Webcast Recap

Organized in Partnership with the Canadian Centre for Energy Information

Co-sponsored with BP Canada Energy Company, BP America, Global Public Affairs, and the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.


Graham Campbell Director General, Office of Research and
Development, Natural Resources Canada; Michael Raymont, CEO, EnergylNet; David Pumphrey, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy; Dan Desmond, Deputy Secretary, Energy and Technology Office, Department of Environmental Protection,Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Stan T. Rosinski, Program Manager, Technology Innovation, Electric Power Research Institute; Dennis Ray, Executive Director of the Power Systems Engineering Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Anita Perry, Vice President Canada, Government & Public Affairs, BP Canada Energy; Steve Fine, Vice President, Energy and Resource Practice, ICF International; Alison Scott, Deputy Minister, Energy, Government of Nova Scotia

As the potential consequences of continued environmental degradation and global warming become more widely acknowledged and accepted in North America, a growing number of Americans and Canadians have called on their governments to support and develop environmentally friendly methods of extracting, refining, and producing energy. However, the transition to an energy-efficient economy is not an easy task. Policymakers are faced with the daunting challenge of how to negotiate a shift toward the adoption and implementation of greener technologies without sacrificing economic growth.

Achieving a balance between environmental and economic goals through technological innovation was the theme of the Canada Institute's seventh Cross-Border Forum on Energy Issues. The forum provided an opportunity for 50 Canadian and U.S. government officials, industry representatives, and energy experts to discuss promising new energy technology, the government's role in marketing and distributing innovative energy products, and the challenge of meeting North America's growing demand for energy. The half-day event commenced with a panel of presentations followed by a closed-door round table discussion. The forum continued with a luncheon program at the Canadian Embassy, where associate deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada John Knubley delivered the keynote address.

A Role for Governments in Energy Innovation

The time to adopt and implement cleaner sources of energy is now, argued Graham Campbell, director general of Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Research and Development. Campbell noted that Canada's current energy mix, which includes the use of biomass, coal, natural gas, hydro power, and other sources of energy, represents the most plural mixture of energy sources in the country's history. Although energy is a key factor in economic growth and energy security, he said, it is also a contributing factor to some of the most pressing environmental issues of today. Campbell stated that the Canadian government is working toward creating an "environmental and energy synergy," through investment in cleaner energy technology; encouraging the efficient use and conservation of energy; and investing in emerging technology, such as carbon capture and storage, that mitigate the amount of pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels.

Campbell also argued that governments should be encouraged to collaborate with other countries when addressing energy issues, noting that the Canadian federal government not only works closely with provincial officials, it also works on a trilateral basis with the United States and Mexico to create and foster ongoing technological partnerships in developing cleaner energy technology. Canada's goal, noted Campbell, is to become a "clean energy superpower" that continues to find innovative ways to make conventional energy cleaner and diversify the country's energy mix through the introduction of renewable energy sources: "diversity brings security."

David Pumphrey, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), agreed that a role for government exists in disseminating and developing environmentally sound sources of energy. He noted that investment in innovative energy technologies is at "the core" of the U.S. government's approach to solving the country's energy challenges: "Developing technologies is really the ultimate solution to the critical problems we face in terms of energy security and the challenges of the global environment." FutureGen—a billion dollar DOE project intended to create the world's first zero-emissions fossil fuel plant—is an example of a major U.S. initiative that draws upon the best scientific research to address environmental challenges, he said. Despite continued efforts to develop and commercialize groundbreaking energy technology, Pumphrey conceded that the United States should increase cooperation on energy issues not only in North America, but the rest of the world: "This is a global effort."

Aside from initiatives at the federal level, the conference highlighted some of the promising work of provinces and states to promote the use of cleaner energy sources. Deputy Minister of Nova Scotia's Department of Energy Alison Scott said her province is working toward developing its resources in a "sustainable and responsible way." She highlighted provincial efforts to develop in-stream tidal energy generating devices that would harness the tidal power of the Bay of Fundy—where a billion tons of water flow through twice a day—as a priority of the government of Nova Scotia and a major reason why the province is a considered an "emerging energy market." Dan Desmond, deputy secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, also stressed the importance of sustainable development. To this end, he said, Pennsylvania's government has prioritized the recruitment of "green-tech" firms, and has successfully attracted several large environmental firms, including the world's second largest wind turbine company. Pennsylvania has demonstrated that governments can "lead the way" in shifting toward a greener economy through investment in innovative technology and progressive regulations that focus on green manufacturing, argued Desmond.

Addressing Energy Challenges through Science & Technology

The extraction of gas resources, as illustrated by Alberta's oil sands project, is becoming increasingly expensive, difficult to develop, and contributes to environmental problems, said Anita Perry, vice president of BP Canada's office of Government and Public Affairs. To address this problem, BP is actively developing technology that will allow gas from unconventional sources to be more easily extracted in an environmentally friendly manner. She highlighted the development of decarbonized fossil fuels, advanced solar materials, and advanced biomass conversion as central to BP's efforts to introduce low-carbon technology in the field of oil recovery to help address climate change. While the energy industry "has made strides" in developing low-carbon alternatives to the extraction of oil and gas, Perry stressed that there is still a need for greater collaboration between government and the energy sector that supports the development of innovative technologies: "We all have to do this together."

Despite promising new technology on the horizon, several panelists highlighted the current challenges of developing and implementing innovative energy systems and products. Executive Director of the University of Wisconsin Madison's Power Systems Engineering Research Center Dennis Ray maintained that there is an urgent need to address the looming shortage of engineers in North America. He noted that approximately 30 percent of engineers in Canada and the United States are scheduled to retire in the next five years, while untenured faculty in the field of power engineering has fallen from 20 percent to 12 percent over the last decade in the United States. To encourage the hiring and training of more engineers, Ray recommended a substantial increase in energy sector research funding from both private and public sources.

Stan Rosinski of the Electric Power Research Institute noted that power outages are on the rise across North America, highlighting the need for accelerated investment in electric technology research and development. Specifically, Rosinski called for increased investment in upgrading the electrical infrastructure in North America that would reduce congestion on transmission lines and manage aging "system assets." Reducing electric sector emissions and improving its productivity, he said, will require the aggressive pursuit of implementing and commercializing carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as other non-emitting sources of energy such as nuclear power. In an effort to meet future energy demands, governments need to send clear signals to the energy industry regarding the direction of CO2 regulations, said Steve Fine, vice president of ICF International's Energy and Resources Practice. Potential regulations have "big implications" into the types of energy plants built and technology developed, he said. To reduce the risk of investing in new energy technology, argued Fine, governments must provide the energy sector with a sense of how future regulations will impact the cost of emitting CO2: "[There is] a huge amount of uncertainty out there."

Moving Forward

Following the presentations, panelists and discussants participated in a closed-door roundtable discussion to discuss major themes highlighted in the presentations. Several discussants reiterated the need for increased collaboration between government and industry on energy issues. Specifically, discussants stressed the need for policymakers to increase consultation with energy officials when drafting new CO2 regulations. In addition, participants maintained that policymakers should provide firms with greater financial incentives to invest in cleaner energy technology. The conversation also revealed a general consensus over the pressing need to address the looming "skills shortage" in the energy sector and the importance of integrating the issue of public education into future discussions addressing energy challenges.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada John Knubley closed the event with a keynote address that highlighted the value of fostering technology partnerships in the energy sector: "I think there's an agenda here that is pretty clear and I do believe that while the U.S. and Canada are on slightly different paths, we really are aligned to work together in terms of technology partnerships."

Drafted by Ken Crist, Program Associate
David Biette, Director, Canada Institute