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Newsletter December 31 , 2023

A WORD FROM THE PRESIDENT

Hydrogen to the rescue?

Jacob Irving, President Energy Council of Canada

Canada has set ambitious targets to reduce GHG emissions. Increasing the use of electricity to displace current high-emission energy sources is the core of Canada’s approach and that of many other countries. Given our 80% emission-free electricity industry and its expansion potential, the prospect of converting existing energy uses as well as expanding the electricity supply is not unrealistic. However, there are economic sectors that are resistant to de-carbonisation. Transportation fuels are the most obvious examples. They account for 22% of Canadian emissions.

For at least that reason, Canada and its allies are looking to hydrogen as a possible solution in addition to electric vehicles. There is much work to be done to improve the technologies of production and use, to lower costs, and to convince consumers to adopt hydrogen solutions. In 2021 The Economist magazine published a Briefing on hydrogen. It was titled, Creating the new hydrogen economy is a massive undertaking. The article describes the existing hydrogen industry as small, dirty, and essential. Hydrogen is mostly produced using fossil fuels and it is vital to the production of fertilizer. However, hydrogen can also be produced in environmentally friendly ways. Natural gas in combination with carbon capture and storage is one. Electrolysis, the application of clean electricity to water, to split the oxygen and hydrogen molecules with little to no negative by-products is another. And Canada has lots of clean electricity.

The expansion and re-purposing of hydrogen production is well underway. The Hydrogen Council has reported 350 big projects to produce, distribute, and enable end use of hydrogen globally. Canada is important in that movement. The Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA) is the voice of the industry in Canada and an ECC partner. Canada is already among the top ten producers in the world. The CHFCA reports that Canada has 7 hydrogen hubs. Three are in Ontario, two in Quebec, and one each in Alberta and British Columbia. They undertake a variety of activities to help expand hydrogen as an energy source. They include research, promotion of fuel cell vehicles, fuelling stations, and hydrogen production.

In late 2020 the federal government released the Hydrogen Strategy for Canada. Since then, Canada has concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the Netherlands on cooperation on hydrogen development. In 2023, the government signed a Declaration of Intent with Germany to work towards a hydrogen alliance.

It remains to be seen when hydrogen will be able to deliver on its promise of a benign energy source to compete with conventional energy. However, there is ample evidence that in Canada and elsewhere efforts are underway to bring that about. The interest and excitement around hydrogen led us to choose it as the theme for this year’s Canada’s Energy Story, which will be posted on the ECC website during the week of 22 January.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Canada energy update 2024 is scheduled for 31 january 2024 at the National arts centre in ottawa

On Wednesday, 31 January 2024 the Energy Council of Canada will hold its third annual Canada Energy Update. The event is an opportunity for energy industry associations and others in the sector to briefly present their re-cap of 2023 and their expectations for 2024. It’s also an opportunity for people who work in the sector, journalists, analysts, government officials, and the public to receive an overview of the important issues coming up in 2024. For a look at the first two Canada Energy Update events, follow this link to the ECC website Events page.

We are pleased to announce that the Honorable Mark Menezes, President and CEO of the United States Energy Association and former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Energy will participate. See Mr. Menezes’s biography here.

This year the Update will be in a hybrid format. Presenters can appear in person or online. Similarly, there will be an opportunity for audience members to attend the live event or follow a livestream of the presentations. In 2024 the in person venue is the Le Salon room at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The session will be held from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST; tickets to attend in Ottawa are $175 + HST. The event will be followed by a cocktail reception from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm. 

We wish to thank our event sponsors:

ENERGY COUNCIL OF CANADA PUBLICATIONS

Canada's Energy Story

The Energy Council of Canada publication, Canada’s Energy Story, will be posted to our website during the week of 22 January. This year we invited people and organizations that are working on the development of hydrogen as an expanded energy source in Canada to share their stories. We have collected articles from organizations that are involved in hydrogen research, production, storage, and use.

ECC Q4 ACTIVITIES

EHRC Releases Labour Market Intelligence 2023 report

On 25 October 2023 Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC) released its most recent Labour Market Intelligence report, Electricity in Demand: Labour Market Insights. The report draws on the results of an industry survey conducted over the summer.

Some of the findings reiterate trends that were captured in 2022’s report. Employment growth in the electricity industry is significantly greater than the overall economy. In the last 5 years the industry has had a 12% increase in employment opportunities, compared with 7% in Canada as a whole. In particular, the study found that the new renewables in the recent past (2018 – 2022) have seen extremely high growth rates. There has been a 579% increase in the demand for wind turbine technologists, 259% in photovoltaics, and 249% growth in electric vehicle employment demand.

Given policy trends to dramatically increase electricity use to replace fossil fuels, it is not surprising that members of the industry have a positive view of the future. The summer survey found that 87% of those who responded to the question of what they expected in the future considered the outlook “good” or “very strong”. Up to 2028 the demand for labour is expected to be roughly 27,000 employees. That is made up of 12,000 new positions to support growth and 15,000 to replace retirees.

EHRC offers recommendations based on the trends that the report revealed:

The scale of the challenges confronting the sector necessitates the development and execution of a comprehensive human resources strategy and action plan …This report proposes a three-pronged strategy and action plan that focuses on (i) attracting and retaining workers to the sector (quantity of labour); (ii) safeguarding work quality and ensuring workers have the right training and skills (quality of labour); and (iii) matching workers with opportunities in the labour market (workforce partnerships).

ECC President Irving Appears before House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) invited the Energy Council of Canada to provide a witness for its session on Monday, 20 November 2023. President Jacob Irving appeared before the Committee.

