Think Energy

Positive Energy in a Polarized World

Feb 27, 2023

To address climate change, we must be united, working together towards a common goal. But differing perspectives have created a complex and polarized debate: renewable energy versus fossil fuel versus nuclear power. These discussions require an open mind and constructive dialogue to find solutions that work for all stakeholders. In thinkenergy episode 106, Dr. Monica Gattinger unpacks how we can build a stronger way forward for Canada – together.

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Dan Seguin  00:06

This is thinkenergy. The podcast that helps you better understand the fast changing world of energy through conversations with game changers, industry leaders, and influencers. So join me, Dan Seguin, as I explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry,

Dan Seguin  00:28

Everyone, welcome back. Energy and climate change are important topics that have been increasingly discussed in recent years due to the significant impact they have on the environment, the economy, and society as a whole. The effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity are widely recognized by the scientific community. However, there are different views on the best ways to address these issues, particularly in terms of energy policy, and the way we live, work, consume and travel. While some advocate for the transition to renewable energy sources, others still argue for the continued use of fossil fuels or the development of other technologies such as nuclear energy.

Dan Seguin  01:27

These differing perspectives have created a complex and often polarized debate. It is important to approach these discussions with an open mind, consider the evidence and engage in constructive dialogue to find common ground and solutions that work for all stakeholders. We've often heard that working together and respecting different opinions are essential for effective collaboration and innovation. For climate change, it's more important than ever, that we come together to work towards a common goal. So here is today's big question. When it comes to energy, and climate, are we able to consider diverse perspectives so we can identify blind spots, and challenge assumptions that will ultimately lead to a stronger way forward for Canada. Today, my special guest is Dr. Monica Gattinger. She's the director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy. She's a full professor at the School of Political Studies and founder Chair of Positive Energy at the University of Ottawa. Monica, welcome to the show. Now, perhaps you can start by telling our listeners a bit about yourself, and how the positive energy program that you found it at the University of Ottawa came to be?

Monica Gattinger  02:55

Thanks, happy to. I'm a professor at the University of Ottawa. And I've been a student of energy, Dan it kind of pains me to say it, for but going on three decades now. And I guess about maybe 10 years ago or so around 2014-2015, you might remember at that time, there was a lot of contentiousness in the energy sector, particularly around pipeline development. And I think, you know, I felt a certain frustration that I'd go to energy conferences, and we'd all kind of get concerned about this. And, you know, I don't know, throw our hands up in the air, but what was happening, and then walk away, come back at the next conference to do the same thing. So the idea that I had was to create an initiative that would convene leaders who were concerned about these issues of public confidence and energy decision making, convening them together to try to identify what some of the key challenges are. And then I would undertake a research team, some solution focused, applied academic research to actually feed that process on an ongoing basis. So it's, you know, not just conferences, we walk away conferences, we walk away, it's, let's put in place a process to actually excuse me to actually get to some solution seeking on the challenges.

Dan Seguin  04:11

Okay, now, I have to ask you, because I love the name, given how polarizing energy has been for a number of years now, is the name meant to have a double meaning?

Monica Gattinger  04:20

Yes, it is. You are exactly right. That was you know, at the time when we created that name, that was precisely what we were trying to do, which is let's have some positive discussions about energy. I think the other thing I'd point to is, you know, for us, and it's always been the case that energy is all energy. So yes, at the time when we created positive energy, you know, what was in the news was big pipelines. But many of these issues and the challenges that we address with our work, apply to all energy sources, whether it's, you know, electricity, oil and gas at the upstream downstream, midstream sectors, so we really wanted to try to foster a pan Canadian approach on on the issues with energy as the core.

Dan Seguin  05:10

Monica, in one of your research reports, you acknowledge that division is eroding public trust and preventing progress. Why is that happening? Is it a lack of understanding around climate change and Canada's goals? Or is it more about the method or policies in place to get there?

Monica Gattinger  05:32

That's a super important question, Dan. And it's really at the heart of what we're aiming to do with positive energy. So if you look at where we're at now, on energy and climate, there's, you know, a tremendous global move towards net zero. And, of course, this is going to mean just a wholesale transformation of our energy systems and broader economy. So, you know, there are bound to be disagreements of division over how we go about doing that. And I think, you know, one of the crucial things about this energy transition in comparison to previous energy transitions, is that it's going to be largely policy driven, like, yes, there will be market developments, but policy is going to be playing such an important role. So to your question, you know, a lot of this is around the methods or the policies that we're going to be putting in place when it comes to energy transition. And I think our work really starts from the, you know, the very strong belief that if we don't have public confidence in government decision making over energy and climate, we're not going to be able to make ongoing forward progress on either energy or, or climate objectives. And for us, public confidence is, you know, the confidence of people, whether as citizens, as consumers as community members, but it's also the confidence of investors, right, we know that we're going to need a tremendous amount of new energy infrastructure, without the investor confidence to make that happen, we're not going to be able to to, you know, achieve the emissions reductions that are envisioned envisaged. So for us that whole question of division, and how do we address division, where it exists, is just fundamental to our efforts.

