The Atlantica Centre for Energy participated as a breakfast sponsor for the Smart Energy event held in Halifax, April 17-18. The message we wanted to impart on the audience of 600 came from an unlikely source with the title of our keynote address: Lessons Learned from Europe and Fundamental Principles for a Smooth Transition to a Clean Energy Future in Atlantic Canada. The presenter was Michael Galvin, Director of Hydrogen and Sustainable Fuels for the Irish company, Simply Blue Group.  

Michael (or Mick as his friends call him) focused on the lessons learned in Europe as they developed and deployed large scale renewable projects, kind of. Simply Blue has an offshore wind pipeline of over 10GW in development in 10 different jurisdictions globally. But, what’s interesting is that Michael is an oil refiner by trade. How is a message from an oil refiner turned renewable developer relevant to Atlantic Canada energy transition? He touched on a couple of facts that reminded us why Europe has recently turned to Canada to help ease some of their energy security concerns.  

We already know Atlantic Canada is windy. (Well, at least we are good at complaining about it along with anything weather related!) Michael gave us some numbers to back that up. We already know about the existing historical maritime trade routes to Europe supported by several ice-free deep-water ports on our side of the Atlantic. And, he reminded us about our highly trained workforce with experience in offshore oil and gas. To top it all off, Europeans see Canadians, especially those on the East Coast, as friendly (of course), trustworthy partners and a good place to do business.  

So, this message was of utmost importance. To put it bluntly, because it’s about our people.  

And, as Michael Galvin explained in an engineer’s terms, there are numbers to back it up:  

  • Atlantic Canada has a relatively low population density, meaning there is more renewable energy potential than there is local market demand. 
  • Just to put this in context, the land mass area of the European Union (EU) is approximately 4 million kilometers squared (km2); the landmass of Canada is approximately 10 million km2. Canada has almost 2.5 times the area of the EU. But, the population in Canada is approximately 38 million people, the EU is 447 million. That’s a population density of less than 4 people per km2 for Canada compared with 111 people in Europe. 
  • Atlantic Canada has the potential to harness their wind energy and convert it into renewable fuels and export their surplus and compete with any country in the world.” 

With current market needs for hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives such as ammonia (globally, more than 170 million tons of grey ammonia is consumed annually), there is viability for pursuing a drop-in green version of the fuel. As well, Sustainable Aviation Fuel blending targets have already been identified by Canada, Europe and the USA. Along with Canada’s recent budget focus on clean technology investments, these are clear signals to investors.  

2023 Smart Energy event

Michelle Robichaud and Michael Galvin address the room

So how does this equate to a smooth transition to a clean energy future for our region?   

Michael, in addition to several other speakers throughout the conference, were clear: We need people to be onside with these projects if we intend to move them forward in the timeframe needed to meet our net zero emissions targets. The message articulated that we need: 

  • People who reside in our communities, on our First Nations and in municipalities engaged and supportive through clear communication and active involvement, which must happen early and often.  
  • People making and influencing policies and regulations to move quickly to provide regulatory clarity to enable the significant investment required.  
  • People who will make up the workforce, more of them and with the right skills.  
  • And, most of all, we need people to work together.  

So this begs the question People of Atlantic Canada, are we up for the challenge? 

To capture the sentiment of the keynote, and the message the Atlantica Centre fore Energy hoped would resonate with the audience, Michael ended with an impactful quote: “A rising tide raises all boats.”  

The Atlantica Centre for Energy proactively engages with industry, government, the education and research sectors, and the public to foster sustainable growth related to energy opportunities in Atlantic Canada. My facilitating dialogues such as these, we hope to improve the understanding of how the energy sector works and how it impacts the lives of Atlantic Canadians supported with accessible, accurate and reliable information on important current energy topics.