News | World Energy Congress hits Montreal

Scientists, bureaucrats and politicians talk green tech and resource exploitation

The 21st World Energy Congress, the largest international event organized by the World Energy Council (WEC), took place in Montreal from September 13 to 16 last week. Held at the Palais des Congrès de Montréal, the Congress sought to “address the main concerns of the energy community, the global leaders and the general public.” It was hosted by Hydro-Québec and the Energy Council of Canada, with sponsorship from companies such as RioTintoAlcan, ExxonMobile and Hewlett-Packard – three of the largest companies in their respective industries – as well as the provincial and federal governments.

The Congress occurs once every three years, and brings together thousands of international delegates from the 94 member countries of the WEC and beyond. Registration was required for the bulk of activities, including conferences, speakers, and panel discussions. However, a series of public events were held in tandem to the Congress at the Complexe Desjardins, entitled Expo Énergie Montréal 2010.

– Eduardo Doryan

The Expo kicked off its Wednesday schedule with a presentation by keynote speaker Geoff Munro, the chief scientist and assistant deputy minister of the Innovation and Energy Technology Sector of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Munro, who has worked at NRCan in various positions since 2004, drew a crowd of several dozen at the Complèxe Desjardins.

Delivered in French and entitled “Favouring the Green Energy of the North,” Munro’s speech focused on the extensive potential of developing and exploiting alternative energy sources in Canada’s spacious northern provinces. Speaking of “formidable possibilities,” Munro described the various sources of wind, solar, and geothermal energy production prospects in the region.

Quoting this year’s March 3 Throne Speech, Munro said, “Canada’s energy resources are an incomparable economic advantage” over other industrialized nations. Munro went on to explain how energy accounts for $137 billion of Canada’s exports – representing roughly 28.3% of the total as well as 6.8% of GDP – and supports 260,000 jobs.

Munro nevertheless highlighted the necessity to overcome the north’s “dependence on diesel,” improve the “difficult technological and financing” problems of the region, and acknowledge the “fragile environment” whilst investing in its energy resources. He emphasized that it was “essential to reinforce local technical support and knowledge.”

Much of the presentation served to highlight the federal government’s Economic Action Plan, which calls for the spending of $1 billion over five years in green energy generation and transmission infrastructure in the Yukon and other regions.

Thierry Vandal, president and CEO of Hydro-Québec, who was slated to speak following Munro’s presentation, was unable to attend for unidentified reasons.

– Eduardo Doryan

Environmental policy experts discussed the economy of sustainable development and energy Thursday, September 16, at the Complexe Desjardins in downtown Montreal. It was the final event of a four part discussion series comprising the Expo Énergie Montréal, a public event held in partnership with the 2010 World Energy Congress, also being held in Montreal.

The event featured Dale Marshall, a policy analyst for the David Suzuki foundation, François Granger, the president of Réseau des ingénieurs du Québec, Andrée-Lise Méthot, the founder of Cycle Capital Management, and Jean Lacroix, president and chief executive officer of Association québécoise pour la maîtrise de l’énergie.

Each panellist recommended immediate action and stressed individual responsibility in cutting carbon emissions. The participants explained the need for Quebec to mobilize and invest in new sustainable technologies before other areas of the world. Granger said he feared a brain drain—investors and entrepreneurs leaving for other areas and markets—if Quebec did not start investing in green technologies now.

However, Granger also emphasized the central creative role that Canadian engineers play in developing new green technologies, and their mandate to solve the problems presented by climate change and inadequate sustainable infrastructure.

Marshall presented the Trottier Energy Futures Project, a research program committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. He explained that Canada needed to overcome the obstacles presented by its size, diversity of energy sources, and varied provincial interests. One of the objectives of the project was to make Canada a leader in green technologies and an example for other countries to follow.

Lacroix spoke about the need for individuals and society to mobilize in the direction of greener technologies. He said that the green technology market responds to demands, and that in our society the demand for short-lived, easily replaceable products needed to be supplanted by a commitment to durable, efficient technologies.

– Maria Surilas

Cabinet ministers from Quebec, Ottawa and Gabon spoke about “Governance and energy, a matter of trust,” on Tuesday at the World Energy Conference’s Expo Énergie Montréal, held at Complexe Desjardins. The afternoon panel, open to the public, was chaired by former Minister of the Environment and Water Andre Boisclair. Each panelist presented their position on finding economically and environmentally sustainable measures for energy use.

The second panelist was Régis Immongault, the Energy and Hydraulic Resources Minister for Gabon, a west-central state in Africa. Nearly two billion people lack access to modern forms of energy, Immongault said, and the need for energy in developing nations cannot be ignored. Immongault explained that poor resource management has exposed the failures of finding a sustainable energy resource, before outlining the three national projects in natural resource development undertaken by Gabon in conjunction with the World Bank.

Perhaps the most anticipated panelist at Tuesday’s event was Nathalie Normandeau, Deputy Premier of Quebec and Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife. Normandeau opened her remarks by noting that Canadians have had an “immense privilege” in regards to the accessibility and abundance of natural resource energy available to them, compared with other nations, including Gabon.

Central to Normandeau’s speech was Quebec’s controversial decision to develop its shale gas industry, which has faced criticism for the lack of serious research on this natural gas. Normandeau recognized environmental groups’ calls for a moratorium on developing the new shale-gas industry in Quebec, but insisted that this decision was “sensible,” given that public services have been undercut by a weak economy and that shale gas exploration would open up a new income source for public funding.

A small group of protestors arrived shortly after the panel began, and called on Normandeau and Boisclair specifically for a moratorium on gas and petroleum exploration. The protests were held peacefully and both Normandeau and Boisclair acknowledged them in later remarks.

– Kayan Hui