Dan Seguin  07:17

Okay. Now, do you think we lack a shared positive vision as Canadians on the future? And how we get there together? How do we build bridges? Is this what you're trying to achieve with positive energy?

Monica Gattinger  07:32

Yeah, I'd say yes or no, on the shared vision. So you know, we do a lot of public opinion, polling researchers, as you might know, Dan, and and, you know, uniformly Canadian scores, government's very poorly, on whether they are succeeding and developing a shared vision for Canada's energy future. That said, you know, I don't see it all as a whole bad news, there is remarkable alignment of views among Canadians on many aspects of the country's energy future, I think sometimes what, what we tend to hear, you know, are the voices in political debates and in the media, and in the end in the media, that are on you know, sort of opposite ends of a spectrum, if you look at, you know, sort of where Canadians are at, in general, you know, in terms of the majority opinions, they're often much more aligned than what you might think, by listening to some of our political debates or reading the media. So I think what we're trying to do at positive energies is a few things. One is, you know, to really try to see just how divided we are, and a lot of our work has brought forward that we're not as divided as we might think, on some of these issues. And the second thing we're trying to do is provide a forum for people who do want to work constructively and positively to chart a positive path forward, provide that forum for those to do that, and then to undertake academic research to support that. And one of the things that we found is that there's just a tremendous appetite for that kind of initiative.

Dan Seguin  09:05

Okay, Monica, hoping you can shed some light on this next item. What do you mean, when you see that Canada is at a log jam when it comes to charting our energy future?

Monica Gattinger  09:19

That's a great question. Because, you know, when I think about when we wrote that, that was a few that were written a few years ago. So it kind of answers that question a little bit differently now than I would have if you'd asked it at the time that we wrote it. So if you think about it, cast your mind back to 2015. And the creation between the federal government and the provinces of the pan Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, there was a lot of alignment between the federal government and provinces and territories around climate change. And then we had some electoral turnover and new governments coming into power at the provincial level and the round sort of the 2018 period and that relative peace between federal and provincial governments began to be overturned. And so that, you know, the log jam that we were referring to was really written at that period of time, we were seeing a lot of fractiousness between the federal government and provincial governments. And don't get me wrong, we still see, we still see some of that, but certainly not to the level we did at that time. So I think it over the last few years, we've seen much greater alignment emerge in the country, notably around the concept of net zero, which we think is really, really, really constructive progress. I think, where we see some of the challenges now is moving to implementation, right? How do we move to reduce emissions and actually roll up our sleeves and do it in a way that will build and maintain public confidence? That's, you know, that's very much where we're casting our efforts these days.

Dan Seguin  10:50

Okay, cool. And what are some of the weaknesses you found in energy decision making?

Monica Gattinger  10:56

So I think there are a few that I would point to, you know, one would be and our current work is zeroing in on this more than we have in the past, is the whole question of energy security. And by that what, what we're referring to is the reliability and affordability and availability of energy. So in the absence, I mean, Dan, you know, you work at hydro Ottawa, so you would know, when you know, when the lights go out. People are nervous, it really captures their attention. I'll put it that way. And so in the absence of, you know, reliable, affordable energy, it's going to be very difficult to make ongoing progress on emissions reductions. So that whole question of energy security is one of the what I'd say is sort of the weaknesses in the frame that policymakers are often bringing to, to energy decision making, I think a second area that really is going to need some attention is our policy and regulatory frameworks for energy project decision making. I mean, we know, let's say, you know, take electrification, if we're going to be moving forward on electrification in a meaningful way. Most reasonable estimates assume we're going to need to double or triple our generating capacity in the country, and all the infrastructure transmission, local distribution, all that goes along with that, that's going to require building a whole lot of infrastructure. And so there's definitely some weaknesses there in our existing frameworks for doing that. And then the third area I'd point to is collaboration between governments. And so yes, federal and provincial, but it's also increasingly, municipal governments as well need to be collaborating with other levels of government and indigenous governments too, so bringing together that collaboration across jurisdictions is an area where there's a lot of a lot of strength that we're going to need to be building.

Dan Seguin  12:47

Okay, Monica, following up on this theme, positive energy has conducted a number of public opinion surveys since 2015, to gauge Canadian support for the country's climate commitments and their views on our international credibility. What are some surprises? And have you seen any change in attitudes since you started the surveys?

