March 23, 2018

Affordable Energy News Service for March 23, 2018

Affordable Energy News Service for March 23, 2018

Rachel Notley's budget buys a ticket for the 'resource roller coaster' she once ridiculed — Ben Eisen & Steve Lafleur

Before forming government, Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP vowed to get the province off “the resource revenue roller coaster.” So it’s ironic that now-Premier Notley’s third budget promises to take the province on yet another ride, as her government’s vague and risky “path to budget balance” relies on growth in natural resource revenues to (hopefully) eliminate Alberta’s deficit many years from now. In 2014, when oil prices collapsed, Notley, then-leader of the opposition NDP, had little sympathy for then-Premier Jim Prentice’s predicament. “The PCs claim it’s a crisis every time the price of oil drops,” she stated while criticizing the government for “riding this revenue roller coaster for years.” The term “revenue roller coaster” refers to Alberta’s reliance on resource revenues to fund programs. When resource prices are high, money pours in and governments spend freely. When resource revenues fall, big deficits tend to emerge. Now, as Alberta recovers from the recession, Notley calls the shots about how to deal with the deficit. In this budget, she has offered a simple plan: Buy another ticket on that roller coaster. - Financial Post  


Rose-coloured view from Alberta as province remains dependent on oil economy — Claudia Cattaneo

The big theme in Alberta’s 2018 budget is that thanks to NDP government leadership during the “worst recession in generations,” the provincial economy is more diversified and government less dependent on the oil-price roller coaster. But what’s striking is how much the path forward remains dependent on higher oil prices, oil production growth, and particularly pipe dreams, which in turn fuel the haul from carbon taxes. The province is pretty much banking on the hope that new pipelines, specifically Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.’s Trans Mountain expansion, will be in operation early in the next decade. “Beginning in 2021, additional revenue resulting from the federally imposed carbon price tied to the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline will be used to support vital public services as the province stays on track to balance the budget by 2023,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in unveiling his government’s financial plan for the final year of its term. - Financial Post  


Alberta pipeline bottleneck pressure builds — Tony Seskus

The sting of a nasty discount on Alberta oil hit home twice Thursday, underscoring the energy sector's struggles with pipeline bottlenecks and the building pressure to improve shipping capacity. First, Cenovus Energy said it throttled back production at its oilsands facilities with the price of Canadian heavy oil lagging well behind the U.S. benchmark price, a problem exacerbated by a lack of pipeline space. Then the Alberta government released its annual budget, a document replete with reminders of the importance the province places on building more pipeline capacity — and the consequences it sees of not doing so. - CBC News


'An unjustified infringement': First Nation sues Ottawa, British Columbia over oil tanker ban — Claudia Cattaneo

As protesters in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland go berserk over tankers from the federally approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion, First Nations in the Northern Coast are suing governments for banning them. The Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band says it filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia Thursday against the federal and provincial governments. It seeks to declare Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tanker ban “an unjustified infringement on the plaintiffs’ aboriginal rights and title.” It also knocks British Columbia’s establishment of the Great Bear Rainforest, which the ban aims to protect, but which the band disputes because it says it was implemented in its traditional lands without its consent. The Lax Kw’alaams are among 30 First Nations that launched a GoFundMe campaign in January to challenge the tanker ban in court that has raised $33,000 so far — a third of its target. Other First Nations that support the Eagle Spirit oil pipeline and energy corridor, which requires tankers to transport Alberta oil to Asia, are expected to file similar lawsuits. - Financial Post  


B.C. government promises rebates to carbon tax and PST for LNG industry — Richard Zussman

The B.C. government is redoing its fiscal framework for the liquefied natural gas industry in an attempt to secure a final investment decision from LNG Canada. The province announcing on Thursday that it will provide a PST exemption on construction costs of any LNG facility. The government is projecting that would be a $6-billion rebate for LNG Canada, compared to the framework designed by the previous provincial government. “Our new approach welcomes investment that puts our province’s people and future first, and rejects the old ways of resource development at any cost,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan. “Our obligation is to the people who call British Columbia home and our job is to get the best deal for them and the generations that follow.” The government has set guidelines for any LNG projects. The province’s four conditions are: a guaranteed fair return for B.C.’s natural resources, guaranteed jobs for British Columbians, respect & make partners of First Nations and protect B.C.’s air, land and water. - Global News  


Weaver loses confidence in NDP government over LNG, but won’t take them down — Richard Zussman

In an at-times bizarre and at-times confusing press conference, B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver said on Thursday that he does not support the government’s new regime on LNG, but that he won’t be taking the government down right now on the issue. Speaking to reporters for nearly 30 minutes, Weaver said the plan breaks the confidence and supply agreement between the Greens and NDP, and that he does not see a way in which the government can meet legislated climate reduction targets while the proposed LNG Canada facility is operating. “If you are going to add eight to 10 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and you are going to meet our targets, then all other aspects of the economy must make up the difference,” said Weaver. “What that means is by 2030 all other aspects of our economy, other than LNG Canada, would have to cut emissions by 50%.” - Global News  


