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Texas-bound: Ontario, Quebec and Alberta energy ministers head south to drum up business

Three provincial energy ministers are in Texas this week looking to grab some attention on the world stage and drum up investment to grow their industries back home.

The ministers may have a similar goal in mind, but each has a very different focus on the type of energy they are making the centre of attention during their time at CERAWeek, a global energy conference.

It’s the first time Quebec has had a presence at the summit.

“We’re looking for investments, we’re looking for partners and we’re also here to show people that Quebec is open for business, that we want to see projects that are going to help us move the needle on climate change, but also help Quebecers make a little money,” said Quebec’s Associate Minister for Economy Christopher Skeete, who is also responsible for energy.

The province is known as a hydroelectric powerhouse, but Skeete is in Houston to highlight Quebec’s potential as a source of critical minerals.

“We’re rich in nickel, we’re rich in lithium,” said Skeete, in an interview with CBC News on the sidelines of the event. “The potential is huge. The opportunities are huge. And we have a responsibility to be here.”

This week’s event in Houston has attracted more than 7,500 political leaders, industry executives and others from about 80 different countries.

“There’s a lot happening in the energy space,” said Ontario energy minister Todd Smith.

“Ontario is leading the way on small modular reactors, not just in North America but around the world. It’s been a great opportunity to share the technology that we have.”

Last fall, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a federal Crown corporation, made a deal with Ontario Power Generation to provide almost $1 billion to build the country’s first small modular reactor.

A concept image of a small modular reactor facility. (GE-Hitachi)

Meanwhile, Alberta is focusing on its traditional oil and natural gas sector and its clean tech industry. The province is also sponsoring the conference.

“The discussion ranges from oil and gas to transitional renewables, carbon capture, [and] hydrogen, so it varies,” said Peter Guthrie, Alberta’s energy minister.

Currently, there are several new carbon capture and storage projects proposed in Alberta to help reduce the amount of pollution from the industrial sector that’s released into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

There is a unique Canadian story to be told, said Kevin Birn, a vice-president with S&P Global Commodity Insights.

“Canada has a tremendous amount of energy endowment from hydro to critical minerals infrastructure to oil and gas and it’s different across the regions. Telling that story is important to help people understand it and have interest in investing in Canada,” he said.

A woman gestures with her hands while giving a speech.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm promotes the Inflation Reduction Act during her speech at CERAWeek in Houston, Texas. (CERAWeek by S&P Global)

The three provincial energy ministers say they are working together to promote Canada has a safe and reliable place to do business.

Still, they are competing for investment dollars not only with each other but against other jurisdictions around the world.

The United States is garnering considerable attention after introducing the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes wide-ranging subsidies and other financial incentives worth tens of billions of dollars toward developing low-carbon sources of energy.

“If you put it all together, you’ll see that the Biden-Harris administration has made the United States the most attractive investment landscape for new energy and decarbonization technologies. In many cases, in fact, in a ton of cases, it makes the United States irresistible,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to attendees on Wednesday.

There is no political representative from the federal government this year, which is a notable absence since the natural resources minister is usually a speaker. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself gave a keynote address.

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