Monica Gattinger  13:11

Yeah, we've done a lot of work. We have a fantastic partnership with Nanos research, we've been working with Nick Nanos and the Nanos team since 2015, we've done lots of public opinion polling along the way. And so I think, you know, one of the things that has surprised me the most about this, and maybe it's just my own naivete as as a, you know, an academic researcher, but is just the pragmatism of Canadians, you know, many of the questions that we put to Canadians come back with very pragmatic and balanced responses. So there seems to be that recognition on the part of, of Canadians of the need to take a balanced approach to energy and climate issues. So I'll give you just a couple of quick examples. So we've been tracking Canadians level of climate ambition, we started doing this actually, during the pandemic. And so we asked people on a scale of zero to 10, where zero is now the worst time and 10 is the best time to take action on climate, you know, what, what, how would you score things? And, you know, the majority of Canadians, you know, score things strongly, they want to see climate action. We've seen some weakening of that, notably, as we've got some weakening of the economic conditions that has weakened people's appetite. So that's sort of one thing we, you know, Canadians want climate action. On the second. Second thing I'd point to is, we've done a lot of tracking as well, around Canadians views on the importance of oil and gas to Canada's current economy and to its future economy. And so, you know, there again, we see what you might expect, which is people there's a recognition that oil and gas is important to Canada's current economy. Views tend to drop off a little bit in terms of its importance to the future economy, but much stronger than I would have anticipated in terms of the level of, you know, opinions when it comes to the strength, or when it comes to the importance, apologies of oil and gas and Canada's current and future economy. One thing I'm just going to, you know, like heads up, we've got a study coming out very shortly. And we've seen a jump in Canadians' views around the importance of oil and gas to the country's current and future economy. And we're thinking that this might be because of economic conditions having changed, you know, the war, Russia's war in Ukraine, just creating a different kind of an environment for Canadians opinions, then the last thing I point to that, for me is kind of been surprising, but in a not always fun way is that we've also been tracking Canadians views on government's performance on energy and climate issues. And then it doesn't matter what aspect of government performance we ask people about, they always score it like so weak, like weak to the point, when we first asked this question, I'm like, Nick, do people you know, just kind of score governments weekly? And so this is just, you know, typical stuff. He's like, No, Monica, that's really low scores. So I think there's a recognition there on the part of Canadians that governments have a lot of work to do, that this is difficult stuff, to to to take on. But that we're going to need to if we're going to be able to achieve some of our climate ambition in the country.

Dan Seguin  16:27

Now, let's dig into the research. First, can you tell us who you're convening and bringing together to conduct your research and who your intended audience is? Who do you want to influence? 

Monica Gattinger  16:42

Yeah, so we're bringing together leaders, from business, from government and from government, we're referring to both policymakers and regulatory agencies, leaders from indigenous organizations, from civil society organizations, like environmental NGOs, and then academics, like myself. And our aim is really with the research and convening that we're undertaking is to inform decision making, you know, so the key audience for this from our perspective as government decision makers, whether policymakers or regulators at, you know, at at any level of government, really, more broadly, in our we're working very closely with the energy and climate community at large. So our intended audience isn't, you know, sort of the general public per se, although I like to think that we're sort of working on their behalf in terms of a lot of the work, a lot of the work that we're doing

Dan Seguin  17:37

Great stuff, Monica, now, let's talk about your first multi year research phase, public confidence in energy decision making. Why is it important to start here?

Monica Gattinger  17:49

Yeah, for us, this was really crucial to try to dig into and understand why we are facing these challenges to public confidence in decision making, for energy and climate issues. And, you know, believe it or not, we spent about two years trying to dig into that problem and identify all of its different, all of its different components. So we published a study in that first phase of research called system under stress, where we were focusing on energy decision making, and the need to inform, sorry, to reform energy decision making in that study, and this was sort of how we unpack this challenge of public confidence. We use this metaphor of elephants, horses, and sitting ducks. And so the elephants were elephants in the room. So at that time, one of the big issues that was, you know, informing or leading to challenges in public confidence was that there was a belief on the part of quite a few folks that governments were taking insufficient action on climate change. And as a result of that, not having a forum, you know, to move forward action on climate change, many folks who were concerned about that or raising those issues in regulatory processes for individual energy projects, right? And if your regulators say, well, that's not part of my mandate. So what would we do with this, and that led to some challenges. Another Elephant, you know, another elephant in the room at that time was reconciliation with indigenous peoples, that there was insufficient action on the part, you know, on the, you know, in the minds of many around reconciliation with indigenous peoples and so, you know, some of the big challenges that indigenous communities were facing, whether missing, murdered indigenous women, you know, potable drinking water, economic conditions, a whole host of challenges were also being raised in the context of individual energy project decision making. The process for lack of other forums to take those concerns to another elephant in the room was cumulative effects. Right. So communities were concerned not necessarily about a particular project, but about the project that came before the project, who was going to come after it, and what would be the cumulative effects on their community. So that was sort of the elephant, the elephant in the room policy gaps, basically, that governments needed to take more action to fulfill. When it came to the horses, we were referring to horses that had left the barn. So in other words, changes in society and the broader, you know, context, where you're not going to turn the clock back on them. So things like, you know, people expect, rightly, to have a say, in decisions that affect them. They're not different, you know, they don't defer the way they used to, to governments and to decision makers, they expect to have a say in decisions that affect them. And some of our decision making processes weren't frankly, providing sufficient opportunities for them to be heard. Technological change, right, you know, you're not going to turn the clock back on social media. And that also has fundamentally changed the context in terms of how information circulates capacities for misinformation, disinformation, etc. And so when against this backdrop, you know, who are the sitting ducks? Well, the sitting ducks are government decision makers, right? They're trying to deal with all of these challenges. We got a lot of traction with that report, Dan, because I think it sort of helped people to, you know, frame up, what is the nature of the challenge that we're facing when it comes to public confidence, which of course, then begins to open up solution spaces?