The topic under discussion was the Situation at the Russia-Ukraine Border and Implications for Peace and Security. In this session, the Committee was interested in gathering expert views on food security and energy security. Mr. Irving provided an introduction to the ECC and spent some time outlining the North American and International Outreach (NAIO) program. He explained that its purpose is to inform and raise awareness among other nations of Canada’s energy resources and expertise in the sector. When asked about the limited natural gas exports to counter the restrictions on Russian exports to Ukraine, he explained that Canadian gas is exported to the US at the moment and finds its way to Ukraine through the US. He noted that a major LNG export facility was being developed in British Columbia (LNG Canada) and that it will provide useful information to assess the viability of potential future projects.

ECC Joins Panel at Ottawa Conference of the 3 Seas Initiative

At the invitation of the Polish Embassy, President Irving appeared on a panel on 21 November 2023 to discuss opportunities for Canada through eastern Europe’s 3 Seas Initiative (the 3 Seas refer to the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas). The project is designed to improve links among 12 countries of eastern Europe. These include digital, energy, and transportation connections.

The countries comprising the Initiative describe their mission this way:

The Three Seas initiative aims to promote cooperation, first and foremost, for the development of infrastructure in the energy, transport, and digital sectors. It targets new investments, economic growth, and energy security.

The Initiative began in 2015. Now, with the invasion of Ukraine, the countries involved in the program are also working to provide support to that country to assist in reconstruction.

The title of the Conference was The Three Seas Initiative: An Opportunity for Canada. Mr. Irving was on the energy panel and discussed Canada’s situation with respect to exporting natural gas to Europe, which would re-build a degree of energy security for the countries involved in the 3 Seas Initiative.

ECC President Irving Gives Keynote Address at US-Canada Executive Energy Conference

Each year the New England – Canada Business Council (NECBC) holds an Executive Energy Conference. The Council’s mandate is to advance business, political, and cultural relationships between Canada and the United States and to help members grow their cross-border professional networks.

Given the importance of energy trade between Canada and the northeast United States, the NECBC has sponsored an energy conference each year since 1981 in Boston. This year’s (November 1 -2, 2023) conference was supplemented by an Electrification Showcase by companies from Quebec. They displayed the variety of electrification technologies that they are developing in the province.

The conference concluded with a keynote address by ECC President Jacob Irving.

ECC Participates in Municipal Energy Symposium

In November Jacob Irving was invited to participate on behalf of the Energy Council of Canada in a Municipal Energy Symposium. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (OMA) and its related organization, Local Authority Services (LAS), sponsored the event in Toronto. The gathering gives municipalities in the province the opportunity to showcase and share the ways in which they are dealing with issues of energy generation, consumption and demand.

ECC President Publishes Op Ed in The Hill Times - 20 December 2023

In late December The Hill Times newspaper published an article written by ECC President Jacob Irving. Following the close of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) in Dubai. Mr. Irving offered his views on the decision to invite the oil and gas industry to the conference and highlighted how the industry has unique capabilities to help in the fight to reduce GHG emissions.

IN THE NEWS IN Q4 2023

SCC Delivers Advisory Opinion on the Impact Assessment Act

On 13 October 2023, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a response to a reference concerning the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act. The reference arose from a decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal. The federal government appealed the Alberta court’s decision by way of a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada. A reference decision does not strike down legislation. The Act is still in place.

The federal government has issued guidance on how the existing Act is to be implemented following the decision. It also announced that it will amend the legislation.

The Court’s opinion was that the Act was unconstitutional,

“… for two overarching reasons … First, it was insufficiently focused on environmental effects within federal jurisdiction: both the screening and decision-making phases needed to be more tightly tethered to such effects (at paras 150, 177 – 178). Second, the definition of ‘effects within federal jurisdiction’ was too broad, in that it included interprovincial effects not currently recognized as matters of national concern, and it resulted in impermissibly broad permanent prohibitions where a negative project decision was made (IAA Reference at paras 184 – 189)”.
[Olszynski, Bankes, and Wright: University of Calgary Law Blog]

Sample commentary on the decision:

• Transition Accelerator Webinar
• Canadian Environmental Law Association post
• Government of Canada News Release

HATCH to Work with Partners to Support SMRs

Canadian consulting engineering firm Hatch will work with Tractebel and Laurentis Energy Partners to develop a ‘one-stop shop’ to support industrial small modular reactor (SMR) clients around the world. – Canadian Consulting Engineer, 2 December 2023

Enbridge steps up with $250k donation to struggling Ontario fire departments

Enbridge Gas has stepped forward with a crucial lifeline for fire departments across Ontario. The company’s $250,000 donation is part of the Safe Community Project Assist program, specifically designed to provide financial aid to struggling fire departments in the form of training and expertise. – True North, 25 December 2023

Halton Hills’ Atura Power receives $4.1M for hydrogen blending project

Atura Power will play a key role in “assessing the untapped potential of low-carbon hydrogen” as the province moves toward a decarbonized power grid.

So said Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith on Thursday morning (Nov. 23) at the Halton Hills Generating Station, where he announced the local company would be receiving $4.1 million to produce a blended electricity from hydrogen and natural gas. – TheIFP, 25 November 2023

Oil and gas sector warns emissions cap could lead to production curtailments

The plan to have the oil and gas sector cut its emissions by more than a third of 2019 levels by 2030 is meant to “set a limit on pollution, not production,” the federal government said in a news release announcing the framework Thursday.

But the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the country’s largest fossil fuel industry group, said the plan is a de facto production cap. While the industry is working to reduce its emissions, CAPP said the speed and scope of progress that the government is asking for is too ambitious. – CBC, 7 December 2023