Alberta unveils $70M for clean technology; WestJet considers biojet fuel

Alberta unveils $70M for clean technology; WestJet considers biojet fuel
Alberta’s NDP government is promising up to $70 million toward new clean technology projects in biotechnology, electricity and sustainable transportation, with WestJet eyeing the new program to potentially help fund a biojet fuel facility in the province.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced the BEST Challenge on Wednesday at the WestJet Encore hangar in northeast Calgary.

It follows similar programs in the oilsands and industrial sectors aimed at reducing Alberta’s Canada-leading greenhouse gas emissions.

“Tackling climate change is, of course, the most difficult and pressing challenge humanity has ever faced, so it’s going to take everyone rowing in the same direction,” said Phillips.

“We know that innovation has got to be a big part of our action.”

The BEST Challenge program, run through Emissions Reduction Alberta, will be open to businesses, municipalities, post-secondary institutions and not-for-profits.

Mike McNaney, WestJet’s vice-president of industry, corporate and airport affairs, said the company has been working to reduce its carbon footprint through more efficient and technically advanced aircraft.

The next step for the airline industry is the increased use of sustainable fuels, particularly biojet — jet fuel made from organic materials such as wood waste, biowaste or agricultural products such as canola.

McNaney said there is currently no biojet production in Canada, and WestJet is exploring the idea of partnering with other companies to set up a facility in Alberta.

“What we are looking at now is the opportunity for Alberta — for the west in particular — but for Alberta, for a number of stars to line up,” he said.

“The alignment of tax policy, the alignment of investment — public and private investment — is going to be critical to drive this.”

About 40 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation and electricity sectors.

The maximum grant under the BEST program is $10 million and proponents will be required to put up at least matching funds for each allocation. The money is to be allocated by February.

The government says there were 47 applicants for the first round of funding, for new technology in the oilsands. The $70 million allocated translated to $720 million in investment. There were more than 90 applicants for the $35 million earmarked for the recent industrial efficiency challenge.

The new biotech, electricity and transport program is being funded with money from the provincial carbon levy on large industrial emitters.

The United Conservative Party has vowed to scrap the NDP’s broad-based carbon tax if it forms government in the 2019 election, though party leader Jason Kenney has suggested the UCP would be likely to keep the levy on large emitters.

Phillips said programs such as the BEST Challenge would likely be scrapped under a UCP government, just as new Ontario Premier Doug Ford has moved to kill renewable energy projects under contract with that province’s government.

“That’s an enormously destabilizing prospect,” she said.

The UCP caucus did not make an MLA available for an interview but issued a statement reiterating that a UCP government would abolish the provincial carbon tax, but taking no position on the new program.

“Should we be fortunate enough to form government next year, we will make a determination based on the best and most up-to-date data available at that time,” caucus spokeswoman Christine Myatt said in an email.

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