Skip to main content

A haze of wildfire smoke from B.C. hangs over the downtown as a pedestrian walks past in Calgary on July 15, 2021. The Energy Disruptors conference in Calgary focuses on the world’s transition to cleaner forms of energy in the fight against climate change.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

A major conference in Calgary this week is exploring how to transform the world’s energy supply at a time when war in Europe has disrupted energy global markets and as the industry attempts to reinvent itself in response to pressure to address climate change.

The Energy Disruptors conference returns on Tuesday to the heart of Alberta’s oil patch after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event brings together dozens of speakers to discuss the hot-topic issue of energy security amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, the growing need for large-scale battery development, and the need for bold action to move away from fossil fuels.

It bills itself as a way to address the opportunities and challenges presented by the world’s transition to cleaner forms of energy in the fight against climate change.

Discussions are set to touch on new technologies and business models, emerging global trends, policy and how to best foster collaboration between sectors, both public and private. Speakers include energy economist Peter Tertzakian, environmental activist Erin Brockovich and executives from a range of energy companies, including Suncor, Enbridge and Shell. Experts in renewable power, energy development and transition will also take part.

Conference co-founder Graeme Edge said the event is held at a critical moment.

“Right now, you’re seeing record amounts of coal being burned, you’re seeing companies almost regress on some of their short-term energy goals because energy security has become the principal driver,” said Mr. Edge.

“Is this whole situation going to set back energy transition by a number of years or could it actually have unintended consequences and maybe accelerate it?”

Regardless how the energy transition shakes out, investments in renewable energy is a meaningful way to reduce global emissions, he said. Roughly $450-billion annually is currently being invested in renewables such as solar, wind and hydro, but Mr. Edge said credible analysts argue more than $1-trillion is needed to meet fast-approaching targets.

Speaker Dan Balaban, co-founder of renewable energy company Greengate, said companies are taking the green transition seriously but that it is still too slow. He said the federal government needs to offer more robust tax credits and other incentives to encourage uptake.

“In Calgary, we have, I believe, a rather insular view of the energy issue and I think it can be very enlightening to see where the puck is headed,” said Mr. Balaban.

“I see us really transitioning from an energy system based on burning fossil fuels to clean electrons that are produced by renewable energy. It’s a transition that’s going to take time and, for the time being, we need both.”

The conference agenda features a series of planned panel discussions, interactive breakout workshops and TED Talk-like speeches. Some topics being explored by main stage speakers include how explosions are plaguing the battery industry, why the future of humanity depends on accelerated decarbonization, and moving geothermal energy from niche to the mainstream.

While the conference will focus heavily on technologies, capital flows and geopolitical tensions as they relate to the energy market, co-founder Holly Ransom said it is also about changing “heart, minds and behaviours” of individuals and communities.

“In every way, shape, or form, this touches our lives, it touches our work, this touches our countries, our communities,” said Ms. Ransom. “This year, we have a greater focus on energy security, arguably by virtue of the backdrop of Europe than we would have had previously. But, this is going to be a conversation and a set of challenges that we’ve got to be leaning into over a generation.”