Energy Council of Canada

Editors choice

The Energy Council of Canada has a long track record in the energy sector. Since its foundation in 1923, the Council has been operated on behalf of its members from the energy industry, the federal government and provincial governments, and various other organizations who are actively engaged in the energy industry. Among its twenty energy association members are the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA), the Canadian Hydropower Association (CHA), the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA), and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). As President of the Energy Council of Canada since December 2013, Graham Campbell has seen some significant changes within the organization, as well as some upcoming challenges for the future of the industry.

Membership, Structure, Positioning within the Energy Sector

“We now have 75 members from across the energy sector, and we’re growing as an organization in terms of our membership count and the diversity of our membership. Many of our members you would recognize instantly – Suncor Energy, Enbridge Inc., Hydro Québec, Emera Inc., and regulatory organizations in Ontario and Alberta. In contrast to sectorally-focused organizations involved in energy in Canada, we’re very broadly based, not specifically electricity, oil and gas, hydropower, renewables, or nuclear, but including the entire energy system from supply, transportation/transmission, and end-use.”

Much like its member organizations in the private sector, the Energy Council has a Board of Directors and an Executive Committee at the top of its organization chart. The Board meets three times a year and has an Annual General Meeting as well.  The Executive Committee guides all strategic and operational matters such as finance, programs, policy research, and participation in studies managed by the World Energy Council through its various sub-committees. In addition to this structure, regional events are organized by local sub-committees under the Energy Council’s Program Committee.

Differentiating the Energy Council of Canada from other industry associations and organizations, according to Campbell, is its role as the Canadian representative for the World Energy Council, a United Nations accredited organization with more than 95 member countries worldwide. “Each country has a local member committee that looks after the national activities and the interaction with the World Energy Council in London, and we are the Canadian organization for that purpose,” he says. “So, we have that strong and close ties with the World Energy Council, we engage in its studies, its reports, and its events.”

The diversity of the Energy Council’s membership is also a point of differentiation.  Current members include government departments across the country, including Natural Resources Canada and seven provincial governments.  Campbell is confident in the Council’s ability to catalyze dialogue amongst its multi-faceted group of members. “Our approach to looking at energy issues is not to advocate on the part of any particular sector, but rather, to bring all parties together – whether they’re First Nations, industry, governments – in an open, transparent dialogue to advance a particular issue that’s affecting the energy sector at the time.

Fostering Energy Dialogue 

The Energy Council focuses on issues which are more horizontal in nature, which bring together our membership from government and industry, and then works to advance the issue through dialogue and event reports. Recently, our events have looked at themes such as telling the energy story, decarbonisation, market access, climate change, and the importance of infrastructure and how it affects energy in general and opens opportunities for investment.

“The main value that people see from their involvement in the Energy Council of Canada is that our events bring together energy subsectors and different economic sectors. So, you’ll find people at our events from the natural gas sector, the electricity sector, and the nuclear sector – or from pipelines, or renewables and finance –  coming together around discussion of a given issue. There is a plurality of participants attending our programs, events, activities and participate in the broad, interconnected nature of the discussions that we have. When people attend our events, they meet people from other sectors that they don’t often see when they attend sector-specific events.”

“By working with us, a member company or a participant in an event can advance their strategic goals by participating, putting their views forward, and learning from other’s views.”

Hosting events allows the Council to shine a spotlight on issues that may be of industry or public concern, and educate attendees, such as the “Telling the Energy Story” or “Energy Infrastructure: Issues, Opportunities, Implications” themes. For each session, the allotted time is divided in half, starting with dialogue between panelists and then followed by an equal amount of time dedicated to dialogue with the attendees and Qs&As. The intended result is to allow members of the industry and the public to be heard while expressing their opinions on specific topics, leading to better informed energy decisions.

