Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 13, 2024. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 12 per cent lower in 2030 with carbon pricing in place than they will be if the pricing system for consumers and big industry were to be scrapped, new federal data published Thursday suggests. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

 

OTTAWA, REGINA – The federal and Saskatchewan governments traded barbs over Saskatchewan’s response to the Clean Electricity Regulations, essentially saying they are impossible to follow, so we won’t follow them. We’ll get to net zero in due course, by 2050 instead of 2035, according to the Government of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan is doing so via its first implementation of the Saskatchewan First Act, which was meant specifically for these sorts of fights with Ottawa over federal climate change initiatives. Pipeline Online has written extensively about it here and in the links at the end of this story..

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre has been Saskatchewan’s lead on this front, while the federal lead has been Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson.

Here’s the statement issued by the office of the Minister of Environment, who is Steven Guilbeault. Pipeline Online received a copy by email on June 27. The statement reads:

It is not surprising that these incorrect conclusions were reached. Saskatchewan launched this tribunal with an underlying ideological agenda to build a political fight with the Government of Canada, as evidenced by the assertion from Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre that this tribunal has an exclusive role to “analyze and quantify the dollar figure harm of federal policies.”

The results of this report are wildly out of sync with all the benefits we know come with building out a cleaner grid. Saskatchewan is ideally situated to be a leader in these economic opportunities. Saskatchewan has huge opportunities to reap in transitioning its grid to clean energy, including through the development of carbon capture and storage technology, small modular nuclear reactors, and renewable energy.

All parts of Canada are going to see increased expenditures to expand the production of electricity in response to the twin demands of a growing economy and population and to the desire for households and businesses to transition away from fossil fuels towards electricity to heat and cool our buildings, move our vehicles and power our industry.

Building a cleaner grid will not only help to create tens of thousands of jobs in the province of Saskatchewan, but also support more affordable electricity rates for Saskatchewanians over the long term. The costs associated with modernizing and expanding electricity grids in Canada will in fact enable the switch from more expensive fossil fuel energy sources. The Clean Electricity Regulations are essential to provide market certainty and ensure businesses can plan for a net-zero future. Third party studies project that the result of this transition will be that the total energy bill of most households will actually be lower in 2050 than it is today as a result of the transition to clean, affordable electricity and off of increasingly costly fossil fuels.

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The CER will impose a very small added impact on top of those expenditures to ensure that the build out of electricity is as clean and efficiently as possible. This report considers an outdated draft version of the Clean Electricity Regulations and fails to acknowledge the significant additional flexibilities that we proposed and have been consulting on since earlier this year. The Government of Canada continues to engage in detailed consultations with provinces and other electricity providers to design the CER in a way that achieves these objectives while enabling provinces to continue to provide affordable, reliable electricity.

This report is hard to take seriously, as it considers an outdated draft version of the Clean Electricity Regulations and fails to acknowledge the significant additional flexibilities that were proposed earlier this year to ensure the regulations ensure we expand the electricity grid in a manner that maintains affordability and reliability while reducing emissions. Furthermore, the regulations are not yet finalized.

The tribunal excludes the $40 billion on the table from the federal government to help provinces build a cleaner grid, and ignores the millions of dollars the federal government has already invested to upgrade Saskatchewan’s grids, including providing $74 million to develop small modular reactors, $174 million to upgrade the E.B. Campbell Hydroelectric Station, rollout of smart meters, and upgrade Saskatchewan’s grid infrastructure, and supported many exciting wind and solar projects across the province.

On top of the historic investment, we made as part of the last federal budget, we are consulting on clean electricity regulations to make sure we get them right. We are creating many flexibilities to ensure a smooth transition of existing grid infrastructure across Canada, including in Saskatchewan. The United States is doing the exact same thing with their own electricity sector.

The Supreme Court has recognized the federal government’s role in regulating greenhouse gas emissions.”

You can find updated draft regulations here, they are up for comment and reliant on what industry says is technically feasible: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-action/powering-future-clean-energy/overview-saskatchewan.html

 

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Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre, speaking about a federal “gag law,” in a scrum in Weyburn on June 5. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Saskatchewan fires back

And here is the response of Saskatchewan Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Bronwyn Eyre, sent by email to Pipeline Online on June 27:

Following the release of the Saskatchewan Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal’s report on Tuesday, the federal government released this emailed statement:

“The tribunal excludes the $40 billion on the table from the federal government to help provinces build a cleaner grid, and ignores the millions of dollars the federal government has already invested to upgrade Saskatchewan’s grids.”

This statement is ridiculous.

Here’s why:

  • The $40B that ECCC cites is for all provinces, over ten years, and comes with economically devastating strings attached, including the requirement of net zero by 2035.
  • The $40B would cover only about three per cent of the total cost of net zero electricity grids nationwide, according to the federal government’s own independent Electricity Advisory Council, appointed by Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, which found: “The overall investment required to fully decarbonize the nation’s electricity production, while expanding to meet new demand, is estimated to be approximately $1.4 trillion.”
  • Its final report was released on June 10, 2024: final report
  • The majority of rest of the money that the federal government cites is returned federal Carbon Tax money, which belongs to the people of Saskatchewan.
  • In a subsequent statement, Minister Steven Guilbeault said that the Supreme Court has recognized the federal government’s role in regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Fact check:

  • In the Carbon Tax Reference case, the Supreme Court decision revolved exclusively around national carbon price stringency. It explicitly did not give the federal government free rein to intervene in specific, provincial industries or shut down facilities.
  • The federal government is well-aware that laws with respect to the generation and production of electrical energy fall under exclusive provincial jurisdiction in section 92A of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Minister Guilbeault has also cited “new” draft regulations for the Clean Electrity Regulations (CER), but these are potential and hypothetical only, with no costing or clarity. The CER still require carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) on gas turbine power facilities, which is totally untested technology and doesn’t operate anywhere at scale.

With the new CER, the federal government would mandate that we bet our power grid on this totally untested technology, spend at least $1.5B dollars, with no guarantee that it would work.

We will not do that to Saskatchewan.

Editor’s note: there’s a LOT more to come on this front in the coming days and weeks. The Clean Electricity Regulations are one of the largest policy moves in decades for Canada, and, if enacted, will utterly reshape our economy and society. 

 

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Pipeline Online provides the in-depth coverage on energy issues in this province that no other media comes close to. It does NOT receive federal journalism subsidies, and it will NOT allow the federal government to limit its freedom of speech. With recent action from Facebook to block news links, it’s important to follow Pipeline Online in other manners. The easiest is to check each morning at PipelineOnline.ca, with the top story posted at 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, and additional coverage throughout the day and weekend. But you can also follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can follow editor Brian Zinchuk online at LinkedIn as well (you’ll see more stories that way). You can subscribe to a weekly newsletter. And if you wish to advertise and support this journalism, call 306-461-5599.

 

 

Saskatchewan won’t follow Clean Electricity Regulation, citing Economic Assessment Tribunal report

 

Sask NDP response to Clean Electricity Regulations tribunal report

Clean Electricity Regulations: Longhorn Oil & Gas submission