Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre, centre, with Economic Impact Tribunal chair Michael Milani, right, and Minister of Energy and Resources Jim Reiter, left, on April 8 in Saskatoon. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

REGINA, SASKATOON – It is simply impossible to meet federal climate change demands by 2035, so Saskatchewan is not going to do it, instead aiming for 2050. And we’re not taking it to court, either. That’s up to the federal government.

That was the fundamental response by the Saskatchewan Party provincial government on June 25, but now with a pile of arguments and data to back them up.

Following the release of the Saskatchewan Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal’s report on the federal Clean Electricity Regulations (CER), the Government of Saskatchewan has announced that it will not be complying with the regulations when they come into effect.

The CER are expected to come into effect on January 1, 2025.

This is the first action of this type thus far under the Saskatchewan First Act, which was designed precisely to give the Saskatchewan government the tools to fight Ottawa on its ambitious climate change initiatives. .

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre and Minister of Crown Investments (including SaskPower and SaskEnergy) Dustin Duncan held a press conference in Saskatoon on June 25 to release the report. Both ministers spoke to Pipeline Online by phone on June 26 to further elaborate Saskatchewan’s stance.

According to the report, Saskatchewan’s economic growth would be at least $7.1 billion lower, the province would lose at least 4,200 jobs, and there would be an $8.1 billion negative effect on Saskatchewan’s export sector under the CER, the government said.

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Substantial impact

“This report offers irrefutable, independent evidence that these federal regulations will have a substantial impact on the cost of electricity in Saskatchewan and, as a consequence, our economy and way of life,” Eyre said. “We cannot participate in federal economic harm to our province.”

Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal Chair Michael Milani on April 8. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Tribunal

The Tribunal, composed of Michael Milani, Ken From, Janice McKinnon, Stuart Smyth and Estella Petersen,  compared the CER to the “Saskatchewan Affordable Power Plan” (SAPP) to reach net-zero electricity by 2050. The Tribunal was also asked to examine the forecasted collective effect of the CER on the provincial economy to the end of 2035.

“We were given two pillars to examine and to compare the difference in cost both financial and other costs,” said Michael Milani, chair of the tribunal, noting they were to look at the period from 2025 to 2035.

The panel started by looking at the draft regulations and regulatory impact statement, a detailed analysis from the federal government. Experts were employed by hiring Navius Research Inc. to prepare a study that employed economic modeling, comparing the Clean Electricity Regulations to Saskatchewan Affordable Power Plan, Milani said. It solicited submissions from a broad range of organizations and entities. The responses totaled over 200 pages, several of which will be republished on Pipeline Online in the coming days.

Milani said, “One very important piece of information that came to the tribunal, which really wasn’t a surprise, is every single person who responded supports the goal of achieving more environmentally friendly electricity production. And that came from a diverse group of regulators, entities, private individuals.

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“But what we learned as well is that due to many factors, including regional differences within Canada, including sources of generation of electricity, as well as population, climate and geography, if one were to apply the draft Clean Electricity Regulations without any modification, it results in significantly greater costs, and risks, to several provinces, including Saskatchewan.”

Milani continued, “The tribunal also received a lot of information on the challenges that would come from complying, or endeavouring to comply with the regulations. One very high-level area is the challenge that comes from technology and resources required for industry to comply with the regulations. And of note is that the draft regulations timeline, 2035, is significantly shorter than Saskatchewan Affordable Power Plan, which is 2050. But both plans and in particular, the draft federally regulations assumes that commercial scale technology will be developed in time to allow an implementation prior to the deadlines. And presently, that commercial technology or commercial-scale technology does not exist.

“And of course, there’s also an assumption embedded in the federal regulations that there will be sufficient labor resources available to actually carry out this work. And again, it’s important to keep in mind that across Canada, provinces will be endeavoring an industry will be endeavoring to comply, so there’s going to be very (much) pressure to have sufficient labour available.”

