TRANS MOUNTAIN - Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was in Red Deer on June 4th, 2018 to discuss the nationalization of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

Opinion: Let’s seize the opportunity to create jobs, diversify economy

Our biggest industry is changing before our eyes, as we watch massive layoffs from mergers and major restructuring in the oil and gas sector. For the Albertans who have spent their lives generating Canada’s wealth by going to work in our oil patch, this is scary.

But the world is changing, and we must change with it. That means moving toward a more responsible and sustainable means of producing both renewable and non-renewable energy in the decades to come. If done right, we can protect the jobs we have today, while creating tens of thousands of new ones.

The biggest players in our oil sector, including Suncor, Shell, Enbridge, Cenovus, CNRL, Imperial, and MEG Energy are all moving ahead with their plans to achieve net-zero by 2050.

In order to support our oil and gas industry and protect jobs, we must reach net-zero as a province by 2050. And the first step down that path is a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.

This is a bold and ambitious target. But if action is taken now and done thoughtfully, we can seize the opportunity to build a truly diversified economy, creating 60,000 jobs, and make Alberta the greatest powerhouse of renewable energy in North America.

It’s a plan that will attract billions in new investment in Alberta’s renewable energy market, along with a dramatic reduction in emissions. A reduction we’ll achieve in partnership with industry, with communities, and with all Albertans.

And we will create a stable electricity system where Albertans aren’t gouged by price swings, but save money with cheaper and more predictable power bills.

By doing so, we will be a global leader in all forms of energy, while protecting the economic security of working people.

Much of this work had begun under our government, only to be undone by the UCP upon coming into office.

In 2012 and 2013, our province was faced with rolling blackouts in major cities as power demand spiked during heat waves, along with wild swings in utility bills.

When we formed the government, we took a number of steps to modernize our utility sector that would lower and stabilize bills, increase reliability, attract investment, create jobs and diversify our economy.

We set our province down the path of greening our grid by passing legislation that would achieve 30 per cent renewables by 2030. This attracted $2.2 billion in private sector investment and created over 1,700 jobs in the renewable energy sector while setting a record low price for renewable energy in Canada that was competitive with fossil fuel generation. And a recent study by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy found that the first three projects that have come online under our Renewable Electricity Program have already generated $26 million in government revenue since coming into operation.

To provide price certainty and reduce price swings, we also introduced an electricity rate cap that kept power prices predictable and affordable for Albertans.

But shortly after being elected, the UCP reversed the changes we made to produce clean, affordable and reliable power by removing the price cap and ending the Renewable Electricity Program. Since then, we’ve seen power bills increase and a preliminary report from the grid operator predicts we will miss our legislated target of 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030, causing Alberta to miss out on much-needed jobs and investment.

We must diversify our economy to create good jobs today and into the future. One of the key components of our success will be affordable, reliable power that reduces emissions while attracting investment. We were making progress on this path once – we can do it again.

Rachel Notley is the leader of Alberta’s NDP.