Insights into public perceptions of CCS - the Alberta story

2012-01-16 09:49 by Anja Reitz

Last September, Don Wharton, Vice-President of Sustainable Development with TransAlta, led a webinar on our most recent findings after having conducted our second public opinion poll on perceptions of CCS. We polled the local communities in and around the Keephills 3 location (future location of Pioneer), as well as Albertans more broadly.

Highlights of this polling included:

  • public support for the concept of CCS in Alberta remains strong;
  • natural awareness and understanding of CCS and projects is still modest;
  • a strong majority see CCS as no more risky than other energy infrastructures;
  • there’s a high desire for more information about CCS;
  • a majority support government investment in CCS; and
  • there’s majority support for continued use of coal for power generation if CCS is deployed.

In general, there is more goodwill and acceptance of the concept of CCS in Alberta, than in other geographic locations, we think for a few reasons. Namely, Albertans are ‘used to’ and understand the energy infrastructure in their province, and this acceptance of current infrastructure likely plays a role in the level of comfortability with new possible infrastructures or building on current ones. Also, our polling indicates that Albertans are supportive of the notion that the environment is important and needs to be protected and sustained, and therefore are open to ways in which to do that.

When TransAlta polled in 2010, the results to the same questions were very similar. One notable includes that opponents or detractors of CCS in Alberta, did not gain any traction from 2010 to 2011.

Another change that we have noted from the 2010 to 2011 polling activity is the priority that Albertans have given to addressing environmental or climate change concerns. In 2010, out of 800 respondents, 28 per cent indicated that they perceived climate change to not be urgent, while in 2011, this grew to 32 per cent of 800 respondents, who indicated that it was not urgent. We believe that this can, at least in part, be attributed to the current global economic climate and the fact that many people are more concerned with economic matters, including how emerging debt-ridden countries will affect our Canadian economy, as well as the effect the downturn in the American economy will have on our ‘wallets’ here at home. Not surprising then, that an expensive technology (albeit one that does enjoy support from the public) would not rank as high when placed in the mix with other issues and concerns that relate back to finances and economics.

Some further annotated thoughts from our 2011 polling results include:

  • there is not a lot of ‘deep’ knowledge of CCS, but people are inclined to think favourably of it;
  • the knowledge of CCS that exists amongst Albertans, is essentially correct;
  • there was a dearth of opinion on Pioneer;
  • Abertans expect energy companies to use technology in supporting the protection of the environment; and
  • overall, Albertans believe that CCS is a good concept.

Of particular interest is the result that says a majority of Albertans would be inclined to keep coal-fired plants operational with a retrofit of a carbon capture facility that would reduce CO2 emissions. That, coupled with public support of government investment, gives us reason to believe that Alberta can continue to be at the forefront of supportive conditions for CCS, its development and its deployment.

With further study and consultations with our pollster, we have concluded that the results from 2011, and even the comparative results to 2010, indicate that there is a very favourable perception amongst Albertans regarding the use of carbon capture and storage. We can also conclude that there is a need for an education-based campaign to provide the information and detail to Albertans so they can further understand this burgeoning infrastructure and technology.

Source: CCS Global Institute / Blogs / 12 Jan 2012 | Stacey Hatcher

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