Dan Seguin  21:40

Okay. What did you uncover when it came to the role of local communities?

Monica Gattinger  21:46

Yeah, we did a major study on this, it was some of this was happening concurrently. But we did a major study in collaboration with the Canada West Foundation, where we did some very deep dive case study research on half a dozen energy projects across the country with the aim of identifying drivers of local community satisfaction or dissatisfaction with energy project, decision making processes. So these were projects, you know, wind, gas plants, hydro facilities, transmission lines, pipelines, shale development, like a whole variety of different kinds of projects in different locations across the country. And so there are a few things I'd point to there in terms of some of the key findings. Probably the first and foremost is the importance of early and meaningful consultation and engagement. And I feel kind of silly saying that, because it's like, we have been saying this for years, how important this is. But yet, you know, there are still proponents that aren't necessarily, you know, aren't necessarily getting out there early and in a meaningful way, to communities. I think the second thing, and it's related, that I'd point to is the importance of information, like yes, communities want information about a project. But it's an what we refer to in the report is a necessary but insufficient condition, right, just saying, you know, here's the project, here's the information, this should change your mind, if you've got any concerns, really and truly is not is not enough, you need that meaningful engagement, you need to hear from people. And in some instances, this is a third thing I'd point to. In some instances, you know, it's important to draw the distinction between what a community's interests are so it could be, you know, economic development, jobs, etc, but also what their values are. And there may be some projects that even though they might advance the community's interests, in terms of jobs, etc, if they run counter to community values, and what they want to see developed in their community, it will be very challenging to foster support for up for a project. Another thing, we found just a couple more things that point to here. Another thing we found that I think is going to be increasingly important as we move on net zero and emissions reductions, oftentimes at the community level, the key environmental issue is local environmental impacts, as opposed to global climate change impacts. So even if you've got a project that's going to be good for the climate, if it's got local environmental impacts from the perspective of a community, those concerns may actually trump the good that could be done more broadly when it comes to the climate. And so I guess the last thing I'd point to is, you know, just the importance of process, having a decision making process in which people can have faith. And so, you know, we did a lot of work right in communities. So you'd have community members say, like, I can get behind a decision that I don't agree with, you know, if my perspective is at the end of the day, we're heard in a meaningful way and were considered in a meaningful way. But governments decided to go in a different direction. I can, you know, I can live with that as long as I felt that the process was one that was legitimate. So that process piece is so important at the community level.

Dan Seguin  25:02

Okay, now, what were some of the biggest takeaways from your project? Monica? Were you surprised by any of the data?

Monica Gattinger  25:09

Yeah, I think, you know, for me, I probably go back to the local versus global impacts piece, I think that is a circle, we're gonna have to figure out how to square for lack of a better a better metaphor here going forward, because many of the projects that we're going to need in the years ahead in terms of emissions reductions, they are going to have local environmental impacts. You know, and it doesn't take long to think about examples of that, right. So think about mining for critical minerals, think about transmission infrastructure, think I mean, on and on and on. And so thinking through how do we, you know, be respectful of local communities ensure we've got processes in place that that they can have faith in and ensure that local environmental impacts are mitigated in a meaningful fashion? And frankly, no has to be an option sometimes, right? There are some projects that have to receive a no of all projects are greenlighted, that puts the entire system into question in people's minds.

Dan Seguin  26:15

Okay, Monica, your second research phase just concluded Canada's energy future in an age of climate change. What challenges and opportunities were you focused on? And what did you uncover?

