The energy trilemma: Can you have security, sustainability and prosperity?

Do we have to choose between energy security, economic prosperity and sustainability? It’s not an easy question.

Dr. Brenda Kenny, CEPA’s former president and CEO, discussed this “energy trilemma” during a public lecture at the University of Waterloo this week.

The event was around an hour long, but we can sum up her message in one sentence: we can and must choose all three.

In the lecture, which was facilitated by the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE), Dr. Kenny called on all Canadians to work together to find solutions that allow us to tackle all three of these energy issues.

What is the trilemma?

Dr. Kenny, who has a doctorate in Resources and the Environment, discussed the need for global action on climate change but also stressed that we have to be realistic about the growing demand for energy. Basically, as the world’s population grows and quality of life improves, demand for energy will continue to increase. That’s a reality we have to face.

To sum up a very complex topic, Dr. Kenny believes energy strategies need to address the issue of climate change while taking into account the reality of socio-economic needs.

A realistic solution, Dr. Kenny suggested, will involve all energy types. This includes renewable energy and fossil fuels, because even with growth in renewable forms of energy, demand for fossil fuels is expected to either stay the same or grow in the years to come.

Dr. Kenny also talked about the huge role Canada plays in the global energy conversation. This country has a wealth of natural resources that are growing in demand worldwide, and the trade of those resources is central to our economy. During her lecture, Dr. Kenny expressed concern that we are not receiving true value for those resources because the infrastructure needed to transport energy and access world markets is lacking in Canada.

According to a recent Chamber of Commerce report, this lost value is costing Canada about $50 million in revenue every day, Dr. Kenny pointed out. And that’s money we could be investing in new technologies or social programs.

How do we come up with a solution? Collaboration.

Dr. Kenny encouraged all Canadians (no matter where they stand on the energy debate) to work together to find solutions to the trilemma by leveraging pan-Canadian excellence. After all, Canadians are known for collaboration and big-hearted pragmatism, Dr. Kenny pointed out. She stressed that demonizing opposing viewpoints will not help us find solutions. We at CEPA think if anyone can work together to find solutions to this energy trilemma, it’s Canadians.


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.