Energy Minister’s Outlook on Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Energy Minister Bill Boyd declares full ahead on oil, but leaves many questions about atomic power unanswerred
AO: Saskatchewan is one of the world’s biggest uranium suppliers. There is renewed interest in upgrading some of that uranium within the province. So what is going on in the nuclear scene in Saskatchewan right now?
BB: The premier is very interested in the area in saying that we need to look at taking advantage of more of the nuclear cycle in terms of development of upgrading and refining right through into generation. That’s why there has been the invitation extended to Bruce Power to do feasibility studies. We’re a little ways away from it yet, but clearly this is an area that we have an interest in. However, any nuclear plans have to be economic. If they are not economic, we are not going to move forward. That’s a big question mark at this point in time. There’s always a need for additional power sources. But can the nuclear projects compete with other energy sources like clean coal, natural gas or the renewable forms? That’s the question mark.
AO: Proposals for a nuclear refinery several years ago in the Warman area just north of Saskatoon were derailed by fierce community opposition. What has changed?
BB: Nuclear power has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance lately as an energy source without greenhouse gas emissions – a cleaner energy source. Also, I think people are becoming more and more comfortable with the science all the time and we want to raise that level of comfort. Attitudes towards the industry have changed dramatically. There is no reason to be concerned. It is the safest industry in the world in many peoples’ eyes. In recent months there is continued strong public support for looking at this. We as a government will evaluate it as it comes forth.
AO: Speaking of clean energy, what is the government’s take on renewable forms, carbon and the environmental file?
BB: We’ve been in the carbon capture and sequestration business in Saskatchewan for several years. We’re bringing in carbon from the U.S., sequestering it and using it for enhanced oil recovery. It’s a win-win-win situation. We have also partnered with the federal government and they’re putting a tremendous amount of money, $240 million, towards clean coal technology.
What we’re concerned about is if we are going to look towards any kind of carbon taxes or cap trade, we want to see those monies stay in the province where they’re generated for technology. We believe that technology is going to be the key to the whole thing. We see little benefit to raising these monies and sending them elsewhere.
As far as renewables, there’s always the renewables that are out there – we’re working with companies in terms of wind energy. Renewable forms carry two things. The renewable component is good. But they are also pretty costly and represent a very, very small amount of energy relative to the need that is out there. For people to say ‘Here, put up a few more windmills; that will take care of the problem’ is not right. People are being dishonest about that.
AO: What are the biggest challenges facing the Saskatchewan economy right now?
BB: The availability of capital is a concern but I think it is going to be overcome. We’re going to see capital free up over time as we see the strengthening of commodity prices. The availability of skilled, well-trained labor to take up the jobs in Saskatchewan is going to be a challenge for companies. However, because of the downturn in Alberta in the oil and gas sector, we are starting to attract some of those people to Saskatchewan. Infrastructure is an ongoing challenge for the industry. But all of those kinds of things are manageable.
AO: What does Saskatchewan offer companies considering investing in the province and what can you as a government guarantee?
BB: Saskatchewan is a great place to invest. We have stable government, a stable regime, a stable taxation system and our taxes are going down. Our royalty structure is very, very competitive. It’s a bit lower than Alberta’s right now and it is stable, which is probably the key.
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