Monica Gattinger  26:28

That's a big question, Dan. So maybe just a couple of things I'll point to. The first is to say that, you know, for that particular project, because it was or that phase because it got underway at a time where there was quite a lot of fractiousness between the federal and provincial governments. We took on the topic of polarization, in that phase of the research to try to understand, you know, just how polarized are we, when it comes to energy and climate issues? And, and the, you know, the, the, the fortunate answer was that we're not as polarized as we might think, on some of these issues. So those areas where, you know, people's opinions are truly at opposite ends of a spectrum, they've got their heels dug in, the opinions are very hardened and crystallized, they're not willing to move, you know, there's, those are very few and far between a lot more of the division that we see back to that word division that we talked about earlier, Dan, it so those are opinions that are maybe a little bit more malleable to change, where you can potentially bring people together and have a constructive, constructive conversation to move things forward. So that the polarization, the polarization work, I think was really important to try to, you know, shine a light empirically on just how polarized are we, one thing that did come out of that work, though, that I think is really important to note is that a lot of the polarization that we see is along partisan lines. And so it's really important to have and create non-partisan forums for people to come together because partisan polarization on energy and climate issues can be quite challenging. So we looked at polarization, we also looked at, we continued our work around sort of roles and responsibilities of different government authorities in energy and climate decision making, we did a really big project around energy regulators with, you know, again, thinking about how important they are going to be in the future when it comes to energy project proposals and evaluating energy project proposals. And I think, you know, what came out of that work is just the importance of creating regulatory frameworks that are functional, right, they're going to enable us to get to a decision. But that is adaptable. You know, we know there are going to be new energy sources, new technologies we're going to need to be adapting our frameworks over time. And that are, you know, absolutely this crucial element and of legitimate that they are that people have confidence in those decision making processes. But it's not just about regulators. It's also about the broader policy context within which they work, you know, the need for regulatory agencies to be operating in the context of clear policy frameworks. You know, for there to be a good understanding between policymakers and regulators they have their respective roles when it comes to things like energy project, energy project approvals. The third area that we focused on in this most recent phase of research was models of and limits to consensus building, right. So if we do have division, how do we try to foster consensus and we recognize we're not going to get to you know, everybody holding hands and singing Kumbaya there. This is politics, there will be, there will be divisions. But we did a lot of work on this whole concept of what are some of the models that can be utilized to foster consensus? What are some of the limits to those models? And the sort of bottom line of that research is that progress is possible when it comes to consensus building, but it's not easy. It's a hard one, it takes time, it takes a lot of thoughtful preparation and care to put in place processes that will drive towards positive outcomes.

Dan Seguin  30:32

Okay. Now, there were five case studies that came out of this phase intended to identify what works when it comes to public confidence in decision making. What are some of the highlights?

Monica Gattinger  30:44

Yeah, and this kind of picks up on the question of consensus building and models of and limits to consensus building. So we undertook a number of case studies of different initiatives that have been tried in Canada to try to foster consensus. So we looked, for example, at the Alberta climate leadership plan, we looked at the Eco fiscal commission, we looked at the National roundtable on the environment of the economy, we looked at the just transition Task Force on the coal fired power phase out. So this was a mixture of federal provincial, government, non government, current past initiatives. And there are a few things that I point to that, you know, came out of that work. The first is that there are no silver bullets. I mean, Boy, wouldn't it be nice if there were easy answers to these really tough questions, but there are not easy answers to these really tough questions. They, you know, it really is important to, to have kind of a multi pronged approach. And more than one approach, there isn't going to be one single initiative that's going to solve all of these challenges. But process matters process really matters. So who is involved? How are decisions taken? You know, is the process seen as legitimate? That's really, you know, absolutely the place to start with any of these processes around consensus building. Again, information is a necessary but insufficient condition, right. So you can have in place a process that is designed to, you know, bring forward recommendations to the government on policy. But if people don't have trust in the information that's produced by that initiative, you've got a problem, right? So I think the Eco fiscal commission was really interesting in that, in that case, because it brought together an advisory board, that included representation from a variety of different political parties, the aim being to see if these folks can come together, and you know, work together and have confidence in this process, then others are more likely to have confidence in the information that's produced on the studies that are produced by by in that case, the ecofiscal, commission, there are a lot of relationships between different processes. So for example, you know, if you think about the development of a carbon price in Canada, you know, yes, that's where the Eco fiscal commission was focusing a lot of its efforts. But the Alberta climate leadership plan, in part paved the way towards the development of a federal price on carbon, because of the work that was done in the province to put in place a carbon pricing a carbon pricing scheme. And then the final thing, and this isn't something that people always like to hear, unfortunately, is that building consensus takes time. And it's something that is, as we know, in the current context with, you know, with climate change is something that we don't necessarily have the luxury of having. So it's how do you sort of hold those two things in your hand at the same time, and I often use the example of a carbon tax, having a carbon tax in Canada is a massive achievement for the country. But it took probably a decade or more to get there. And that's only one small in the big scheme of things policy tool. So you know, no silver bullets. It takes time, but it is possible. So progress is possible, but it's hard won.

Dan Seguin  34:12

Okay, now, this was fascinating. Monica, you identified two realities of energy and environmental leaders in Canada, when it comes to Canada's energy transition. Maybe you can unpack that for us just a bit more.

