The Saskatchewan NDP announced Thursday a significant plank in their energy platform, swinging for the fences by backing geothermal electrical power generation as a zero-emissions solution, even while geothermal development is still in the pilot stage.
NDP Leader Ryan Meili and Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said an NDP government would harness the power of Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations and the expertise of the oil patch to explore the development of affordable, scalable, renewable baseload geothermal power in Saskatchewan.
The announcement came a week after the Deep Earth Energy Production Corp. (DEEP) announced its spring/summer flow testing program indicated there was enough temperature and flow rates in their pilot project south of Torquay to support multiple geothermal power facilities.
However, that project is still in its pilot phase and has not yet built a pilot plant to produce any electricity, let alone a full-scale facility.
The DEEP geothermal project has seen a $26 million funding commitment from the federal government, and has received support from the Saskatchewan government at various stages, including SaskPower signing a power purchase agreement with DEEP.
Meili said, “We know Saskatchewan families are feeling stretched and stressed, struggling to make ends meet. This is especially true in oil patch communities where challenges have been made worse by the pandemic.”
The NDP policy announcement comes just days after Ensign Drilling, one of Canada’s largest oilwell drilling contractors, completed cutting up 10 Saskatchewan-based drilling rigs, several of which were 15 years old or newer. For much of the last decade, Saskatchewan had roughly 120 drilling rigs. Now there are just 96.
Meili said, “Today we have the opportunity to put people to work with the skills they already have, as we take advantage of new technology and incredible untapped opportunities in clean, renewable energy production under a Sask. First model that puts Saskatchewan companies and workers first.”
Meili indicated that as part of an NDP platform commitment to reaching 50 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 and a legislated target of 100 per cent emissions-free electricity by 2050, his government would work with SaskPower to explore a major expansion of baseload geothermal power capacity.
The NDP noted in a press release that “Emerging technology in this field, including deep well geothermal and closed-loop geothermal, has the potential to provide reliable, affordable green power that is the ideal companion to expanded solar and wind. Geothermal also has the capacity to provide a much-needed boost to industries and communities impacted by the oil downturn.”
Dion Malakoff, executive director of the Saskatchewan Provincial Building and Constructions Trades Council, sees a commitment to next-generation geothermal as crucial to sustaining Saskatchewan’s prosperity and ensuring good jobs for Saskatchewan tradespeople.
“We’ve got the workers, the equipment and the expertise at the ready,” said Malakoff. “Saskatchewan could be pioneering a field that promises good jobs and clean, cheap energy for the people of our province, but it takes a commitment from political leaders to putting Saskatchewan people first.”
The release quoted Kevin Krausert, president & CEO of Beaver Drilling, and the drilling rig executive chair of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, as speaking up in favour of geothermal, writing, “Geothermal energy provides an opportunity to have Canada’s leading drillers and equipment deliver reliable – and renewable – zero-carbon energy.”
The announcement is part of the NDP’s “commitment furthers the transition to clean energy while creating new Saskatchewan jobs in impacted industries and communities while saving ratepayers money,” according to the release. The program is known as Renew Saskatchewan.
“New Democrats believe in putting our natural resources to work. New Democrats believe in the workers who make their living in oil and gas in our province – which is why we support pipelines as the safest way to get our product to market for a fair price,” said NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon. “But we can do so much more. Geothermal energy presents an incredible opportunity to be at the leading edge of changes in the industry and diversify and expand opportunities for skilled workers like drillers, surveyors and geologists. Smart investments in affordable, renewable energy will drive investment, create jobs and are central to building the energy infrastructure of the future.”