Milani added, “One of the conclusions reached by the panel was that the opportunity to succeed is greatly enhanced, if a more appropriate length of time is afforded to allow compliance. We also concluded that, in order to make this work, people have to lend money; they have to invest capital, businesses have to want to make these changes. And our conclusion was that with more time available to reach the result that everybody wants, there’s a better likelihood of success, because investment of capital will be more likely.”

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We told you so

“The Tribunal’s findings confirm what the Government of Saskatchewan has already told the federal government—their approach in an attempt to regulate our provincial electricity system is unaffordable and technologically and logistically unattainable,” Duncan said. “We will continue Saskatchewan’s plan to ensure reliable baseload electricity for the next decade of growth and beyond, while working toward a net-zero electricity sector by 2050.”

The Tribunal found that regional differences between provinces, including power sources, population, climate and geography were not taken into account when the federal government developed the CER and identified a wide variety of impacts on the Saskatchewan economy, including:

  • By 2035, residential ratepayers would face a $241 increase in additional electricity costs and a $630 increase by 2050. Households would have between $1,350-$2,040 less to spend annually.
  • By 2035, commercial ratepayers would face a $888 increase in additional electricity costs and a $2,340 increase by 2050.
  • By 2035, small industrial ratepayers would face a $1,429 increase in additional electricity costs and a $3,750 increase by 2050.
  • Saskatchewan has only three per cent of Canada’s population, but would bear at least 15 per cent of the total costs of CER compliance.
  • Saskatchewan and its industries are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of greater electricity costs due to our resource and export-based economy.
  • Complying with the CER would lead to stalled growth, potential shifts of production to jurisdictions with less stringent environmental standards, and a substantial decrease in royalties and taxes paid to the Government of Saskatchewan.
  • Taxpayer-funded power infrastructure would have to be abandoned prior to its intended end-of-life.

Saskatchewan’s position is that the onus is now on the federal government to prove the constitutionality of the CER before it imposes these regulations on Saskatchewan.

“We will not be submitting taxpayers to the cost of litigation against the federal government unless litigated against,” said Eyre. “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.”

The Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal conducted its analysis and developed this report under the authority of The Saskatchewan First Act.

The Tribunal is currently examining the economic cost of the proposed federal oil and gas emissions cap and federal ‘Methane 75’ regulations.

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Saskatchewan’s already done a lot

Saskatchewan, through the efforts of SaskPower, has already taken substantial efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014 the $1.6 billion Boundary Dam Unit 3 Carbon Capture and Storage Project went online. In recent years SaskPower has added, via private, independent power producers, two major wind farms of 200 and 175 megawatts each at Assiniboia and Herbert. Another, near Kipling, is currently under construction. And up to $100 million in provincial loan guarantees to back Indigenous participation in another 200 megawatt wind farm at Weyburn was announced on June 24.

A further 100 megawatt solar facility is planned for the Estevan area. All this wind and solar development is meant to meet SaskPower’s commitment to add 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar to the grid by 2035. That commitment, made to the federal government by Saskatchewan, was part of this province’s bargain several years ago to extend the life of its coal fleet a few years.

But even with all the existing wind and bit of solar, they cannot be relied upon. On June 22, SaskPower reported that the 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind power generation only averaged 64 megawatts over 24 hours, meaning there were times it was lower than that number. This is a frequent if irregular occurrence. At times, SaskPower has reported zero wind power generation for hours at a time. And of course, the sun goes down every night, but clouds, the angle of the sun and length of day dramatically impact solar power production.

Indeed, on any given day, up to 88 per cent of SaskPower’s generation comes from natural gas and coal.

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Nuclear answer

As a result, SaskPower is going heavily into nuclear power.

Indeed, all indications are the big dollars will be spent on nuclear power. While, by law, the provincial government can’t say that it has definitively decided to proceed with building small modular reactors until they have licensure approval from the federal government, all indications are from the government, and Premier Scott Moe, are that nuclear is the path Saskatchewan will be proceeding on. In Estevan on May 30, Moe said, “It’s going to be the community of Estevan where SaskPower is going to be looking to locate their first SMR, should they go down a nuclear path. And we don’t have a lot of other options. And so that’s the path we’re most certainly looking at.”