“Of late we’ve been very busy on a variety of issues such as energy and the environment, the implications of lower oil prices, new forms of technology, and new market practices,” he says. “Public confidence or public acceptance of major energy projects is a real issue in Canada today,” says Campbell. “We have a number of major projects in play at the moment across the country.  The Energy Council wouldn’t say whether a particular project should be approved or not.  But we do bring people together to discuss whether and how the project should advance, what the processes should look like, who should be involved, and how they should be heard – all towards finding a solution to producing good decisions for Canada in energy.

Over the last three years, we’ve organized seven events that have looked at the public confidence issue, starting in Calgary and more recently in Toronto. Those events have involved First Nations representatives, federal and provincial governments, industry, think tanks, people that are doing academic research – all to inform the discussion, raise the bar in terms of what’s being discussed, and report on outcomes which will hopefully advance the issue and enable us to find solutions. We do not aim to tell government what to do and what to approve; rather, we’re bringing the parties together, including government, to find a way to move a particular solution ahead.” 

Recognizing Energy Leadership

One of the Energy Council’s long-standing initiatives is the Canadian Energy Person of the Year Award.  This award was established in 2001 to recognize and pay tribute to a Canadian energy leader who has made a significant impact at the national and international levels with the energy sector. Nominations are based upon the nominee’s remarkable accomplishments in the business or public sectors and the community at large.

A foremost characteristic of the nominee is their strong sense of social responsibility and their commitment to give back to the community.  Their focus upon environmental and social issues, and economic development should be evident.  Their forward thinking and innovative spirit enable these leaders to promote the Canadian energy sector and Canada’s role in the world energy market.

Sixteen prominent Canadian energy leaders have received this award since 2001.

The 2016 recipient of the Canadian Energy Person of the Year Award is Ms. Elyse Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Canada and Vice President GE.  The award ceremony will take place on November 10.

Current Situation and Issues

While some sectors of the energy industry are doing well, others are struggling due to persistent low oil and gas prices. This and the dramatic fluctuation of the Canadian dollar in relation to United States currency have had a significant impact on oil export revenue. While oil prices are determined on a global scale, Canada has also seen a significant decline in prices in the continental natural gas market as well.  Western Canada has seen a significant downturn in employment and investment, and a reduction in the pace of drilling. The demand for Canadian oil and gas in the United States has been reduced dramatically due to the rapid growth in oil and gas production there.  “We’ve been living with natural gas prices in the lower end of the range for a longer period than for oil prices,” says Campbell. “Given the pervasive economic impact of oil and gas activity across the country on the economics of most provinces – not just Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C., but also Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes – fluctuating oil prices have had significant economic and social impacts.

In contrast, other parts of the energy system, such as the use of renewable technologies – wind and solar – have enjoyed growth recently.  Nuclear energy is a stable, emissions-free component of Ontario’s electricity supply.  The recent refurbishments in Ontario and New Brunswick will maintain nuclear’s share of electricity generation.  Hydroelectricity mega-projects are underway in several areas across the country.  These are major scale investments that are not susceptible to trends in international oil and gas prices. So, at present there is a difficult sector-specific story in oil and gas, but a more positive story when you look at all parts of the energy system.”

The World Energy Council conducts an annual survey in order to pinpoint current issues within the industry characterized by their overall impact and on their level of uncertainty for the future. In 2016, the World Energy Issues Monitor identified commodity prices and climate framework as the two issues with the highest overall impact and level of uncertainty. Over the next few years, extensive efforts will need to be made throughout the world in order to address climate issues.  These issues have received proactive attention following the December 2015 Paris climate conference. “Countries of the world are signing on and are now more engaged in trying to come to grips with what’s needed to change their emissions profiles over the short and long term. Our provincial governments have shown strong leadership by moving ahead with world-leading climate policy.  Examples are: B.C.’s carbon tax, which has been in place for several years; Ontario’s elimination of coal-fired electricity generation and bringing on renewables, natural gas, and refurbished nuclear power to maintain reliable electricity supply; Alberta with the Climate Change Leadership Plan; and Saskatchewan policy to change the generation mix substantially by increasing the share from renewables. All these things add up to a proactive suite of actions by industry and government policy leaders.”

