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Politics clouds truth about SaskPower energy production options

Ron Walter writes about the proposed SaskPower facility and the battle between the provincial government and the federal Liberals
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Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

Politicians are kicking around the proposed $600 million SaskPower cogeneration plant as if it were a soccer ball.

Moose Jaw was one of the sites considered for this plant that will generate low carbon emissions and was lucky enough to be selected. 

The plant, and a similar unit just opened near Swift Current, are vital pieces of Saskatchewan’s environmental plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Construction of the natural gas fired electric power plant will take about three years with up to 600 construction workers. Once open, the unit will employ 35 highly paid workers.

The biggest benefit from this cogenerartion facility will come from future attraction of industry seeking low emissions energy. Located in the new industrial park south of the refinery the plant could be a magnet for industry.

Political football has scared everyone about the plant’s future.

The Liberal federal government announced carbon tax regulations on production from this plant.

Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe and his Saskatchewan Party cabinet were caught blindsided. They had assumed the plant wouldn’t be subject to carbon tax.

Perhaps if our government weren’t in a continual power struggle with the Liberal federal government, we might have known about the tax before. Or we could have asked instead of assuming.

The Saskatchewan powers said they had to go back to the drawing board to see if the project is still viable with the carbon tax.

The implications and threats by Saskatchewan: the whole project could be scotched by the federal carbon tax.

Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie took up the cause becoming vocal on the issue, demanding the feds exempt this plant from the carbon tax.

First, it is doubtful the carbon tax will destroy the plant’s viability, although costs will increase.

Second, Saskatchewan has no real option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Coal-fired plants can’t achieve the goal and the carbon capture technology is too expensive.

The other option, probably the most sensible option, would be to buy low emissions hydro power from neighbouring Manitoba’s new dam on a long-term contract.

The chances of that occurring are pretty remote. Spending millions to build a power grid to Manitoba would be necessary and unpalatable for politicians preferring to create jobs in their own province.

A Manitoba Hydro power source would leave SaskPower without all its own generation facilities. And there’s the matter of fewer jobs in this province.

Saskatchewan is left with natural gas co-generation as the only alternative. Nuclear power, if acceptable to residents, would take forever to approve and build.

All the political threats about the carbon tax axing the plant are mere political bluster intended to create more dislike of carbon tax, Trudeau and the Liberals.

Meanwhile, taxpayers are left with the false impression that carbon tax will squash plans for the cogeneration plant.

Ron Walter can be reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  




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