe we will need to legislate new municipal planning standards. On a related note, if our communities are designed to promote walking and biking then we can expect improvements in peoples' health to happen also.

Inter-City Transit Links
With a successful transit system growing in our major cities we should then consider high-speed rail for inter-city transportation connections; however the success of high-speed inter-city transit will depend on the success of intra-city transit systems.

Carbon Sequestration
I am pleased to hear that the Carbon Capture and Sequestration is a key element of Alberta's GHG reduction plan. I hope the Carbon Capture and Storage Task Force will take into account this province's growing expertise and past successes with this technology as surveyed by then Environment Minister Guy Boutilier in January 2006. Here is an article published by the Edmonton Journal on the matter.

Direct Hydrogen Production from Solar
Lastly, I believe we need to secure Alberta's long-term status as an energy superpower, which in 30 years will require that we broaden and diversify our energy expertise. One field we could benefit from is direct hydrogen production from solar. This process uses two solar cells, which are coated with a metal oxide (e.g. Titanium Oxide), to cause a reaction that will directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This technology is currently being developed in Australia, the UK and the US. I believe we should be welcoming this technology into Alberta by sponsoring R&D projects on the matter.

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