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Energy firms, activists team up for green power


Monday, Dec. 15, 2003

Two odd bedfellows, environmental groups and some of Canada's biggest greenhouse-gas polluters, have joined forces to say the country could produce enough renewable energy to match the electricity now coming from fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Optimistic forecasts about wind turbines, rooftop solar panels and even the harvesting of the power in ocean waves are expected from environmentalists, but they are more unusual coming from the likes of Suncor Energy, BP Canada, and Shell Canada, three of the country's biggest oil companies and all among the largest greenhouse-gas emitters.

But the companies, along with four major environmental groups, are releasing a jointly written report today that says the future growth of fossil fuels will be "constrained" by concerns over global warming, and predicts that energy sources ranging from the wind to landfill gases will take up the slack.

"Canada's untapped potential for producing low-impact renewable energy is immense. It has the potential of being as large as today's thermal and nuclear generation combined," the report said.

Those who wrote the report say they hope having traditional antagonists in favour of green energy will make the federal government more likely to listen to their proposal that Canada adopt targets for green electricity production.

Ken Ogilvie, executive director of Pollution Probe, said the two groups make natural allies on the issue because environmentalists want reductions in pollutants, while companies can make the business case for clean, green power. The groups have formed an organization, the Clean Air Renewable Energy Coalition, to argue the case for green power.

"We're credible to articulate the environmental case. We're not credible to articulate the business case. I know from experience that it's much more effective to see ministers with industry, NGOs . . . together and say we're in agreement on this and yes, it's doable," Mr. Ogilvie said.

He said companies and environmentalists "can still be at each other's throats" on other topics, but are smart to sometimes make alliances. "Certainly I wouldn't say we're getting in bed" with polluters, Mr. Ogilive said, defending the approach.

One of the business officials who drafted the report said oil producers and environmentalists can put aside differences to argue for a mutual goal. "The beauty of it is we all have the same vision of introducing more new renewable energy into the Canadian marketplace," said Dianne Humphries, manager of sustainable development for Suncor Energy Inc.

Suncor, which produces about 8 per cent of Canada's oil, believes that wind power is the best bet among green energy sources to be commercialized. The company currently has about 5 per cent of the country's installed wind turbine capacity.

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