The Government of Alberta says that a new $1.4-billion investment to reduce emissions from oil and gas and electricity follows the example set by one of the most successful innovation programs in the province’s history.

The program, announced on Tuesday, will provide $440 million for oilsands innovation, $225 million for R&D across sectors, $240 million for industrial energy efficiency projects, $63 million in grants for bioenergy and $400 million in loan guarantees to reduce risk for financial institutions.

“These investments build on the legacy of former premier Peter Lougheed’s support for innovation and technology that helped develop steam assisted gravity [drainage] access to oilsands without excavation or tailings ponds,” the province said in a statement, referencing the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA), which proved the viability of SAGD in the 1980s and changed the trajectory of the oilsands towards exponential growth.

“The new funds will extend that legacy to the next generation of technology,” the statement said.

An announcement is coming later this week about the rules governing large emitters, the province said, resulting in changes that “update and upgrade facilities and processes,” the province said.

“For some oilsands companies, making these changes will take time and the government is helping companies adjust through the oilsands innovation fund. Funding will start at $40 million a year in 2019-20, rising to $80 million in 2020-21 through 2024-25.”

Alberta is also giving $80 million to Emissions Reduction Alberta in a continuation of funding for innovation grants and spending $145 million to create the new Climate Change Innovation and Technology Framework to manage government investments in these projects.

The bulk of the funding comes levies paid by large Alberta emitters.

While the environmental Pembina Institute praised the investment, it urged the government to pursue zero-carbon versus lower-carbon technologies.

"It will be important to ensure dollars for oilsands innovation are invested in truly innovative technology, rather than incremental improvements." Duncan Kenyon, Pembina's responsible fossil fuels director, said in a statement.

“We are glad to see the Government of Alberta using revenue generated by the Climate Leadership Plan to drive clean technology innovation and deployment.

“Energy efficiency is a low-hanging fruit for emissions reductions and innovation but it is critically under-utilized. We are pleased to see support for energy efficiency in the form of loans, as this is a proven low-cost way to deploy energy efficiency at scale.”

Photo: Funding announcement with Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy, Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks, and David MacLean, VP Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. Image: Government of Alberta