Top 5 Canadian energy stories of 2011

December 23, 2011

At the Stikeman Elliot energy blog, we decided to get into the spirit of the season and compile our own list of the top 5 Canadian energy stories of the year.

5.GHGs and Cap-and-Trade

There continued to be developments in the regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) across the country and globally in 2011. From January to March, Manitoba sought public comment on a proposed cap-and-trade system for GHGs following the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) framework, and in October, Quebec published draft harmonizing regulations in accordance with its WCI commitments to enable a functional cap-and-trade system for GHGs, and adopted them on December 14. Quebec’s cap-and-trade legislation will come into force on January 1, 2012.

4.Continued Renewable Power Development

A number of important developments for Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) renewable energy program transpired in 2011, including the Ontario Power Authority’s 1-year extension offer and termination rights waiver, the granting of nearly 2 gigawatts worth of FIT contracts (here and here), a NAFTA challenge of the program and its 2-month review and public comment period that just ended on December 14. The results of the review including new pricing schedules are due late winter or early spring 2012.

Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, feed-in tariff rates were set in July and finalized in September when the application process opened for the Community Feed-In Tariff (COMFIT) program, as outlined in its guide.

3. Nuclear Renaissance?

The year began with signs of a nuclear renaissance, but that came into doubt after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Germany promptly announced the country’s electricity generation would fully withdraw from nuclear energy by 2022, but it is unclear if other jurisdictions will follow Germany’s lead. Ontario continued to consider nuclear as part of its Long-Term Energy Plan and decisions regarding the refurbishment of existing plants and the building of new ones are expected in 2012.

2. Delivering Canadian Energy to the World

Delivering Canadian energy to the rest of the world was a hot topic this year, exemplified by the Keystone XL pipeline saga. While TransCanada reached an agreement with the Nebraska state government to reroute the pipeline in November, it still remains unclear if President Obama will make a decision on the controversial project before 2013.

In October the National Energy Board (NEB) granted Kitimat LNG a 20-year license to export 10 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year from British Columbia, and a new $5 billion export terminal in Kitimat is expected to begin shipping LNG to Asia by 2015. Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell PLC purchased a marine terminal near Kitimat with a view to exporting even larger quantities of LNG with its Korean and Japanese partners. Various proposals have been raised to increase crude oil transport capacity to the West Coast of Canada, including projects by Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.

And after a five-year application process and many more years in planning, the NEB finally granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the Mackenzie Gas Project led by Imperial Oil, after having approved the application for its construction and operation in December 2010. Whether the project actually proceeds now that it has approval remains to be seen.

1. The Emergence of Shale Gas

Continued discoveries and development of unconventional gas resources in North America have the potential to dramatically change the continent’s energy landscape in ways that could not have been predicted a few years ago. Among other things, the potential for low cost gas-fired electricity generation has brought into question the wisdom of Hydro Quebec’s current “big hydro” projects and Ontario’s plans to refurbish and expand nuclear. But environmental questions about shale gas extraction linger, prompting movement to review and set guidelines for practices such as hydrofracking.

Happy holidays and best wishes in the new year to all of our readers!

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