Monica Gattinger  34:29

Yeah, for sure. So this was a really, really neat study, one of the things that we found in our work, because we convene when we are, you know, very close to a lot of energy and environmental leaders. One of the things that we were finding is that this word transition could have elements to it that were kind of polarizing. And so for some folks, it was something that actually drove them away from our table rather than bringing them to our table. So being academics, we thought, well, let's do a study on this. What do people think transition is? What does it mean to them? Why are we running into these issues? And I have to credit our former Research Director, Dr. Marissa Beck, this was her idea, it was her study, she did an absolutely tremendous job. So she went out there and spoke with over 40 energy and environmental leaders across the country. And, and what, you know, what emerged from that work was that there were really two different realities that people inhabited, either, you know, sort of in whole, or in part, when it comes to transition. And we didn't name the realities, we just stated them, you know, in a very, in a very sort of fact based way. And they differed in terms of scope, and pace of change. And, you know, so in one of the realities, you know, the, the idea is that we're going to have a more measured pace of change, it's going to be driven by market developments, some policy developments, we're going to in the future have, you know, a diverse energy portfolio that's going to include, you know, a variety of different energy sources, yes, in different proportions than we currently have them. But you know, that oil and gas, for instance, is going to be a part of the future. So that's sort of one reality, the other reality grounded in a much more, you know, ambitious, rapid, need for change, quickly grounded in science, much stronger role for government in terms of setting out the policy framework, much greater attention to the need to, notably to phase down oil and gas and in particular oil. And so you can imagine if you've got folks inhabiting these different realities, it is difficult for them to come together, because they're often talking past. They're often talking past one another. And, and so we didn't necessarily have any solutions for this proposed in that particular, in that particular study. I think our work really does try to do some convening around those issues. But what it really did in this particular study resonated so well, with folks in the Energy and Environment communities, we had people saying, like you just nailed it. Yes, that is exactly what is happening right now. And so you would have folks say, you know, well, the reality is, or we just need an honest conversation. But what the reality meant to them, what an honest conversation would mean to them was, was something completely different than folks inhabiting the other reality. And so these are the kinds of challenges, you know, Dan, that we, we hope to shed light on with our work. And we also hope to also address the research and convening as well.

Dan Seguin  37:50

Now, your third phase has just begun. What can you tell us so far, about strengthening public confidence on the road to net zero and the areas you're looking to cover in your research over the next several years?

Monica Gattinger  38:07

Yeah, no, that's a great opportunity to share this with you, Dan. Thanks. Thanks so much. So yeah, I mean, if our first phase was focused on public confidence, and kind of the here and now, second phase was Canada's energy future in an age of climate change, this phase is the longest term, longest term phase yet in terms of looking at net zero. And looking at 2050. We've got four areas that we're focusing in on in terms of this research, that really build in many ways on the work that we've done to date, we've been talking so far data about the importance of regulation, and having energy project decision making systems that are going to foster and support the kind of change to our energy systems that we're going to need. That's a big, a big area for us, one of the areas as well, that we're going to start to be getting into an in a more meaningful way, is downstream regulation as well, because with the, you know, with the growing attention to electrification, this is going to mean, you know, greater focus to what are our regulatory frameworks for energy delivery, whether it's in power markets, or in gas markets. And we think that there's, there's something that we will have to offer there as well, in terms of our work. So that's on the regulatory front. Another topic that for us, we think is really important is this whole question of energy security. And by that, you know, again, this isn't just about what's happening in global energy markets, it's what's happening domestically as well in terms of the need of the need to have reliable and affordable energy to ensure that we don't, you know, take one step forward and then two steps back on emissions reductions. So it's really very much about solving for Yes, emissions reductions and affordable reliable energy simultaneously, which in our observation is something that you know, has has not always been on the radar of policymakers, I think the energy system has just done such a great job of providing reliable, affordable energy that it's not always thought about. And yet, you know, if we're going to be transforming our energy systems, it better be front and center. Or we could really run into some challenges in terms of public confidence on the road ahead. The third area we're zeroing in on is intergovernmental collaboration. We are a federation, we are a federation with increasing roles and authority for indigenous governments, as well. So it's really about how do we make sure we've got good collaboration between federal, provincial, territorial, indigenous and municipal governments on the road ahead. And again, it's that kind of collaboration, collaboration piece. And then finally, we're going to continue with the public opinion survey research. And that work generally aims to support the other streams of research. So we're asking questions that relate to some of the broader work that we're doing. Cool. Okay.

Dan Seguin  41:07

I know you're going to tell me it's early Monica, but based on what the data and public service have shown over these many years, is Net Zero. resonating with people?

