Energy and the Environment at the School of Business


Thursday, September 22, 2016

8:00 AM — 3:15 PM

Chateau Lacombe Hotel

10111 Bellamy Hill

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

There is a lot of uncertainty with respect to Alberta's electricity transition over the next few years, as we phase out coal-powered generation and introduce a greater share of renewables into the generation mix. What will replace our coal assets? What are the opportunities, risks and costs for renewables in Alberta? How will our existing transmission network deal with these changes?

Please join us as we discuss these topics at Managing Alberta's Electricity System Transition - a symposium hosted by the Alberta School of Business' Centre for Research in Energy and the Environment. This one-day conference will feature a variety of speakers and participants from different parts of the electricity industry to provide clarity and advance conversations between stakeholders in Alberta's electricity system. Attendance at this event is by invitation only, please contact Carmen Velasquez or Andrew Leach for more information.


8:00 — 8:30

Registration and breakfast


Opening remarks from Alberta School of Business Dean Joseph Doucet


Opening remarks from Alberta Minister of Environment Shannon Phillips

9:00 — 10:15

Expanding renewable power in Alberta — opportunities, risks and barriers to entry


  • Vern Yu, Enbridge
  • Kent Brown, BluEarth Renewables
  • Sara Hastings-Simon, Pembina Institute

Moderated by: Jeremy Barretto, Osler

10:15 — 10:30

Coffee and Networking Break

10:30 — 11:45

New merchant generation in Alberta


  • Brian Vaasjo, Capital Power
  • Gord Graham, EY
  • TBD, Brookfield Asset Management

Moderated by: Kent Kaufield, EY

11:45 — 13:30

Lunch and Keynote Speaker

Speaker: Jessica McDonald, President and CEO, BC Hydro

Integrating intermittent renewables into a self-sufficient power grid: Lessons learned in B.C.

13:30 — 14:45

Transmission infrastructure to enable electricity system transition


  • Nicole LeBlanc, AESO
  • Ren Orans, E3 Energy and Environmental Economics
  • Johanne Picard-Thompson, Altalink
  • Wayne Stensby, ATCO

Moderated by: Andrew Leach, U of A


Closing Remarks


Kent Brown

Co-founder & Executive Advisor, Director , BluEarth Renewables

Kent Brown has been in the renewable power sector for over 14 years. He co-founded BluEarth in 2010 and was President & CEO until July 2015. Since inception, he led BluEarth in the acquisition, development, and construction in over $1 billion of long-term contracted, Canadian renewable energy assets, raised approximately $250 million in equity and $600 million of debt, and grew BluEarth to over 50 employees.

Gord Graham

Senior Client Service Partner - Assurance, EY

Gord is the Senior Client Service partner for EY’s Assurance practice in Canada.

Based in Calgary, Gord has almost 30 years experience auditing large Canadian and US listed entities, including companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production, electricity generation and transmission, petrochemicals and major utilities. Gord is consistently engaged with senior management in the energy industry, providing perspective and advice on current financial issues and helping EY ensure that our service offerings align with today’s corporate challenges.

In the electricity sector, Gord works across the spectrum with renewable and fossil fuel generators, marketers, distribution companies, retailers and investors. Gord has also worked extensively with clients in multiple market jurisdictions across Canada and the US and is familiar with the positive and negative attributes of alternative market and regulatory approaches.

Gord has served as a member of the Accounting Standards Board of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and is a member of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta.

Sara Hastings-Simon

Program Director, Clean Economy, Pembina Institute

Sara Hastings-Simon is the director of the Pembina Institute’s clean economy program in Alberta. Sara has experience in renewables, energy efficiency and cleantech, through the lenses of policy, business and technology. Her work has included development of a detailed model of the North American power sector, research and presentations on success factors in the cleantech industry, international and domestic policy for climate change and emissions reduction, and consulting work on key business issues in the cleantech sector with utilities, solar developers, venture capital firms and governments.

Nicole LeBlanc

Director, Analytics & Forecasting, Alberta Electric System Operator

Nicole joined the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) in 2006 and is currently Director, Analytics & Forecasting. In this role, she leads a team of economists, analysts and data scientists who provide market reporting and long-term forecasts of demand and supply of electricity that support the fair, efficient and openly competitive operation of Alberta’s wholesale electricity market.

This work supports market design and long-term transmission planning at the AESO, and involves extensive research and economic modeling activities. It also requires an understanding of the impacts of current and future environmental policy on power generation in Alberta.

Prior to joining the AESO, Nicole worked as an economist at the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) where she focused on economic research and analysis of Alberta’s oilsands sector.

Nicole holds a Master’s degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Applied Mathematics, both from the University of Calgary.

Jessica McDonald

President and CEO, BC Hydro

As President and CEO of BC Hydro Jessica leads BC's largest Crown corporation, generating 98% renewable and clean electricity, transmitting and distributing to 4 million customers, with $5.5B in annual revenues. BC Hydro is currently investing in an unprecedented capital program of refurbishment and expansion of its electricity assets, spending $2B on average over the next 20 years, including the development of the $8.3B Site C clean energy dam project. As part of a new focus on customer service and employee engagement, Jessica has led a brand refresh at BC Hydro resulting in the company being named #1 most influential brand in BC in 2016, with the company also being named Canada's #1 employer in 2016.

