Your questions… can’t we just use wind or solar?

For three weeks last fall, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) with funding from the International Pipeline Conference Foundation and TELUS Spark, an interactive Calgary science museum, worked together to present a temporary display about pipeline technology.

More than 10,000 TELUS Spark visitors of all ages had the opportunity to learn and discover fascinating scientific facts about leading-edge technology that helps keep pipelines safe.

The display demonstrated how the pipeline industry uses fibre optic technology to monitor for potential leaks. It also included a talking wall, which allowed visitors to share their thoughts about the display on sticky notes. In today’s blog, we respond to two of those notes from the talking wall.


Comment: “I would prefer green technology.”


No question… all forms of energy will play a role in our energy future, particularly in light of rising levels of global emissions. CEPA members are already exploring technological innovation and investing in green technology.

There’s been great global progress in green energy alternatives in recent years. Yet, forecasts by governments, companies and respected global institutions, such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), conclude that fossil fuels will still supply up to 70 per cent of the world’s primary energy by 2040. Analysis by the IEA shows oil consumption will actually grow in coming decades, due to rising demand from petrochemicals, trucking and aviation. Projections by Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) reached similar conclusions: Canada’s Energy Future 2018: Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040.

In the quest to reduce global emissions, Canada has the ability to make a massive impact. But we need to get our regulated and responsibly-developed energy products to markets that are demanding cleaner energy sources to help grow their economies.


Question: “Can’t we just use wind or solar?”


The answer is not that simple…

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Wind and solar sources of energy are intermittent (therefore unreliable) and often require fossil fuels as back-up energy sources.
  • Infrastructure for solar and wind energy relies heavily on materials – such as rare earth metals, steel, plastics and concrete for wind turbines – which often requires significant carbon intensive energy.
  • The transition to renewable energies takes time. For example, in the 14 years following an aggressive energy change initiative that began in Germany in 2000, the average decline in fossil fuel use was only 0.3 per cent per year. If that trend continues, fossil fuels would remain dominant in Germany even up to 2050. (Smil, V., University of Manitoba, 2016.).


Igniting conversations


According to TELUS Spark, the collaboration with CEPA resulted in an educational opportunity that increased visitor knowledge about how technology positively impacts the pipeline industry. The collaboration also started conversations about innovative uses of technology to help increase pipeline safety.

We’ll share more insights and responses from the TELUS Spark ‘talking wall’ in an upcoming blog post.

If you’re interested in learning more about how global energy demand is changing, check out our three-part blog series, 12 realities on energy change from an energy realist, featuring the work of Dr. Smil.