The province of Alberta is likely best known internationally for its world-destroying tar sands, but in the province there’s a push by citizens to create a sustainable economy. On the north end of the tar sands exists a new solar installation owned by local indigenous groups. The installation functions first and foremost as a source of power for a small town, but it serves as a symbol of a clean future that leaves the destruction of the fossil fuel industries behind. The independence and cost savings that the installation brings are nice too!
The project is owned by Three Nations Energy, a joint venture of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Fort Chipewyan Métis Association, all located in the hamlet of Fort Chipewyan.
The 5,760 solar panels will supply the remote northeast Alberta community with around 25 per cent of its energy needs, the company says.
Before the solar farm, Fort Chipewyan’s roughly 1,000 residents got their energy from the ATCO-owned diesel power station, which every year burns three million litres of fuel trucked in on ice roads or delivered by river barge.
The Canadian province of Alberta is best known for the tar sands and the damage extraction of the bitumen has done to the planet. The province is now aware that their extraction economy won’t last forever because it isn’t renewable, so they have started to implement policies to make their province more efficient. One recent thing they did was implementing a carbon tax. Over at desmog blog they compiled a list of ten reasons Albertans like the new carbon tax and how it benefits them.
4) Household Rebates — $1.5 Billion
A popular critique of carbon pricing is that it unfairly punishes lower income people, costing poor people a higher percentage of their income and leaving even fewer options to, say, buy a newer and more fuel-efficient car or furnace.
Thankfully, Alberta has integrated well-designed rebates into the design of the carbon levy, channelling $410 million in 2017-18 to household rebates.
Two-thirds of Albertan households have already received partial or full rebates, depending on their income levels. Consumers who pollute less than average actually make money from the rebates.
Over three years, the household rebates will amount to $1.5 billion.
Alberta has finally decided to update their energy and environmental policies after years of ignoring the fact that their policies are killing nearly everything within the province. Premier Rachel Motley has announced sweeping changes that will bring Alberta into the 21st century. They are going to phase out their coal plants and put on caps on how awful the tar sands can be!
Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips dropped nothing less than a policy cluster-bomb of mandated targets, rules and often the mere hint at mechanisms and subsidy packages to enact it all. Alberta will follow British Columbia in introducing a cross-economy carbon tax, $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 the following year—rebate and offset programs to come. The province will mimic Ontario and mandate the end to coal power by 2030—compensation and negotiated phase-outs to come. Methane emissions from venting, flaring and leaking, will have to be cut nearly in half in a decade—a goal that drillers and others will struggle now to meet in near-lockstep with the Obama administration’s approach on the greenhouse gas that’s more intense than carbon.
Lastly, there’s the oilsands policy, designed to get the biggest nods and high-fives out of foreign partners and environmentalists: a hard cap on emissions from that sector, 100 megatonnes. When Notley was asked about Oil Change International’s tweet that this means “no new tar sands growth,” the premier furrowed her brow and said no. Furrowing and shaking their heads along with her were four oilsands executives invited to share the announcement, from Suncor, Shell, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Murray Edwards, the CNRL chairman few watchers expected to appear at such an event, was gushing in his congratulations about the collaboration between industry, the province and green advocacy groups: “This plan recognizes the need for balance between the environment and the economy.” The cap was set at 100 megatonnes, with more room for bitumen upgrading; Alberta’s oilsands currently produce 70. So there’s room to expand the traditionally vilified resource for years to come, and much more if they make good on pledges to slash the per-barrel emission rates. CNRL and counterparts get room to grow, and the climate change panel report by University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach predicts that in most cases, the designed changes won’t cost more than $1 per barrel for most operators.
The province of Alberta is usually only mentioned on this site when people are campaigning against the tar sands and the destruction of the environment. Today though, the capital of Alberta, Edmonton, has done something rather great. Edmonton is home to a large industrial-scale waste processing plant that converts what would normally go into a landfill into useful energy.
Thanks to its extensive composting and recycling facilities, the city of Edmonton, Canada is already diverting approximately 60 percent of its municipal waste from the landfill. That figure is expected to rise to 90 percent, however, once the city’s new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility starts converting garbage (that can’t be composted or recycled) into methanol and ethanol. It’s the world’s first such plant to operate on an industrial scale, and we recently got a guided tour of the place.
Kate Beaton of Hark a Vagrant fame once worked in the Alberta tar sands. She recently made a short comic about her time working there (which she did to pay off student debt) and it provides a wonderful human side to the tar sands narrative.