Trudeau defends his record on Energy East Adam Huras

Speaking to the New Brunswick town of Sussex on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued that it wasn’t his government that killed the proposed Energy East pipeline, instead saying it was a market decision made by a company struggling with not one, but two energy projects. The town of Sussex has been suffering ever since the loss of its largest employer with the closure of its nearby potash mine two years ago. Conservative critic for Atlantic Canada Rob Moore squarely blames Trudeau’s government for the project’s death, believing it was regulatory hurdles and a lack of outward support from Liberal MPs that saw TransCanada walk away. - Telegraph Journal  


Premier opposes NB Power’s ‘weather tax’ John Chilibeck

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant will likely overrule NB Power if it pushes ahead with plans for a special levy that would pay for damage caused by natural disasters, according to an email obtained by Brunswick News. In the email, sent Wednesday afternoon to the Crown utility’s CEO Gaetan Thomas and copied to board chairman Ed Barrett, among other top officials, the Liberal premier says his government is concerned about what the media are calling a weather tax. NB Power is before the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board in Saint John this week as part of a rate hearing. Progressive Conservative opposition critic Jake Stewart has called the levy proposal a weather tax that should be scrapped. He insists New Brunswickers have already been taxed out by Gallant’s Liberal government. - Telegraph Journal  


16 northern Ontario First Nations will be connected to power grid after new agreement reached Shawn Jeffords

A new agreement between Ontario First Nations, the federal government and the province will see 16 northern communities connected to the power grid in a $1.6-billion project that will end their dependence on diesel fuel for power. The work, to be done in phases, is expected to be completed by 2023 and will shift the communities to the provincial electricity grid. Premier Kathleen Wynne said the Wataynikaneyap Power Grid Connection Project will be the largest Indigenous-led and Indigenous-owned infrastructure project in the province’s history. Wataynikaneyap Power – a majority-owned company by 22 northern First Nations – was founded in 2015 and will build the connection to the grid. The federal government will cover the cost of the project. - Toronto Star  


Doug Ford’s position on carbon tax makes no sense  Editorial

How does Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford’s oft-repeated promise that, if elected premier, he would repeal Ontario’s carbon tax make no sense? Let us count the ways. First Ontario does not have a carbon tax – it has a cap-and-trade pricing system. If Mr. Ford intends to scrap this system, he will still have to put in another system due to the federal government’s mandate. This will probably have to be a carbon tax. If Mr. Ford intends to fight Ottawa’s carbon tax in court, then he should say so and defend the position. That’s what Jason Kenney seems to be doing in his bid to become premier of Alberta. But the Trudeau government is unlikely to back off its signature environmental initiative, particularly in the face of right-wing opposition in a minority of provinces. - Toronto Star  


United States

Will U.S.-China trade tensions derail energy export plans? — Collin Eaton

The U.S. energy industry, producing record amounts of oil, natural gas and petrochemicals, has planned to grow through exports, especially to booming overseas markets in Asia. But the rising trade tensions between the United States and China could setback those plans. The Trump administration said Thursday that it would impose high tariffs on some $50-billion of Chinese goods each year. China quickly responded by announcing its own tariffs about $3-billion in U.S  goods. For the oil and gas industry the tariffs could be poorly timed. For one thing, oil companies use specialized machinery made in China, and costs could rise just as the U.S. shale boom is picking back up again. That could slow the energy sector's recovery. - Chron  


Lower cost advanced nuclear power could dominate future U.S. energy — Brian Wang

If nuclear can be built for $2,000/kW and natural gas prices go as projected, we could have 300GW of nuclear by 2050. The existing 100GW fleet of nuclear plants provides about 20% of US electricity on an annual energy basis. So, 300GW would be 60% of electricity. If nuclear can be built for $2,000/kW, gas prices go as projected, and there is either any kind of CO2 policy or any additional revenue streams, nuclear will be at least 80% of the power system. This could enable a significant expansion of the nuclear footprint to the parts of the world that need clean energy the most – and can least afford to pay high price premiums for it. - Big Future  



Turnbull government's National Energy Guarantee isn't ready for prime time — Ben Potter

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg wasted no time seizing on fellow Liberal Steven Marshall's victory in South Australia's election as a fillip for the National Energy Guarantee last weekend. The last major obstacle to the National Energy Guarantee – the Turnbull government's last chance to fashion a climate and energy policy from the smoking ruins of three or four abortive attempts – vanished with the former Weatherill government in SA, they crowed. That could be a stretch. Each state and territory must sign up to changes in the national energy laws that breathe life into the National Electricity Market (NEM). And that's no gimme. A close reading of a dozen or so key submissions to the Energy Security Board – the agency overseeing the development of the National Energy Guarantee – suggests the NEG isn't ready for prime time. - Australian Financial Review