NDP sees geothermal as a zero-emissions energy solution

The Saskatchewan NDP announced a significant plank in their energy platform by backing geothermal electrical power generation as a zero-emissions solution.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili and Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said on Sept. 17 that an NDP government would harness the power of Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations and the expertise of the oil patch to explore the development of affordable, scaleable, renewable baseload geothermal power in Saskatchewan.

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“We know Saskatchewan families are feeling stretched and stressed, struggling to make ends meet, Meili said. “This is especially true in oil patch communities where challenges have been made worse by the pandemic.”

The NDP policy announcement comes just days after Ensign Drilling, one of Canada’s largest oilwell drilling contractors, completed cutting up 10 Saskatchewan-based drilling rigs, several of which were 15 years old or newer. For much of the last decade, Saskatchewan had roughly 120 drilling rigs. Now there are just 96.

“Today we have the opportunity to put people to work with the skills they already have, as we take advantage of new technology and incredible untapped opportunities in clean, renewable energy production under a Sask First model that puts Saskatchewan companies and workers first,” Meili said.

The NDP’s announcement came a week after Deep Earth Energy Production Corp. (DEEP) announced its spring/summer flow testing program indicated there was enough temperature and flow rates in their pilot project south of Torquay to support multiple geothermal power facilities. However, that project is still in its pilot phase and has not yet built a pilot plant to produce any electricity yet, let alone a full-scale facility.

The DEEP geothermal project has seen a $26 million funding commitment from the federal government, and has received support from the Saskatchewan government at various stages, including SaskPower signing a power purchase agreement with DEEP.

Bronwyn Eyre with the Saskatchewan Party thinks the NDP is overreaching.

“Now the NDP has taken a stab at geothermal. Last year, their big plan was to replace every pipeline in the province of whether the pipeline needed to be replaced or not. And remember, that would have been at a cost of $50 billion for SaskEnergy, alone,” she said by phone on Sept. 18.

“Geothermal is still in its early stages. It's very high cost technology. It's not close to being a replacement for current baseload power,” she said.

Meili indicated that as part of a NDP platform commitment to reaching 50 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 and a legislated target of 100 per cent emissions-free electricity by 2050, his government would work with SaskPower to explore a major expansion of baseload geothermal power capacity.

Dion Malakoff, executive director of the Saskatchewan Provincial Building and Constructions Trades Council, sees a commitment to next-generation geothermal as crucial to sustaining Saskatchewan’s prosperity and ensuring good jobs for Saskatchewan tradespeople.

“We’ve got the workers, the equipment and the expertise at the ready,” said Malakoff. “Saskatchewan could be pioneering a field that promises good jobs and clean, cheap energy for the people of our province, but it takes a commitment from political leaders to putting Saskatchewan people first.”

The release quoted Kevin Krausert, the drilling rig executive chair of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, in favour of the proposal

“Geothermal energy provides an opportunity to have Canada’s leading drillers and equipment deliver reliable – and renewable – zero-carbon energy.”

The announcement is part of the NDP’s Renew Saskatchewan plan to transition to clean energy while creating new jobs.

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