Artist rendition of a GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 reactor. GE-Hitachi

The big issue with nuclear is that it will take a lot of time, and money, to get there. The extraordinarily long and detailed licensing process, already several years deep, won’t allow a final investment decision until 2029. Construction of the first reactor near Estevan, assuming all goes according to schedule (a rarity with most nuclear projects), won’t be online until 2034, following 42 months of construction. And that’s just for the first 300 megawatt reactor. That would only replace one of SaskPower’s four 300 megawatt coal-fired units (either Boundary Dam 6, Poplar River 1 or 2, or Shand). That doesn’t account for growth in electrical demand, which is expected to be significant as more electric vehicles are adopted.

Indeed, on May 31, Moe spoke at length about the need to maintain fossil fuel, baseload power until nuclear power goes online, including the possibility of operating coal until that time. But unless additional carbon capture is added to our existing coal plants, a highly unlikely scenario given their imminent retirement by that stage, running coal beyond 2030 will flaunt federal regulations mandating its end by that date. Their continued operation, until replaced by nuclear, will certainly flaunt the Clean Electricity Regulation beyond 2035.

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Harry Potter’s wand

Moe said on May 30, “If you look at the federal plan, right now, it’s a coal-fired power until 2030, at which time you turn that off, you’ve converted, I suppose to natural gas, run that. We’re looking at potentially bringing on our first SMR, about 2034. And then multiple SMRs, potentially, in the years after that. So, you would have that gap on workforce continuity between 2030 and 2034. That’s why we have had conversations like, you know, our coal-fired plants here in Estevan are actually their end of life is 2038, 2042, a number of them. If we’re able to actually run those plants out for beyond 2030, think of the much more structured way that we’re actually able to train our workforce that may be working in a coal-fired facility today, and actually transition that training through. And those very same people that are part of your community and have lived here all their life into skilled professionals that would then work in a nuclear facility in the future.

“And so that’s the discussion that we’re going to continue to have with the federal government is we want to ensure that however this move from overtime, likely from coal to nuclear, unless there’s another option that comes along through Harry Potter’s strike of his wand or something, one of the priorities that we have is, you know, how are we going to seamlessly transition the workforce here in Estevan,” Moe said

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What is Saskatchewan going to do now?

Pipeline Online asked Eyre on June 26, “What’s next? The whole purpose of the tribunal was to figure out what is our case. You want to establish a framework, what are we dealing with? Now you know that, what does the Saskatchewan government do next?”

Eyre replied, “I think it was really important to have an independent tribunal look at this because, I mean, let’s face it, SaskPower has been telling the federal government that 2035 net zero was impossible for years. But we needed, I think, another entity to go broad and deep about Saskatchewan, to look at Saskatchewan characteristics, not just Canada-wide characteristics, which a lot of, certainly federal reports, of course do, and really take a deep dive and cross compare sectors and analyze the impact across the board because of our unique electricity requirements and just the power profile of Saskatchewan.

“So, I think what’s next is we hope that the federal government takes this into account for what it is, which is an independent, deep analysis of our power reality. And I mean, let’s face it, … it’s not as if they haven’t had their own reports which have said and pointed out that there is going to be a disproportionate impact on those provinces which are transitioning or are still reliant on natural gas for one thing.

“So, taken all together, we hope that this will be an important wake up call for the federal government. I’m not going to hold my breath. I don’t think anyone is going to hold their breath on that.

“I guess we just wanted to signal that, as this moves to implementation, we simply can’t adhere to it. And I guess in terms of what’s next, it really is up to the federal government, we feel, to prove that they can do this to us, constitutionally, for one thing and the economically.”

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We’re not taking it to court

She continued, “And so, we won’t be adhering. We won’t submit taxpayers to the cost of challenging this. And we feel confident that, not only do we have a plan that actually makes sense for Net Zero 2050, but in the meantime, we are saying to the federal government, ‘You cannot interfere in specific provincial industries.’”