Renewable energy technologies also rank fairly highly in the Monitor’s rankings.   Campbell believes this is a result of increased development and significantly lower technology costs for wind and solar power.

LNG in Canada is ranked as highly uncertain in the 2016 Energy Monitor results.  This is an emerging sector with significant economic and social impacts that will need to be watched closely in light of regulatory approvals and trends in international markets “All these things, when added together, tend to create a situation where people – particularly in the oil and gas sector – are feeling stressed due to low prices and uncertain climate frameworks and continuing delays with the approvals processes,” he says. “But, there are also bright spots, too, as the electricity sector and renewables move ahead.

Another issue is consideration of projects to expand Canada’s access to new export markets.  A decision on the TransMountain Expansion Project is expected before the end of the year.  The Energy East Pipeline Project started its regulatory review in St. John but was terminated shortly thereafter.  Regulatory processes are needed which will come to grips with the issues involved, which take account of the adjustments made by proponents of projects already, and which are responsive to the interests of communities, First Nations, municipalities which feel at risk from the impacts of an energy project and which also stand to benefit from the project as well.” 

Perspectives on Energy

Over his 44-year career, Campbell considers himself privileged to have had worked in many facets of the energy industry. Starting in Calgary in the oil and gas sector, he moved to a resource assessment role in Northern Oil and Gas working in the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Islands region of Canada. Later, as he worked with two regulatory agencies, including the National Energy Board (NEB) where he gained further insight into the country’s energy industry and a greater awareness of its regional differences. “What that revealed to me was the importance of the role of an independent regulator like the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.  In brief, the regulator is tasked with properly taking account of the issues and safety and market concerns, to approach them from a scientific, technical standpoint, and to come up with sound advice, recommendations, and approvals which take account of all project-related interests and Canada’s energy sector in general.

He also worked in two organizations in the policy research area – the Conference Board of Canada, and as a non-academic staff person at Carleton University. Each position provided an opportunity to put together observations made in industry, government, and regulatory agencies into research papers intended to inform and advance energy policy dialogue.

Most recently, this position with the Energy Council of Canada has been an opportunity to work in a more challenging context aiming to combine the views of all players.  Our approach is to draw on the resources and research of the World Energy Council and to make use of the Energy Council’s ability to convene government and industry.  We select issues that are central to moving ahead as a country in a way that respects views of all players and takes account of benefits and as well as the impacts in order to finds a good way forward for Canada.”

Looking Ahead

Campbell foresees a “huge opportunity” for expansion of the energy industry in Canada to further develop Canada’s rich inventory of natural resources and to use energy wisely. “In terms of production, we’re fourth in natural gas supply, second in uranium supply, and in the electricity sector, second in hydropower electric generation, and sixth overall in electricity production,” he says. “So, by any of those measures, energy is a major asset – either based on our energy resources, how we produce and use energy, or how we export energy commodities.  On the economic side, something like 13 percent of our GDP, 5 percent of our jobs, and $136 billion in Canada is balance of trade in energy in 2014.

What’s even more important is how pervasive the use of energy is throughout the Canadian economy.  We use energy in transportation to get home from work, to heat or cool our homes, to power industry, and to move goods and commodities across the country, a huge energy demand given our geographic dimensions. Energy’s everywhere and all around us, and it’s a key part of moving things ahead for Canada.

“So, when we look at energy, we need to be very attentive as we try to find ways to make the energy sector work better and deliver better value overall. We’ve sensed a greater willingness across the country to come together to talk about how we might tackle these issues – engaging with First Nations, federal and provincial collaboration and co-operation, and addressing the climate issues that Canada faces.  We hope to bring dialogue around all of this together and to help make progress on the issues.”

“I look forward to the future of energy in Canada and to contributing to fulfilling the Energy Council’s vision of an ,, stable and environmentally sensitive energy sector for the benefit of all Canadians.”