Monica Gattinger  41:19

Well, interestingly, so last June, we held a conference to mark the, you know, the conclusion of phase two and the launch of phase three. And we did some public opinion survey research going into that conference, including some questions around net zero. So we asked people if they had heard about net zero. And then we asked them, you know, the dreaded open ended question, and what does it mean to you? So it's one thing to have heard about, it's another thing to, you know, be asked to define it. And I was really surprised at like, the majority, like a strong majority of people had heard of net zero. And when asked to define it provided a definition that was pretty on target. So people, you know, I don't know if that means it's resonating with people. But they have definitely absorbed that this concept, and that this is something that, you know, is in policymakers is in policymakers minds. I think the other thing I would note, though, is you know, there's netzero, and then there's just emissions reductions writ large, the work that we've done around Canadian support for emissions reductions, climate change, policy, etc, shows just time and again, Canadians want to see this, they want to see emissions reductions, they want to see it done in a balanced way back to the pragmatic response I was giving earlier. But they're definitely, definitely committed to that.

Dan Seguin  42:43

Okay, now, when do you expect your first publication will be shared?

Monica Gattinger  42:47

So we've got our quarterly public opinion surveys that come out every few months. We actually have some, we're just finalizing a study right now that will be published very, very shortly. In terms of the research publications, we've got two underway right now, that should be published within the next number of months. One is looking at regulation for project decision making, and in particular, this whole question of timelines. So if you talk with folks, you know, in industry and in government, right now, they'll say, Well, we got to build all this stuff. But can we build it fast enough? And so that's actually the title of the project? Can we build it out fast enough? And we're focusing on what are some of the issues when it comes to regulatory frameworks for project decision making. So that's one study that should be coming out within the next few months. And then a second one, it's republication of a study that we completed for the Canadian Gas Association, electricity Canada and Natural Resources Canada, but this time last year, which was looking at regulation of energy delivery systems and power and gas markets, you're looking at international case studies to try to identify like, how are other countries grappling with the challenges of netzero in their power and gas markets. So we're going to be updating and republishing that study. We're in the process of doing that right now, that should be coming out in the next few months. And the case studies that we're looking at in that research are Western Australia, the United Kingdom, which as you might imagine, is a very interesting case study given the challenges that they've had on their power and gas markets. And New York State.

Dan Seguin  44:25

Just wondering here, is there anything you can tell us about your appointment to the province's New Energy Transition panel, its objectives and how you feel this could move the energy conversation forward in Ontario.

Monica Gattinger  44:39

Thanks for the question. I mean, I'm, you know, let's be honest, I'm an energy geek. And so it is just an unbelievable honor to have been appointed to the panel. This for me, is a dream appointment. I'm just so so so enthused about it. I'm not going to be able to speak on behalf of the panel. It's too Early in our work, but I will just share, you know, in my personal capacity now that I think the panel does have the capacity or the potential to be really quite important to the province's energy future. So if you think about, you know, the research that we've been doing at positive energy, the importance of informed decision making on the part of governments to recognize all of the strengths, limitations, consequences, intended or otherwise, of their decisions on energy and climate. So the panel, I think, has a great opportunity to help inform decision making. But as I've said, on a couple of occasions, today, information is a necessary but insufficient condition, right process matters. And, you know, the panel, again, has the potential to be a very important process in terms of its engagement, and meaningful engagement with stakeholders, with indigenous partners, with all those who are interested in the province's energy future. So, you know, a couple of just additional things I would say. One is that the panel's focus in its mandate on long term energy planning, I think, I think is very important, because we're gonna need to plan and think through the long term more than we ever have before in terms of our energy systems when it comes to emissions reductions. I think the other thing, you know, I would lastly, but not leastly, I would recognize, you know, the importance of affordability and reliability. You know, yes, undertaking emissions reductions, but ensuring it's done in a reliable and affordable way. That enables, you know, economic competitiveness and the like. And that's something that, you know, that this government, the Ontario government, brings to the table, which I think is extremely important and will be crucial for the future.

Dan Seguin  46:53

Okay, Monica. Now, if you could speak to everyone in Canada, what would you want people to know, that you think is not widely known? Or understood?

Monica Gattinger  47:06

Yeah, there are a few things I would point to there. I think one would be the scale of the transformation that we're contemplating with netzero. I mean, if you take electrification, just as an example, you know, about only about 20% of and use energy, I mean, I'm telling you this, Dan, you know, all this stuff, but only about 20%. The venue's energy, you know, is currently accounted for by electricity. If we're looking to scale that up, you know, depending on what model you look at, but let's say you're looking to scale that up to you know, 80%, that's four times what it where it currently stands, this is a massive, massive transformation of our energy systems and broader economy. And I think that's one area where, you know, there isn't necessarily as much understanding as there could be in terms of the scale. Like, the second thing that I would love to get out there is that, you know, there's often a view that industry is, you know, dragging its heels, it's, you know, putting in place roadblocks, it's acting as a barrier. That's not what I see, in our engagements with folks in industry across the country, and a whole variety of different energy, different segments of the energy sector. Industry is there. What, you know, the real challenge now is kind of how do we move from the what, to the how, and foster an environment that will foster the kind of change that the companies are really looking to make. And then the third area that I would point to is reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We haven't spoken about that too much this morning. But that's one of the areas over the last number of years where there has just been such a fundamental change in the way industry, and indigenous communities and governments are working together. I think what we often see in you know, in the newspapers in the media is instances of conflict, you know, for obvious reasons, that's, that's, you know, what the media is going to be drawn to, but there are so many examples of just unbelievably constructive, meaningful partnerships between indigenous communities and industry. And I think that's something that you know, that that really is, is just a wonderful, wonderful change over the last few years.

