Moving Canada toward a new energy vision

For more than 25 years the Pembina Institute has actively advanced solutions to Canada's most pressing energy and environmental challenges. Working with numerous partners, we have made some progress. But the growing pressure on Canada to perform on the international stage as an "energy superpower" while meeting our responsibilities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution requires us, as a nation, to think bigger and more long term about our energy future than we have to date. We need a new energy vision for Canada — and our history, as well as the wide range of experience within our organization, puts Pembina in a strong position to advance this vision.

The need for a national energy strategy

There is increasing consensus across sectors that Canada needs some form of a national energy strategy. It has even become politically possible to have a conversation about energy strategy, given that the Canadian Council of Energy Ministers has the topic on its meeting agenda in July.

Essentially all of the Pembina Institute's work contributes to pieces of a national approach to energy — including our latest report on responsible oilsands development, Solving the Puzzle; our community energy work across Canada; our Green Building Leaders initiative in B.C.; our focus on transportation solutions for Toronto; and more. While these regional initiatives contribute to more sustainable energy use overall, over the past year we have actively worked with a wide range of people to help advance a more comprehensive dialogue to develop a new energy vision for Canada.

Pembina's contribution to the conversation

Last year, assisting the David Suzuki Foundation, I wrote a report called Setting the Stage for a Sustainable Energy Strategy: Canada's Necessary Opportunity. This year, working with Tides Canada Energy Initiative, I co-authored another report,  A New Energy Vision for Canada. This work gathered a wide range of supporters as we crossed the country doing small workshops to gather feedback on the vision.

We're particularly interested in ensuring that the process by which Canada develops an energy strategy truly engages Canadians from all sectors and walks of life. The process really does matter when developing strategy. As a result, working with Tides, I wrote "Built to Last: A successful energy-strategy design process" and presented this paper at the Winnipeg Consensus meeting in late March.

Moving forward

It is this combination of depth of content and process expertise that Pembina will continue to bring to this conversation. Over the course of the year we will continue to constructively advance a national dialogue on energy.

The first major need is the initiation of a cross-country dialogue on our energy future. This dialogue should be guided by at least these four guiding principles:

  1. Inclusivity — The process must engage all relevant sectors, regions, and communities in the energy system, via a diverse range of channels, including digital and face-to-face conversations. 
  2. Transparency and accessibility — All steps in the process must be transparent so that Canadians can understand what is happening, how their interests are being considered, and how they will participate in the key decisions that affect them.
  3. Research excellence and rigour — The process requires access to appropriate technical support and the very best science and research to overcome the problem of "duelling science and economics," and instead provide a single, independent source of information and analysis to inform discussions and decision-making.
  4. Iterative, adaptive, enduring — Given the sheer scale and complexity of energy production and use, a collaborative process will need to be both iterative and adaptive, so that it is well matched to changing contexts and circumstances and well-equipped to revisit issues and areas as new information emerges.

The bottom line is that anyone who is serious about developing a national approach to energy in Canada will have to design and deliver a process that is up to the task, and invest the time to do it right. Short-changing this critical step will ultimately lead to marginal results and potential failure.

Given what is at stake — the future prosperity of our kids — we need to get the vision right. Our energy vision must set Canada up to succeed in a world that is increasingly demanding more energy services while essentially eliminating environmental impacts. No easy task, but one worth investing in.