Column: Getting closer to the green energy horizon

Boots-on-the-ground reality is that, while oil isn’t going away immediately, the transition to clean energy is accelerating.

When Alberta Premier Rachel Notley spoke at the NDP Convention last weekend, she made an adamant plea that party members support her province’s plan to tackle climate change, including building a pipeline.

Albertans have been devastated by the collapse in oil prices and the mass layoff of workers. And it won’t help that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is forecasting a drop of $50 billion in capital spending in 2016. That’s a 62 per cent decline over 2014 when $81 billion was spent. This year’s projection is $31 billion, the largest two-year drop since 1947.

Notley also took aim at activists inside the NDP who floated the controversial and ideological Leap Manifesto, a document that, among other things, rejects building any more pipelines and Canada having a 100 per cent clean green economy by 2050.

In no-oil’s corner is a new study released from the Institute of New Economic Thinking, Oxford University, which took a hard look at electrical power plants driven by fossil fuels and the tightening timeline of business as usual. They floated a new analysis that extended the concept of “stranded assets” that includes not only the assets of fossil fuels still in the ground but plants and equipment used to extract and transport raw material.

Using IPCC carbon budgets, the authors calculated the two-degree capital stock, i.e. the time it will take for future emissions to have a 50 per cent probability of staying within 2C global warming. Their calculations based on the business of fossil fuel extraction as usual shows we hit that wall in 2017.  Next year.

Beyond that, the fallout from climate change may force companies in the future to abandon fossil fuel extraction leaving reserves in the ground and shutting down or writing-off plants before they have provided their full usefulness. These are the stranded assets the report refers to and should be of concern to potential investors who may be left stranded themselves if corporate reserves of coal, oil and gas have to be abandoned in favour of green energy alternatives.

The research team recommends that “The least risky and most economically prudent course of action is to shift all new energy investment to zero carbon as rapidly as possible.”

Boots-on-the-ground reality is that, while oil isn’t going away immediately, the transition to clean energy is accelerating.

According to a report from Clean Energy Canada, investment in clean energy rose 88 per cent in 2014 to almost $11 billion. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that clean energy investment globally in 2015 was at an all-time high of $329 billion. In the same week of that announcement, $380 billion worth of oil exploration projects were cancelled.

The BNEF report confirmed that the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is “very much under way.” China alone accounted for more than $110 billion in clean energy investment and the country has cracked down on coal consumption and production while rapidly installing solar and wind. BNEF predicts China will be the largest clean energy market in 2016. The huge investment in green energy happened even as oil prices plunged.

According to Analytica Advisors, there are 50,000 people employed directly in over 800 firms in Canada’s $12 billion green technology industry.

The takeaway is that there is plenty of opportunity for work in green industries for displaced oil workers. Many have engineering and technical experience that, with a bit of re-honing, become hirable skills.

For investors, they need to look hard at the future of oil extraction, pipelines and climate risk. Rather than risking an income stream becoming a stranded asset, some are clearly making the shift to opportunities with promising returns in green energy futures.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and COVID-19 contact tracers must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Mark Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Hope in the virtual House of Commons Oct. 26, 2020 going to bat for Fraser Valley Speciality Poultry. (Mark Strahl/Facebook)
MP Strahl goes to bat for Chilliwack farmer in the virtual House of Commons

‘Why are the Liberals running roughshod over this hard-working Canadian farmer?’ MP asked

The theatre at Imagine High was once the theatre for a bustling theatre program for the University of the Fraser Valley. Students will once again fill the space as the Chilliwack School District has taken over the space for their new arts and tech high school, opening in 2021. (Submitted photo)
Collaboration a big part of Chilliwack’s newest high school

Imagine High will eventually be home to 700 students and registration is almost open

The smaller eagle on the left side of the picture has been stolen from the Sq’ewá:lxw First Nation. If found, contact the community office at 604-796-6129 or email info@skwahlook.com. (Contributed Photo/Sq’ewá:lxw First Nation)
Eagle carving stolen from Sq’ewá:lxw First Nation

If seen, contact the First Nation community office at 604-796-9129

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

It’s been eight years since Gordon Spencer (pictured), and cousin, ‘Lil’ Bruce Mayo, were gunned down in a home in Langley, and Spencer’s widow is hoping someone who knows something will step up (file)
Eight years on and still no answers in Langley double murder

Wife of victim makes public appeal for people with information to come forward

Langley resident Shaun Nugent, who died in 2019 shortly after he saved a swimmer from drowning, has been awarded a posthumous medal for bravery by the Royal Canadian Humane Association (Courtesy Nugent family)
Langley man who died after saving swimmer receives posthumous medal for bravery

Shaun Nugent rescued woman from Hayward Lake near Mission in July of 2019

Most Read