Eyre said, “In other words, we’re not going to go to court to challenge the Clean Electricity Regulations. We’re simply going to take the position that the clean electricity regulations are unconstitutional, rather, and you prove to us, onus is on you, Minister Wilkinson and Minister Guilbeault and Prime Minister Trudeau, to prove that these regulations are constitutionally legal.”

Eyre pointed out the carbon tax reference case was very narrow, and only regarded carbon price stringency. It did not give Ottawa free rein to intervene in provincial sectors.

“We’re simply going to take the position that we won’t be adhering because we have a plan,” she said.

Eyre pointed out that carbon capture and storage, whose broad implementation is a key component of the Clean Electricity Regulations, has not been implemented and proven out on natural gas-fired power generation. Both Eyre and Duncan noted that the Genessee CCS project, which would have cost $2.4 billion to implement CCS on a natural gas-fired power station, was scrapped just a few weeks ago. Eyre referred to it as “untested,” at least with regards to on natural gas fired power generation.

As for the money that the federal government has put on the table to assist in this transition away from fossil-fueled power generation, Eyre called it a joke. “It’s our own money,” she said. And $40 billion dollars, across the entire country, won’t leave much for Saskatchewan.

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What does SaskPower do next?

Asked what SaskPower will do next, Duncan responded, “This really doesn’t change what we’re doing, in terms of SaskPower’s plan going forward. SaskPower presented a plan that would get us to net zero by 2050, and that remains the plan. You know, if the federal government makes a decision to challenge the plan, that’s for them to do. We’re not going to challenge them. You know, we have a plan. We firmly believe, SaskPower firmly believes, and the government agrees that what the federal government set out in the CER regulations, as they are, in draft form right now, that it’s not achievable for a province like Saskatchewan by 2035. And so, we’re proceeding on the path that we’ve already laid out to 2050.

Minister of Crown Investments and SaskPower Dustin Duncan

 

And what is that plan? Duncan summarized, “We’re looking at deploying about 3,000 megawatts of renewables by 2035. We’re also exploring the possibility of a small modular reactor deployment that would bring us to about 2034, that would see the first SMR in Saskatchewan being deployed.

“We’ve already opened the Chinook plant at Swift Current; natural gas. Moose Jaw will be commissioned. It’s in commissioning right now. It’ll be open later this summer. That’s another about 350 megawatts of natural gas. We’ve already broke ground on the Aspen project. That’s another about 370 megawatts of natural gas in the Lanigan area. We likely will be looking at further natural gas beyond the Aspen plant. And as well, obviously we have coal as a part of that. And, you know, looking at the possibilities beyond that of you know, whether or not there should be, you know, for their natural gas put into the system.”

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Not enough by half?

All that natural gas generation, as it displaces conventional coal-fired generation, effectively reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about half. But the Clean Electricity Regulations are not about cutting by half. They are about cutting CO2 emissions total, “Net Zero by 2035,” effectively no emissions, or close to no emissions, in just 10 years, six months and three days. Under the regulations, natural gas-fired power without carbon capture can only be used 420 hours – that’s 18 days – a year. And the plan Duncan summarized is not zero by any measure, at least by 2035. But the Saskatchewan government does feel it could get there by 2050.

And Duncan recognized that baseload power is important, given the example of Saskatchewan’s 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind generation averaging just 64 megawatts over 24 hours on June 22. Duncan said, “That’s part of our argument with the federal government, is that we need baseload power in order to ensure that we can still operate businesses, allow people to heat their homes in the wintertime in Saskatchewan and basically live the lives that they live in this province. We can’t just rely on renewables.”

The way the CER is written today, the only options for baseload power are nuclear or natural gas with carbon capture, Duncan said.

Asked what happens if federal officials show up at Boundary Dam Power Station and order it be shut down, Duncan replied that implementation of the CER isn’t until 2035. He said, “Frankly, there’s a lot of opportunity for the federal government to make the changes that we’re requesting, and, frankly, start over when it comes to the Clean Electricity Regulations.”

 

  • 0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
    0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
  • 0078 LHOS 2024
    0078 LHOS 2024
  • 0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
    0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
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  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
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Executive Summary: The impact of the Clean Electricity Regulations, one of the most significant policies of our time

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