Often, when travelling around the country (or even the world) the mention of Alberta conjures up images of the oil sands, an area of Northern Alberta, centered around Fort McMurray and home to some of the largest oil deposits on the globe. It is these oil sands that have provided Alberta with its worldwide reputation as a major player in the energy industry and a climate change pariah. Oil has been a major part of Alberta’s economy, and has been since the 1970s; however, oil is not the only type of energy being produced in large quantities in Alberta. Climate change, technological innovation, and policy changes have also increased the demand for renewable resources to supply our heat, electricity, and other energy needs.
Alberta is not alone in its energy reliance. Canada is both a major energy producer and consumer in part due to our large size, sparsely situated population, and cold temperatures. Additionally, Canada’s significant natural resource availability has meant that resource extraction for energy production and use is a significant part of our national economy. In fact, Canada is the 6th largest energy producer in the world and the 8th largest consumer of energy! Energy use has changed over the years, especially with changes in technology and increasing pressure from climate change. Along with these changes, the need for energy has not declined, especially in a province with such wide-ranging temperatures. Not only does energy use increase in the winter as we use our furnaces more to heat our homes, but in summer the energy cost of air conditioners and fans may increase as climate change leads to warmer temperatures. This means that energy will always be essential and our laws and regulations better keep up.
To get a better sense of what we mean when we say ‘energy’, particularly in the context of environmental law, let’s start with a quick overview of some of the types of energy that are used in the province of Alberta. Energy can be classified as either non-renewable, those resources which do not form or replenish within a current human lifetime and renewable resources which are those that are replenished at a rate equal to, or faster, than the rate at which they are consumed. Both renewable and non-renewable resources are created and consumed in the province of Alberta.
 Natural Resources Canada, “Energy” (29 June 2016) Government of Canada online: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy.
 Natural Resources Canada, “Energy and the economy” (August 2019) Government of Canada online: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/energy-and-economy/20062.
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sub verbo “nonrenewable”; U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Nonrenewable Energy Explained” (8 August 2018) online: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=nonrenewable_home.
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sub verbo “renewable”.
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