In an endeavor to challenge federal policy, Alberta’s Premier, Danielle Smith, confronted the issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the 2023 Alberta Climate Summit. Touted as a venue to scrutinize the shift towards responsible energy, the inaugural day spotlighted the intense wrangling between provincial and federal parties.
Stepping into the limelight for separate, intimate “fireside chats” during the afternoon, Smith and the Federal Energy Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, each presented their perspectives. The main crux of their discussion revolved around the mechanisms and timeline needed to make Alberta’s electricity grid net-zero.
While the Federal front held the ambition of achieving this by 2035, Smith suggested a more suitable target to be 2050. “Aligning expectations with what is feasible is paramount, she argued. “Avoid the temptation to hasten decisions for electoral gains at altars of impracticality and improbability.”
Despite Smith’s protestations, Wilkinson reiterated his confidence that the province could reach the goal by the stated target year. Following his conversation at the event, he shared that dialogue had already been fruitfully engaged with other provinces tackling similar challenges.
“Either you can staunchly decline to engage in what initially seems impossible, or you can choose to participate in the discussion,” Wilkinson championed.
Yet, Smith maintained her stand, going as far as to brand the goal as “unachievable”. Amongst an audience of clean energy advocates and environmental experts, this viewpoint was met with some derision.
“My objective is to ensure a reliable energy grid, not to pander to fanciful notions,” Smith defiantly proclaimed.
Even as she fended off criticism over discontinuing wind and solar energy projects within her province, Smith remained unyielding. Her government continues to fund advertisements in other provinces, such as Ontario, ringing alarm bells about soaring costs and possible power shortages due to the pursuit of the 2035 climate goals.
Wilkinson countered this by stressing that flexibilities could be resolved through face-to-face conversations. The Federal administration had, in August, unveiled a draft of their clean electricity regulations. The draft suggested that employing cleaner, non-emitting forms of electricity would render energy more affordable for Canadians in the long term.
Currently, dialogues are underway between both sides, exploring potential common ground on this complex issue.