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Column: Where was the information table for CCS?

An opinion piece on the SaskPower's latest open house in Estevan.
Scott McGregor at SaskPower discussed small modular reactors Friday morning.

SaskPower representatives were back in Estevan last week for an open house, giving local residents the opportunity to learn more and ask questions about the future of power production in the province.

Such an event is likely going to be very different in Estevan than anywhere else in the province. The questions are going to be different. People will want to know what will happen to the employees once conventional coal power comes offline in 2030.

They might want to know if additional funding will come to Estevan to assist with the transition from coal-fired power.

SaskPower can bring information about wind, solar and geothermal power, the potential for small modular reactors and an update on a large transmission line project that will be constructed from the Estevan area to North Dakota (that will be another opinion piece for another time) but people will want to hear about coal and the carbon capture and storage facility at the Boundary Dam Power Station.

So some might have found it startling to see the lack of promotion materials on CCS. There was nothing that celebrated five million tonnes of captured CO2 at the Boundary Dam Power Station. No pamphlets. No information sheets.

The banner at the front entrance that hyped the future supply plan? There were graphics for natural gas, solar, wind and nuclear. But nothing for coal or CCS. Maybe there isn’t a CCS icon available.

SaskPower will tell you CCS remains a big part of electrical generating plans after 2030, but when they aren’t promoting the technology at an open house in Estevan on power production, people are going to speculate.

I give SaskPower all the credit for having these open houses and answering questions from the public. It can’t be easy having an event like this in Estevan. They get the same questions from local residents. Some of them are interesting. Some are from people with informed opinions or who want information. Some people are looking to vent. And others just have absurd thoughts.

People in this area want to know what is going to happen after 2030 and how it will affect their home values, their jobs and more. We all are affected in some way by coal-fired power.

But there should still be promotion of carbon capture and storage’s future. Even if a decision hasn’t been made on further investment into CCS technology at the Shand Power Station and for Unit 6 at Boundary Dam, our concerns can be eased a little with some information.

Given all they had for solar power, small modular reactors and more, it likely wouldn’t have taken much to have one person there with pamphlets and other printed materials, extolling the virtues of CCS and promoting the accomplishments that have been made over the past 8 1/2 years, ever since CCS came online during a celebration with people from around the world in attendance.

Hyping CCS doesn’t need to happen at every open house. But it should happen in Estevan.

Coal-fired power generation is a part of our history and still plays an instrumental role in our community. I’m proud to be from a mining community and I’d like to think most people in the Estevan area share that pride.

I want to see Saskatchewan’s largest-ever solar power facility built in the Estevan area, but at this stage it remains a supporting power source rather than a baseload option.

I’m intrigued by the potential associated with small modular reactors, but the key word is potential. I’m also baffled that people still equate SMRs with conventional nuclear power.

And I’m a big proponent of geothermal power and I’m proud that we’re getting closer to great things happening in southeast Saskatchewan.

But I’m also concerned about the future of coal-fired power in the southeast. The days of conventional coal might be drawing to a close, but CCS is proven technology and it should be given the chance to make an even greater difference.

And while SaskPower can talk about its plans for CCS to be part of the power mix in 2030 and beyond, a mining company won’t stick around for just one unit at Boundary Dam, regardless of how innovative the technology is.

But for the next few years anyways, anytime SaskPower has an open house on the future of power production in Estevan, it would be wise to promote CCS.