As Calgary attempts to become a centre for a transitioning energy industry, a new hub that focuses on clean energy in the city’s downtown core has received a major boost.
Federal ministers, along with Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, were on hand Wednesday to announce a federal investment of more than $3 million towards the clean technology sector in Alberta, including more than $2.1 million to help fund the Energy Transition Centre.
Another $900,000 is earmarked for the Foresight clean technology accelerator, to provide training and investment attraction for Alberta clean technology companies.
“We are moving in the direction of seriously harnessing the potential of Calgary’s energy sector — the technology that we have resident in this sector for the future of the energy second,” University of Calgary chancellor Deborah Yedlin said. “This is our Wayne Gretzky moment, we’re asking towards where the puck is going.”
The Energy Transition Centre will take up an entire vacant floor at the Ampersand building in Calgary’s downtown core.
Barring any issues with COVID-19, officials said the plan is for the centre to open on March 1.
“This innovation hub will help small- and medium-sized businesses develop clean energy technologies that will help meet a growing global demand for environmentally-friendly products and processes,” said Daniel Vandal, federal minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada.
According to officials, the Energy Transition Centre is set to be a space to connect Canadian energy companies with clean energy start-ups, innovators and investors with access resources and experts in the field.
Federal officials hope the centre helps to create 25 new businesses in the clean energy sector over the next three years.
Calgary’s mayor said the investment provides both a boost to the city’s efforts to become an energy transition hub as well as its work to revitalize the downtown core.
“We are seeing bold, innovative and collaborative ideas coming forward that are inspired by entrepreneurial Calgarians,” Gondek said. “This will be a catalyst for success in terms of Calgary’s leadership in climate protection and energy transformation, as well as our downtown revitalization.”
According to a study on energy transition released in December, a clean energy sector could create 170,000 jobs and contribute up to $61 billion to the province’s GDP by 2050. However, the study also estimates a path to net zero would need $2.1 billion in annual investments by 2030, increasing to $5.5 billion by 2040.
Although Wednesday’s announcement was encouraging for some experts, there is some belief that policy changes and not just funding will be key to a successful clean energy sector in the province.
“There are ways that governments can use financial tools to provide guarantees that can stimulate a lot more investment to prove out new technologies, and also to make sure that support is structured fairly,” University of Calgary sustainable energy development masters director Sara Hastings-Simon said.
“We’re going to be in a world that looks very different from an energy perspective in just a couple years from now, and so we don’t have a lot of time really left to wait — we really need to be preparing now for that future.”
The investment was also welcomed by Alberta’s opposition NDP, who were also critical of the notable absence of the provincial government during the announcement.
“There is zero investment from the province in this initiative. Why is the UCP ghosting Alberta’s efforts to diversify the economy and promote clean energy?” NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Jobs, Economy & Innovation said the province wasn’t involved in the announcement because there was no provincial funding for the initiative.
“We remain committed to responsible energy development, reducing emissions and supporting jobs,” Alberta government spokesperson Tricia Velthuizen said in a statement to Global News. “Through innovation and technology, industry can continue to reduce emissions, even with increased oil and gas production.”
According to Vandal, the federal government is looking at projects with Alberta’s provincial government and that both are “aligned on job creation and diversifying the economy.”
“Those consultations and communications are occuring,” Vandal said. “All levels of government need to be on the same page.”