Prior experience includes commercial mediation and negotiation on major infrastructure and industrial projects in BC, Deputy Minister in the BC government for 6 years as well as many other posts in the government under numerous administrations beginning in 1991. From 2005 to 2009 she held the most senior public service position in the provincial government as Deputy Minister to the Premier, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the BC Public Service, responsible for oversight of all aspects of government operations. During her term, she led landmark discussions including negotiation of the “New Relationship” between government and First Nations in British Columbia. As Head of the BC Public Service, Jessica initiated a bold human resources renewal program, achieving a 10 point increase in employee engagement with positive gains sustained over multiple years including economic downturn.

Ren Orans

Managing Partner, E3

Dr. Ren Orans, Managing Partner Dr. Orans founded E3 in 1989 and leads the firm’s litigation support and utility planning functions. With more than 25 years of experience in the energy industry, Dr. Orans’ work in utility planning is centered on the design and use of area- and time-specific (ATS) marginal costs for both pricing and evaluation of grid infrastructure alternatives. Using costs Dr. Orans developed, PG&E became the first electric utility in North America to use ATS costing in its ratemaking. This seminal work led to detailed area costing applications in pricing, marketing and planning for many utilities. He is an expert in designing wholesale transmission tariffs and has served as an expert witness on transmission rates for Canada’s three largest utilities (BC Hydro, TransEnergie and Ontario Power Generation). He frequently provides expert advice to large utilities on retail rate design and wholesale transmission pricing. Dr. Orans’ Ph.D. in Civil Engineering is from Stanford University and his B.A. in Economics is from the University of California at Berkeley.

Shannon Phillips

Minister of the Environment and Parks, Government of Alberta

Shannon Phillips was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, representing the constituency of Lethbridge-West, on May 5, 2015. On May 24, 2015, Ms. Phillips was sworn in to cabinet as Minister of Environment and Parks and as Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. On February 2, 2016, Ms. Phillips was named the Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office.

Prior to serving with the Legislative Assembly, she worked with the Alberta Federation of Labour as a policy analyst for five years.

She also spent five years as a member of the board of directors for the Womanspace Resource Centre, a nonprofit organization that provides resources, referrals and education to the community and to individual women.

In 1999 she received a bachelor of arts with honours in political science and in 2002 she completed her master of arts, both at the University of Alberta.

Together with her two sons Ms. Phillips resides in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Johanne Picard-Thompson

Senior Vice President, Projects, Altalink

Johanne is a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Engineering Science Program and Queen’s University Master of Business Administration program. Prior to joining AltaLink, Johanne held senior executive roles in the oil and gas and manufacturing sectors. At Shell Canada she was the General Manager, Oil Sands Growth Operations, and oversaw operations, commissioning and startup planning for expansion projects. At Celestica she was the Senior Vice President of Canadian Operations, responsible for multiple production facilities and more than 40 production lines.

Having led business improvement strategies across multiple business sectors with operations in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Johanne has applied this experience to the delivery of AltaLink’s capital program.

Wayne Stensby

Managing Director, Electricity, ATCO Ltd.

Wayne Stensby is Managing Director, of the Electricity Global Business Unit, for ATCO. The Electricity Global Business Unit was created with the goal of aggregating ATCO’s skills in electricity generation, transmission and distribution. Mr. Stensby is tasked with leading the strategy and development for the Electricity Global Business Unit’s long-term products and services growth.

Mr. Stensby joined ATCO in 1988 and has held a variety of operational and engineering leadership positions, including assignments in Canada, the U.K. and most recently Australia. As Managing Director & Chief Operating Officer for ATCO Australia, Mr. Stensby was responsible for ATCO Australia’s overall operation.

Mr. Stensby holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alberta and is registered as a Professional Engineer with APEGA.

Brian Vaasjo

President and Chief Executive Officer, Capital Power

Brian Vaasjo is the President and CEO of Capital Power and has been since the company’s initial public offering in July 2009. Under his leadership, Capital Power has become Alberta’s leading developer of new power generation and has successfully acquired and developed new renewable power projects in BC, Ontario, and the United States.

Brian possesses over 35 years of industry experience, which includes time as Executive Vice President of EPCOR and as President of EPCOR's Energy Division. At EPCOR, he was responsible for regional power generation (including clean coal initiatives), water operations and the growth of EPCOR‘s competitive power and water businesses across North America, as well as development and acquisition. He also was with the Enbridge Group of Companies for 19 years, during which time he played a substantial role in acquisitions, developments, and public offerings.

Vern Yu

Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, Enbridge

Vern Yu was appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer on May 2, 2016. Mr. Yu leads Enbridge's Corporate Development team in driving "step-out" growth opportunities, while also establishing capital allocation parameters and portfolio mix. Additionally, Corporate Development will continue to be responsible for strategic planning, optimizing Enbridge’s sponsored vehicles, and evaluating and co-ordinating Enbridge’s mergers and acquisitions opportunities. Mr. Yu will also continue to provide executive oversight to Enbridge’s energy services group, Tidal Energy.