Alberta@Noon October 1, 2014 Transcript

Full transcript of Premier Prentice discussion of Renewable Energy and Coal Phase Out, Including a 10 year coal phase out

Premier Jim Prentice live in studio talking with Donna McElligott –

DMcE – One listener tweeted “Mr. Prentice, when are Albertans actually going to get a Renewable Energy Strategy?” and that’s a big question right there.

JP – Well, let’s talk about renewable energy in the context of energy, environment, and carbon emissions. One of the first things I did when I arrived as the Premier 17 days ago was to announce some significant changes to the civil service. There is a new senior person moving in who will head up the Alberta Public Service, his name is Richard Discerni (sp?), he’s stepping into that role. The person who previously held that role, whom I have enormous confidence in, is a gentleman by the name of Steve MacDonald, who has been what’s called the Deputy Minister of Executive Council, and Steve will be taking on direct responsibilities that bear on this question. He will be heading up our response on energy, the environment and climate change, and we have made changes already in terms of the staffing inside the Department of the Environment to make sure we have the horsepower that we need, and work has begun now on a new climate change policy. There’s a fair bit of work that needs to be done, but we’ve started the work already in terms of a long-term, strategic 25 year plan of where we will go as a Province.

DMcE – And I realize that it is a long-term strategy…

JP – And renewables are a part of that.

DMcE- Yes, and a related question, and that is, how can your voice be heard above the voices of Neil Young and Leonardo diCaprio who are out there, basically saying that Alberta is contributing to the problem and doing NOTHING to contribute to the solution?

JP – Well, I’m not sure that’s a question. I think you’re summarizing what they’ve said…

DMcE – That’s what they say.

JP – I don’t agree with what they’ve said, you know, there are some very good things going on in Alberta and there’s more we can do for sure… You know, I’ve said for many years, if you’re in the energy business, you’re in the environment business, so we have to be good at it.

DMcE – But you are saying things like we have to get out of coal. How quickly can we do that, for instance, in this Province?

JP – Well, I’ll tell you this; we can do it more quickly than anybody is doing it on the U.S. side of the border. As you and I do this interview, there’s over 550 coal-burning plants chugging away. In Alberta we have something like 20 units… with two exceptions, all those plants are nearing the end of their useful life and so it gives us the opportunity to do the right thing; not tomorrow, but you know, over the next ten years, and make the right kinds of choices.

But back to what others are saying, the reason we need a long-term strategy, we need to think it through, we need input into it, is so that we can respond to some of those voices because there are some very good things going on in Alberta.

DMcE – And how long, Joe wants to know, will it take to get out of coal, to phase it out? Isn’t it 60% of our carbon emissions come from coal in this Province?

JP – Well, I’ll tell you this, I know this stat for sure, of the man-made carbon in the atmosphere, 41% of it came from burning coal. It’s the biggest single source of emissions.

DMcE – Thank you. And so how long will it take?

JP – I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but there are two exceptions to what I’m about to say, and they are two plants that were built new in 2005, approved by a different Government at a different time. Leaving those exceptions aside, basically all of the units in Alberta come to the end of their useful economic life over the course of the next ten years, to 15 years max.

We have an opportunity to do the right thing, and it’s because these plants… it’s sort of a phase-out of expired capital stock, basically.

DMcE – That’s not a very long time really, in the big scheme of things.