By Medicine Hat News Opinon on February 22, 2019.
Our region is rich in a number of resources but it is the development of renewable energy that is looking more and more like the power source of the future. And it is Medicine Hat which is at the centre of this resource in Canada, much like Fort McMurray is in the middle of the oilsands.
The announcements in the past month of six utility-grade solar projects being built outside the sunniest city in Canada should be no surprise. The fact this city has been on the forefront of residential and commercial small-scale solar generation for the past decade through the HatSmart program is testament to how incentive programs can power a transition from non-renewable to renewable resource development.
The job creation potential is in the tens of thousands while private-sector investment could very well be in the billions of dollars. That is not including the beneficial economic effects for our region’s energy and service sector small businesses.
We are witnessing the issues and roadblocks in moving Alberta’s energy resources. These issues for renewable energy are far more minimal with much of the required transmission infrastructure already in place.
The barriers to developing southeastern Alberta’s energy resources are political rather than grounded in the economic reality of what is happening on the ground right now in and around Medicine Hat.
The oilsands received billions from the federal and provincial governments, both financially and through supportive regulatory legislation, over decades – which I believe was beneficial to Alberta.
It is almost impossible to understand why it is acceptable for northeastern Alberta to benefit from that type of public sector support but unacceptable for a fraction of those benefits to be bestowed upon our region.
If the argument is the public sector should not support renewable energy development then it should stand to reason that Alberta’s supportive policies towards the oilsands, along with the financial commitments made both federally and provincially, were a mistake.
In addition to the six solar projects, five utility-grade wind projects have been approved to be built in our region which are set to come online in the next few years, bringing hundreds of jobs and hundred of millions in investment.
Small-scale solar production is beginning to boom thanks to stackable incentives from the municipal and provincial governments which have the potential to save our citizens and businesses money on utility bills.
Our city has the potential to become “Energy Central” in Canada through a combination of continuing gas and oil development along with building up our renewable sector.
Southeastern Alberta is at the tip of the sword when it comes receiving the benefits of the transition to a green economy. Those who only wish to dull the cutting edge our region possesses should be clear about their reasoning.
Wayne Gretzky once said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”
Our region needs to do the same when it comes to the future of energy development.
Bob Wanner is MLA (NDP) for Medicine Hat.