September 11, 2006

Alberta funding supports energy innovation, environmental protection

The Alberta government is dedicating $200 million over the next three years towards research, advanced technologies, market development and innovative projects focusing on energy supply and environmental protection. The interdepartmental Energy Innovation Fund will provide $25 million in initial project funding during the current fiscal year.

To qualify for funding, projects must increase the efficiency and effectiveness of energy exploration, extraction or development in Alberta. They must also focus on energy and/or environmental research; technology; innovation and efficiency. They can involve renewable or non-renewable energy resources.

Examples of activities and areas that may be considered for funding include:

* energy efficiency and renewable energy;

* bio-energy;

* gasification of coal and municipal waste;

* environmental research, such as groundwater mapping; and

* land management and wildlife habitat research.

The $200-million fund will be administered by an advisory group representing five sponsoring provincial departments: Energy; Environment; Sustainable Resource Development; Innovation and Science; and Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. The advisory group will consult with industry and government stakeholders before making its final recommendations. Details of approved projects will be announced by each sponsoring department.

In a separate funding announcement, Alberta Environment Miniser Guy Boutilier said his department is receiving $5 million from the Energy Innovation Fund to enhance knowledge about groundwater and land protection during energy development, including oil sands reclamation. "The more we know about our land, air and water, the better we can protect our environment," he said.

Of the $5 million added to Alberta Environment's 2006-07 budget, $2.4 million will be spent to improve Alberta's groundwater inventory, add to its water well information system, and expand the provincial monitoring network. Another $2 million will go toward reclamation research for oil sands projects. The final $600,000 will help set up a long-term monitoring system for groundwater quality in the Athabasca oil sands area.

Specific projects will include:

*enhancing groundwater mapping work already underway, particularly in the Paskapoo Formation and Horseshoe Canyon;

*expanding provincial groundwater monitoring network by adding more research wells;

*installing deep wells in Ardley coal zone to gather more detailed information about groundwater;

*developing a classification system to detail the characteristics of water in Alberta's aquifers in order to help regulators make decisions about how to allocate water to different users;

*enhancing Alberta's Groundwater Information System;

*creating a permanent groundwater quality monitoring network in the Athabasca oilsands area to continuously assess groundwater quality and quantity;

*working with stakeholders to enhance reclamation research; and

*developing a manual outlining best management practices for land reclamation.

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