The Energy Disruptors: Unite 2022 (EDU) conference took place in Calgary recently, bringing together trailblazing "disruptors", ranging from industry leaders to institutional investors to award winning journalists and bestselling authors. With a goal of shifting perspectives to see global energy challenges as opportunities, EDU offers a conduit for global energy, mobility and climate solutions by "leaning in" on difficult conversations and boldly exploring complex topics.

Combining panel discussions, TED talk style presentations and fireside discussions, EDU delivered on its goal of providing three days of fascinating and inspiring conversations on the global energy industry today and in the future. Of particular interest were the conversations around Canada's role in the global energy transition to greater reliance on renewable energy sources.

Roles in the Energy Transition

The path to achieving Canada's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is no small feat. This massive energy transition will require not only the technology and capital to realize the benefits of alternative energy sources, but a shift in the global business and economic models. EDU began tackling the question of what the energy transition will entail and what it will mean for Canadian industries and individuals.

Canada's Role

Speakers such as former Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Maçães and Suncor's Chief Climate Officer Martha Hall Findlay were clear that Canada will remain an important player in the solution for global energy security given our vast abundance of natural resources. Firstly, the global energy transition is exactly that—a transition. Oil and gas products will still be crucial for energy security around the globe for the indeterminate future. What we can expect is the addition of renewable energy sources to the mix, rather than an outright replacement of oil and gas products. As an oil and gas industry leader, both in abundance and in environmental and social standards, Canada is expected to remain a prominent global player.

Secondly, in terms of renewable energy, Canada is already well on its way to becoming a prominent player and has the potential to strengthen this position. Canada is already one of the world's largest producers of hydroelectricity and ranks 9th and 22nd in installed wind and solar energy capacity respectively as of 2020. Further, Canada has vast, untapped wind and solar energy resources and wind and solar capacity in Canada is forecast to continue growing at a rapid pace. Additionally, the EDU conference highlighted Canada's role in other sectors such as geothermal energy and batteries (through lithium and graphite mining), suggesting that there is real potential for Canada to secure its place as a global leader in these industries if the applicable regulatory regimes can be aligned with the realities of securing these resources.

While the outlook appears generally promising for Canada, it was noted that in order to achieve these goals and see Canada emerge as a key leader in the energy transition, extensive capital needs to be mobilized, regulatory certainty needs to be realized and better cross-sector co-governance needs to be established.

Alberta's Role

Alberta is particularly poised to hold a significant role in the energy transition. Alberta has some the world's best geography to sequester carbon emissions securely and safely, and carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technology and projects continue to advance in the province. An example of such a project is Alberta's ShellQuest project, which has captured and stored over six million tonnes of C02 since opening in 2015. Moreover, Alberta has already seen an array of renewable power projects emerge in the past few years. In the EDU panel Alberta – Canada's New Wind and Solar Capital, Nagwan Al-Guneid of the Business Renewables Centre Canada (BRC) stated that the BRC's analysis shows over $3.7 billion in renewables construction by 2023 and 4,500 jobs in the sector in the province. Further, the panel noted that approximately $44 - $54 billion is expected in renewable investment within Alberta in the next 10 years. Alberta's unique market-based approach to power generation through its de-regulated energy marketplace, combined with Alberta's abundance of energy knowledge and engineering expertise, has allowed investors and corporations to capitalize on the social and economic advantages of investing in renewable energy development.

That said, a number of important questions about Alberta's energy future remain. The escalation in costs associated with renewable projects are a growing concern, as is and the ongoing question of whether we will continue to have sufficient construction materials and labour resources to build these projects. Additionally, reaching net-zero and complying with the federal government's commitment to a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 will require significant infrastructure development and pan-Canadian collaboration to integrate electrical grids across provincial and territorial lines. How jurisdictions address this cross-border energy infrastructure development, as well as the treatment of energy derived from Alberta's de-regulated marketplace in regulated-energy marketplace jurisdictions will need to be addressed in order to achieve a net-zero grid by 2035.