SaskPower’s roots go all the way back to 1929 at the outset of the Canadian depression, when the Island Falls Generating Station was first commissioned. Nearly 90 years later, SaskPower is the largest power generation company in Saskatchewan, generating nearly 4,000MW through a combination of renewable and non-renewable energy sources. In 2014, its revenues exceeded CA$2 billion and it employed nearly 3,100 people in the state of Saskatchewan.
Words like ‘innovative,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘clean,’ may be over-used by energy companies these days, but in SaskPower’s case, their usage is warranted. Their development of the world’s first post-combusion coal-fired carbon capture storage facility in 2015 is just one of many environment-conscious initiatives which the company has undertaken over the past decade: these have seen Saskpower achieve a 25% renewable energy output.
Another example is provided by the new “D Plant,” which was unveiled at Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth Power Station in October 2015. It added 204MW to the company’s existing capacity – enough power for more than 200,000 homes. Natural gas plants are an integral part of the company’s energy mix in their plan to add extra wind capacity. The addition of the “D Plant” means that natural gas is now the largest source of energy in Saskatchewan, overtaking conventional coal. Vice President of Planning, Environment and Sustainable Development at SaskaPower Guy Bruce recently pointed out: “Our goal is a diversified portfolio of options – one that balances reliability, affordability and environmental impact.”
SaskPower is also planning to progress with utility scale solar power generation, opening a competitive procurement process this year. Also this year, the company will procure another 100 MW of wind generation and will develop up to 1,600 MW of new wind generation between 2019 and 2030. Addressing this purchase, Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Assocation said that it will: “attract significant interest and ensure a highly competitive process that will produce low cost clean electricity generation for Saskatchewan ratepayers.” Furthermore, these additions, aligned with the aforementioned developments, will allow SaskPower to move closer to its goal of 50% renewable energy output by 2030.
A commitment to stakeholders
SaskPower’s efforts in sustainability form part of a wider to commitmet to stakeholders and the issues that affect them. Before any of the company’s projects begin, it undertakes a rigorous consultation programme with all of its stakeholders. This process includes contact with local officials, delivery of project presentations, distribution of detailed projected information, open house information sessions, meetings with individuals and interest groups, media releases, advertisements, direct correspondence and discussion and consideration for the Aboriginal communities of Saskatchewan.
SaskPower is particularly sensitive to the needs of Aboriginal communities, shown by its development of an Aboriginal Relations Strategy, and Saskatchewan’s First Nations and Métis communities are key stakeholders. The program outlined by the company involves providing employment, contracting and other opportunities for Aboriginal people, businesses and communities. In 2014, SaskPower was awarded the award Progressive Aboriginal Relations silver status by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business; the difficulty in achieving this is witnessed by the fact that only three more companies received the award in the same year.
The company also performs considerable work in the community – outside of the essential services it provides in safe energy provision. In 2014 alone, the company received over 1,000 applications for funding, primarily for educational programs in Saskatchewan, and was able to support nearly 600 of these. In that year, it contributed over $1.5 million into communities that it serves. This included $49,182 in fundraising items and $1,516,635 in financial contributions. In addition, its employees volunteered nearly 6,000 hours of their time in various projects across Saskatchewan’s communities. On their behalf, SaskPower donated over $16,000.
The company’s partners – its External stakeholders – include a diverse mix of companies including Big 4 accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, PMP Powerline Construction, which works with SaskPower in construction and maintenance of its considerable power line infrastructure and the K-Line Group – itself an excellent contributor to communities around Saskatchewan and recognized by Stoufville Chamber of Commerce as the Large Business of the Year in 2015.
In an effort to develop its stakeholder relationships further, SaskPower has developed a Corporate Reputation Index – a 10-point scale (where a higher mark denotes better performance), which evaluates the firm’s reputation with respect to the areas of trust, transparency, commitment to meeting expectations, satisfaction and stakeholder input response. The index is derived from the answer to questionnaire sent to stakeholders every year. In 2014, the company underperformed due to customers’ perceptions surrounding rising prices but the firm is committed to growing incrementally in the coming years (see below).
|Corporate Reputation Index|
Innovation continues apace so that SaskPwer can achieve all of its goals. As recently as February 2016, SaskPower signed an agreement with BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining firm, to create a global center for carbon capture and storage (CSS) knowledge, which will be located at the Innovation Place Research Park in Regina. The partnership is a promising one for renewable energy’s prospects: BHP Billiton will contribtue CA$20 million over 5 years, while SaskPower will contribute its extensive expertise in the CSS field. The initiative is a perfect indication of why Saskatchewan is a world leader in the area of CSS.
Saskatchewan’s energy demand is expected to grow by 13% over the next five years, so SaskPower cannot afford to rest on its achievements. If anything, the company faces bigger challenges in the years ahead than the ones past: the move to 50% renewables by 2030 means that the company will need to add to its renewables base year-on year. Their stakeholders will experience not only direct benefits but indirect ones too, as the company raises the bar for competitors in its industry.
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16 November 2015