Jason, thank you for taking the time with us today. First, congratulations on the new role as President, Natural Gas. Can you tell us about this newly created position and what it says about ATCO’s natural gas business?
Thank you. The natural gas business is transforming and I’m excited and honoured to lead our teams at ATCO through it. ATCO’s integration between our transmission and distribution divisions came approximately a year and a half ago in anticipation of the shift in the natural gas business. This allowed us to remain focused on what’s most important to our customers and ensure we still provided safe and reliable natural gas service.
In your new role, what are your priorities for the natural gas business at ATCO?
Having an eye to the transformation of the energy industry over the next decade and even 30 years down the road will be a priority for us. Decarbonization and the greening of the natural gas grid to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 are the focus of the policies coming from the provincial and federal governments which are critical for ATCO. We can be a big part of how the country and province shift their efforts, whether it’s around things like hydrogen, renewable natural gas or decarbonization technologies at customer consumption sites.
You’ve been with the company for more than a decade now, and the last 10 years have seen some dramatic developments in the energy industry. What drew you to the industry and what would you tell young people considering pursuing a career in it today?
I was a little older when I went back to school because I was skiing competitively until I was 24. By that time, I was very focused on understanding what drove Alberta’s economy and what would give me an opportunity for career growth. The energy industry jumped out at me and that’s when I chose to pursue my Engineering degree. I would say to young people, look at what’s driving your province and if it interests you, take the time to explore it.
ATCO is looking very seriously at Canada’s hydrogen opportunity. Can you elaborate a bit on ATCO’s work in this field, where you see it going in the short term and challenges we still need to overcome to see it really advance?
ATCO and the Canadian Gas Association have been looking at how people use energy and how that links to a decarbonized future. We see movement in what customers want — but we know affordability is key. Hydrogen hits all of those objectives — we have the technology and the infrastructure to make it a reality. All of this puts us in a good position to lead the transition of the energy network. Much like any major transformation, the biggest challenge is getting the public policy right. I believe governments are working hard to figure that out, consulting with industry, and customers to ensure we don’t lose sight of affordability, reliability and decarbonization.
ATCO is a strong community partner in Alberta, and this has been particularly important during the pandemic. Can you discuss some of ATCO’s community outreach work and why it’s so essential?
I couldn’t be prouder of how ATCO supported our community through the pandemic. We shared our community equipment, such as tents, with long-term care facilities, allowing families to visit outdoors with loved ones; delivered meals to seniors; and hosted our employee charitable giving campaign virtually so our teams could give back where it was needed most.
As we look to 2030, where do you see the biggest opportunities for the natural gas delivery industry? What about in 2050?
By 2030, I believe we will have broad hydrogen mixing in the natural gas distribution system along with renewable natural gas, setting us on the right path for 2050 where I think we could see near 100% hydrogen in the system.
ATCO is a strong supporter of Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF) Industry Grants, created by the Canadian Gas Association in 2017 to advance cleantech and innovation for the natural gas industry. Why is this partnership so important for the industry and for Canada more generally?
When we set out to establish the NGIF, there were conversations around the relevance of natural gas and how it is less carbon-intense than many other energy sources. In order to kickstart innovation and clean technology in the natural gas space, we partnered with other utilities to create NGIF, and now it includes participation with producers and pipeline companies, all working towards advancing clean tech in the natural gas sector. The NGIF tries to enable a multitude of technologies that can position natural gas to be a greener fuel in the future and move the industry forward in a broader way.
Finally, on a lighter note, what book would you recommend to our readers?
If I’m looking to improve myself as a leader, I have often turned to Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. As an avid skier, if I’m relaxing and reading for pleasure I pick up the latest copy of the The Ski Journal.