It’s a big week for the energy industry in Calgary with the 24th World Petroleum Congress underway and expecting as many as 15,000 visitors.
The five-day WPC 2023 conference is expected to be attended by more than 5,000 delegates from 100-plus countries. It is closely followed by the Future of Energy Global Summit which is attracting global leaders and innovators to Banff, Alberta for a series of keynote speakers and panel discussions addressing the most urgent energy-related topics.
The WPC 2023 has scheduled and attracted speakers and attendees from international energy interests and the list of speakers is impressive. The Saudi Arabian Minster of Energy, Exxon, Aramco, Petronas and the China National Petroleum Corporation executives and representatives, the Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources, African Refinery and Kenyan Executives, Japan Petroleum, Indonesian & Romanian representatives, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Iran, India and Qatari representatives, and more along with Canadian ministers, executives and Indigenous representatives are all assembled to speak on and discuss the pressing issues of the Energy Transition: The Path to Net Zero.
It is a huge backdrop of context for the inaugural Future of Energy Global Summit which begins Thursday night in Banff at the Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation. Chairman James Kinnear, president of Kinnear Financial Ltd. explains that they are trying to complement rather than compete with the WPC 2023 and address all forms of energy, from solar and wind power through small nuclear reactors, LNG, hydrogen and more in open discussion.
“People can speak their minds,” Kinnear says. “We’d like to have presentations based on factual information. There might be a few misconceptions out there about the energy industry and we can clear some of those up. It’s an open forum to discuss all forms of energy and try and assess which ones have strong potential in the future. The goal is to have an open and frank dialogue. We may even produce a white paper on some of the findings of the Summit.”
Kinnear and conference moderator and panelist Mark Taylor, principal Taylor Energy Advisors say the dialogues created at the summit will help many different jurisdictions chart their particular path to the energy transition.
As Mark Taylor explains,
“If you look at a path towards energy security, affordability, reducing emissions, and sustainability – that path is going to look different no matter where you are in Canada or elsewhere in the world. A path for Quebec is going to look different than Prince Edward Island or Alberta. The idea is to bring the thought leaders of organizations, whether that’s a company or a government and be able to share the wins, the pitfalls and the challenges with all energy sectors represented. Then people can pick and choose what might work. Maybe creating a Net Zero hub around Calgary won’t work so what if you try to use it around Toronto or Warsaw – people might share some of the false steps that they took as they tried to head towards Net Zero.”
Kinnear came up with the concept for the Future of Energy Global Summit in 2022 and then developed it further with Taylor after attending the Alberta-UK Public and Private Sector Exchange of Perspectives at Canada House in London in early 2023. The event which focused on CCUS and Hydrogen was co-hosted by Alberta and the Government of the UK. However, Taylor subsequently experienced a very different European perspective months later at a June 2023 Government of Alberta mission to Warsaw.
”The tone was completely different,” says Taylor. “ The tone in Central Europe was around energy security and affordability. The idea was that once we have that, then we’d be happy to focus on getting to Net Zero. But until we know that the lights are going to come on and our houses are going to be warm – we are not so keen on talking about Net Zero. The theme for this conference is to recognize that not everybody in the world is on the same page. And there’s no political reason why they’re not on the same page. The reason is the energy context they live in right now.”
James Kinnear pointed out energy supply concerns are giving important context to global energy discussions at the Summit especially in light of the fact that the UN Sustainable Development Summit is convening at the UN Headquarters in New York this week Sept 18th & 19th.
According to the 2022 IEA World Energy Outlook, there are currently 1 billion people in the world – 1/8th of the total population of 8.1 billion– with no access to electricity, and 2.3 billion do not have access to clean fuels for cooking.
It’s significant to note that the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development named the achievement of universal energy access by 2030 as one of its goals.
It’s a context that harmonizes with the advantages Alberta has with our robust energy technology sector – companies with over two decades of experience providing solutions to energy challenges like the classic trilemma- energy security, sustainability and affordability.
But is that trilemma giving way to a new emerging trilemma- rapidly increasing demand, GHG reduction push and investment risk?
Taylor agrees that the new trilemma exists as well as many more challenges. In terms of investment risk, he points out the example of green ammonia projects.
” The trilemma that you mentioned exists,” Taylor says. “We are seeing green ammonia projects all around the world not getting to FID because the price of ammonia has dropped significantly. No one is going to invest in a multibillion-dollar green ammonia project to move hydrogen around if the prices don’t look like they’re going to generate a reasonable rate of return in the future. So then you don’t have a supply of the new lower-emission fuel. What does that do to your whole transition? Well, we have a panel with keynote speaker Peter MacKay titled ‘The pragmatic path to prosperity – Net Zero does not mean net losses’ that speaks to this question.”
In addition, James Kinnear also touches on these topics from a different angle in his video discussion with Mark Carney-former governor of the Bank of Canada and Bank of England and current U.N. special envoy for climate action and finance and the chair and head of transition investing at Brookfield Asset Management – on the topic of the challenges and opportunity of energy transition. Kinnear set out to assemble different voices, even contrary opinions in this summit to enrich the dialogue and is quite proud to include Carney who not only has rich real-life experience but also brings a U.N. perspective that may be challenging for some, but enriches the experience for attendees.
Following the presentation with Mark Carney, there is a discussion panel that exemplifies the approach of bringing diverse voices together. The topic is “Emissions Reductions and the Future of Conventional Energy including Oil and Gas, Nuclear, Hydro, Coal” with David Yager, energy policy analyst and accomplished writer, Canadian Senator Hon. Karen Sorenson, Jennifer Turner of Equitable Origin (a global agency for equitable, and sustainable development of energy and natural resources strongly advocating for Indigenous participation) and Jonathan Oxley, Director of Britain’s Humber Cluster who will most surely speak about the real-life challenge of trying to get to Net Zero. (The Humber region in Britain has plans to reach Net Zero by 2040.) Clearly, as Kinnear and Taylor intended, any one of the panels at the Summit could almost be a conference in itself. In addition, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s keynote address will have some key messaging for leaders and investors alike.
On Saturday, the third day of the conference, there’s an interesting panel discussing the topic of “Carbon Finance and the Future of Energy Finance, including Debt, Equity and Pollution Credits” with Stephen Buffalo – President and CEO, of the Indian Resource Council as moderator, Bill Whitelaw – Managing Director, geoLOGIC Systems, and Dr. John Kirton – Director and Founder, Global Governance Program at Trinity College University of Toronto. Certainly, the topic of Indigenous participation and ownership will be addressed including the idea that throughout this energy transition, how do we leverage all of the investment in new energy sources in ways that will accelerate economic reconciliation with First Nations – not just in Canada but with aboriginals in Australia and New Zealand and native populations in Africa and around the globe? With the hundreds of billions of dollars of investment being contemplated for different energy sources, the challenges of governance will also be a rich discussion. How do we navigate the challenges of scarcity of materials- can we keep companies from straying to source materials from jurisdictions with dubious or unethical practices? How do we navigate the refining constraints for uranium and lithium when a large majority of those materials are refined in areas with political risk?
As mentioned earlier, any one of the panels at the Summit could be almost a conference in itself. It’s something to look forward to this week.
Maureen McCall is an energy professional who writes on issues affecting the energy industry.