As the global population grows, so does the energy demand. While the energy industry is trying to meet this increasing demand, it must also achieve an unprecedented level of rigorous regulatory criteria and other standards. In addition, the industry has to satisfy the media so that it does not get cancelled by the cancel culture. The goal is to protect the environment and move toward a low-carbon emission economy. The push to achieve the goal and run a sustainable business is greater than ever. This position is impacting every sector – from small business owners to the federal government.
Intriguing contradictions exist between governments and the energy industry as the policies favour renewable energy and its production as the primary energy source, while the energy industry foresees oil and gas’ continued growth as the demand for energy increases. The Russian-Ukraine War has forced governments to rethink policies. With the undeniable threat to national security, suddenly, the topic of energy security has resurfaced as governments once again realize the need for reliable energy.
As high-interest rates continue to influence the economy, the Bank of Canada expects economic growth to slow while food prices remain high. Many Canadians, especially young professionals with young families, may have to make uncomfortable spending decisions on what they can afford to feed their families.
In times like this, it is reasonable to wonder whether our energy policies genuinely serve us and the planet. As young professionals, we are at risk of navigating our life and careers through economic turbulence while maintaining our principles toward sustainability and the environment. We live in a time when questioning climate ambitions can stigmatize us and place us in unfavourable societal situations. However, most Canadians do not have confidence in federal and provincial governments’ energy policies. It’s high time we ask, “Why?”
The energy transition is complex enough. Bringing polarizing politics and specific media narratives to this multifaceted and difficult task makes it more complicated. One side of the aisle wants to decarbonize the current system and achieve a net zero-emission economy within what many believe to be an unachievable timeline. The other side of the aisle wants to continue with conventional energy as the primary energy source. This situation has resulted in divided energy policies with the election of new parties to power in federal and provincial governments, leading to significant changes to energy policy. In the last two decades, political parties did not set aside their differences to solidify a unified and feasible approach to energy transition. It’s also important to mention that not all Canadian provinces benefit from energy policies equally and that many essential stakeholders, such as small business owners, young professionals, indigenous groups, etc., were primarily kept outside of these discussions. As a young professional, this isn’t easy to digest. With 35+ year careers ahead of us, young professionals must be part of the conversations driving energy policies if we are serious about an equitable energy transition. It will be challenging for young professionals to navigate 35+ year careers if policies shift with each election cycle and manage resulting career trajectory changes. Governments and stakeholders will benefit from including young professionals in discussions where action items with delivery timelines are created. One such example is the Regionals Tables which are a collaborative initiative that brings the federal government together with the provinces, stakeholders, and indigenous groups.
Our energy future will not be one type of energy. Our future will be an integrated energy infrastructure system that ensures we don’t have to sacrifice economic prosperity and energy security to preserve the environment. In fact, sustainable energy infrastructure development is critical for the environment. A reliable supply of energy and environmental preservation are interconnected – one is not possible without the other.
Returning to the beginning of this article, the global energy demand is increasing. One way to keep up with increasing demand is, utilizing new renewable energy sources to fill growing demand while continuing to work on decarbonizing the current energy system. We need to look at the energy transition through a more humanitarian lens. It’s crucial to understand that we cannot dispense with the current system overnight, not without significantly impacting the current energy industry’s jobs and the incomes people receive to support their families. The energy transition is inevitable, but the change needs to be steady and equitable and should not require an abrupt and substantial lifestyle change for either workers or the public. Governments should invest more in training and creating jobs to utilize people currently in the system. This is especially important for young professionals.
Also, after the pandemic, we are now in a global supply chain crisis with limited access to products and encounter longer lead times. The current supply chain system is primarily dependent on oil and gas. With changing emissions targets worldwide, net-zero carbon emission strategies often do not discuss how to address supply chain issues. How can we solve the supply chain issues while simultaneously reducing oil and gas usage to meet emissions targets? The question remains unanswered by provincial and federal governments.
As young professionals, how do we navigate the energy industry that seems to be always changing direction and is heavily influenced by popular culture? With 35+ years of careers remaining, the restrictions around energy projects and infrastructure development can discourage young professionals from pursuing careers in this industry.
With the challenges of the energy, transition will come new opportunities, and young professionals are at the heart of building on these new opportunities. Young professionals of this generation have an unprecedented level of compassion for people and a commitment to preserving the planet. When young professionals have a seat at the table where decisions are made, their compassion, commitment, and energy can be channelled to make miracles happen.
Ishrat Oishee, Marketing & Communications Committee Chair
Joel Biftu, Lead, Southern Alberta
The Sustainable Jobs Plan can be found on the Government of Canada Website here