Dan Seguin  49:24

Lastly, Monica, wemalways end our interviews with some rapid fire questions. I'm hoping you say you're ready.

Monica Gattinger  49:33

Okay, I'm ready. I'll do my best. 

Monica Gattinger  49:36

Here we go.What are you reading right now?

Monica Gattinger  49:39

I am reading The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. You would think you know, during a global pandemic, you wouldn't read dystopian fiction, but that's what I'm doing. Terrific. Terrific book. by Margaret Atwood.

Dan Seguin  49:52

Okay, Monica, what would you name your boat? If you had one or maybe you do have one?

Monica Gattinger  49:58

I do not have one but if I did I think I would name it Smooth Sailing, because that's what I'd want to be doing when I was on my boat. 

Dan Seguin  50:05

Okay, who is someone that you really admire? 

Monica Gattinger  50:09

Oh, without question. My parents. You know, we've had some pretty tragic things happen in my family and they have, you know, continued to be positive soldier on, be great grandparents to my kids, I don't know how they do it, I admire them to the moon and back, as they say,

Dan Seguin  50:26

Okay, moving on, what is the closest thing to real magic that you've witness? That's a

Monica Gattinger  50:33

tough one, I think I'd say I spent a lot of time outdoors. We have dogs. So I'm often out with the dogs, I ride horses. So I'm often out horseback riding anything in nature, there are so many magical moments where you see, you know, ways that animals are interacting with one another or things happening. Things happening in the, you know, in the plant environment and ecosystem that to me are just magical, and remind me of just how little we know about the world around us.

Dan Seguin  51:06

Okay, Monica, that's cool. What has been the biggest challenge to you personally, since the pandemic began,

Monica Gattinger  51:13

My family has been extremely fortunate during the pandemic. So yeah, it feels almost kind of trite to talk about challenges. I think if there's one thing that I would point to, though, it's the last time it's the last time notably, in my family's case, between my sons and their grandparents. You know, my youngest son used to go to his grandparents house every day after school, they'd feed him snacks, he'd come home, that's gone. They've you know, they've they're missing him growing into a young man, that's, that's been really, really tough. I mean, it's a first world problem. I, you know, we really have been fortunate. But that last time is, unfortunately, and we're just not going to get that back.

Dan Seguin  51:58

Now, we've all been watching a lot more Netflix and TV lately. What are some of your favorite shows are movie

Monica Gattinger  52:06

I could talk for hours about this. But if I had to just pick one, the whole Yellowstone series, I am just crazy for that series, you know, because I horseback ride anything that involves horses and ranches. And my own family history, you know, involves homesteading. Just that whole series Yellowstone 1883 1923. And he was talking about magic down the fact that all of that comes out of Taylor Sheridan's brain that fast I have, I don't understand at all. But I really enjoy watching it. That series is just phenomenal.

Dan Seguin  52:45

Lastly, Monica, what is exciting you about your industry right now.

Monica Gattinger  52:50

I think it's the people who are now on the let's roll up our sleeves face. And let's figure out how to know how to get this done. There's the waterfront of challenges seems endless, but the fact that that there's much more alignment among industry, government, civil society, you know, take your pick indigenous organizations, etc, about ensuring that we're reducing emissions, and, you know, the desire to work together to figure out how, to me is really exciting.

Dan Seguin  53:20

Well, Monica, this is it. We've reached the end of another episode of The thinkenergy Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. If our listeners want to learn more about you and your organization, how can they connect or find out more?

Monica Gattinger  53:35

We have a website that you will be welcomed to, to reach out to just type into Google "University of Ottawa positive energy" and it should pop up for you. People are welcome to reach out to me personally, you know, again, easy to find me on the Internet, email addresses and the like. I'd be happy to hear from people.

Dan Seguin  53:55

Again. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you have a lot of fun.

Monica Gattinger  53:59

This was great. Thanks, Dan. Really appreciate the opportunity. 

Monica Gattinger  54:03

Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the thinkenergy podcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review wherever you're listening. And to find out more about today's guests or previous episodes, visit I hope you will join us again next time as we spark even more conversations about the energy of tomorrow.