In an opinion piece last week for the Globe and Mail, Mayor Jyoti Gondek takes on a question that may be controversial for locals and surprising for outsiders: Is Calgary still on oil town?
Yes it is, she says, and so it will remain for years to come, home to a fossil energy industry that “has been in transition since its inception”. But the first-term mayor devotes most of her post to describing a community where renewable energy, cleantech, emission reduction commitments, and city-building investments are delivering a more diverse local economy.
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“Look at renewables,” Gondek writes. “In 2022, Western Canada accounted for 98% of Canada’s total growth in wind and solar installed capacity. When you compare this with Eastern Canada’s contribution, Alberta’s growth in renewables was more than 38 times greater than that of Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia combined.” In 2021, more than half of Alberta’s 945 cleantech companies were headquartered in Calgary, with two-thirds of them looking to serve customers in oil and gas.
“By setting a net-zero pathway that is aligned with global climate targets, Alberta could generate almost 170,000 jobs in cleantech and contribute $61 billion to provincial GDP by 2050 if we invest properly,” she adds. “Considering the magnitude of the economic impact that could be realized, Calgary is actively working to attract global climate-focused investment dollars.”
The city is also investing to break out of the boom and bust cycles that Alberta has inherited from its dependence on a volatile fossil fuel industry. One part of that strategy is a plan to make downtown Calgary “a thriving community with multiple housing options, as opposed to a central business district that hollows out after 5 PM,” Gondek says.
So far, the city has approved 10 building conversions, transforming more than a million square feet of vacant office space into more than 1,000 housing units. That activity has produced C$189 million in private sector investment with $86 million in municipal incentives.