Transition Time? Energy Attitudes in Southern Saskatchewan

Transition Time? Energy Attitudes in Southern Saskatchewan

Postby Oscar » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:40 pm

Transition Time? Energy Attitudes in Southern Saskatchewan - Fall 2020

[ ... 202020.pdf ]

Andrea Olive, Emily Eaton, Randy Besco, Nathan Olmstead, and Catherine Moez


Recently, SaskPower has moved away from renewable energy targets, instead committing to reducing GHG emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. The switch from a renewable energy to a GHG emissions target would allow the corporation to meet its goal through nuclear energy. Indeed, despite obvious wind and solar potential, the Saskatchewan government has become increasingly attracted to nuclear power, particularly in the form of small modular reactors. Environment Minister Dustin Duncan points to jobs, enhanced value-chains for the province’s uranium, and “made-in-Saskatchewan climate policy” as the benefits of nuclear energy (Hunter 2020). To facilitate nuclear development, in June 2020 the government established a “nuclear secretariat” to coordinate nuclear policy and program work within the Ministry of Environment.

Relying on small modular nuclear reactors to provide a ‘baseload’ of power for Saskatchewan’s grid is also appealing to SaskPower. Their adoption would require the fewest changes to its business model and electrical grid, as SaskPower could simply replace coal and gas-fired plants with small nuclear reactors and continue to generate electricity at centralized locations and sell it to people across the province. By contrast, scaling up renewable energy will require significant modernization of the provincial grid to make it possible for individuals and small producers to transfer and sell power to the grid and so that the utility can better manage the intermittent supply of different forms of energy (Enoch and Eaton, 2020). According to Doug Ospeth, director of generation asset management and planning for SaskPower, the corporation will be watching closely the costs of small modular reactors as they are adopted in Ontario and New Brunswick, and will make a decision about adoption in Saskatchewan based on the price per kilowatt hour against renewable options (Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, 2020).

Government support for energy technology like small modular nuclear reactors sends mixed signals to the public. On the one hand, the government recognizes the need to reduce emissions, but on the other hand, refuses a price on carbon. The government and NDP opposition are also resistant to winding down fossil fuel production because the provincial economy is intimately tied to oil and gas. There seems to be a prevalent view that increased oil and gas production is reconcilable with effective climate action. The extent to which this belief has permeated public attitudes is the motivation for this current study. . . . .

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With the provincial government’s enthusiasm for small scale nuclear reactors, we also wanted to know about our respondents’ support for nuclear energy. Despite its average score of 5.8/10, lower than other energy options, there is still sizeable strong support for nuclear energy: 22% of respondents rated it 10 out of 10. But there are mixed views on whether generating more nuclear energy is a good strategy for addressing climate change. Respondents were relatively equally distributed 35% agreeing and 34% disagreeing that nuclear energy is among the best ways of addressing climate change.
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