The Voice of Shannon Watt, President and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association
The Voice spoke with newly appointed President and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association, Ms Shannon Watt, to hear of her thoughts and goals for the association.
The Voice: Many congratulations on being appointed President and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association. Please could you tell us what your main objectives are for the Canadian Propane Association over the next few months?
Shannon Watt: Thank you. It is truly a pleasure to be working with the WLPGA.
One of my main objectives is to refocus the Canadian Propane Association on advocacy and create more awareness about propane as an affordable, low-emission, and versatile energy choice vital to Canada’s long-term energy strategy.
As is happening in many other WLPGA member countries, Canada is pushing for electrification, with plans for net-zero emissions by 2050. Energy security and affordability have become significant issues for Canadians as regulators rush to develop ambitious climate change policies. We need to ensure that when government policies are being made on clean energy choices that propane is – and will continue to be – part of the conversation. Low-emission energy sources like propane can help reduce Canada’s emissions while ensuring that Canadians are not pushed into energy poverty as the government tries to force its ‘electrification of everything’.
We are currently developing a three-year strategic plan to define the future direction of the CPA and identify objectives and tactics to achieve our goals. Advocacy will play an important role in this plan and includes increasing our connections with decision-makers, expanding our presence at key meetings, events, and conferences, and collaborating with other organisations that face similar challenges and opportunities. Continuing to build public awareness and support as well as maintaining our world-class training services will also be prominent.
The Voice: What are the key goals for the Canadian Propane Association in terms of membership for example, or major campaigns?
Shannon Watt: Ramping up our advocacy activities to influence decision-making at all levels requires the support and participation of our members. A key goal for the CPA is to mobilise members to reach out to their local representatives in addition to setting up meetings and lobby days for their participation. The more voices that are heard by decision-makers, the more effective we will be.
Alongside our increased advocacy activities, we are working on a few key campaigns. To address energy affordability, we are calling on the federal government to remove the VAT on essential home energy and the provincial and territorial governments to offer energy rebates that would kick in when a rate threshold is reached for home heating.
For the past several years, we have been advocating for the federal government to exempt propane from the carbon tax on agricultural activities. An exemption was made for the higher-emitting fuels gasoline and diesel but it did not include lower-emission fuels like propane. Our efforts appear to have paid off; there is a good chance that an exemption for propane will be made available through a Private Members Bill.
We are also working with governments, particularly in remote areas and in Atlantic Canada, to offer a rebate program to switch residential housing from expensive and emission-intensive home heating oil to propane.
The Voice: Also, for the Canadian market in general, what do you believe are the key opportunities?
Shannon Watt: There are several opportunities to expand propane in the Canadian market.
There is an immediate opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in Indigenous and remote communities not connected to the North American grid by replacing dirty fuels with propane either as a primary energy source or a backup source combined with solar or wind. Propane is an excellent option because not only is it much cleaner than diesel, but it is also more affordable and can be delivered anywhere in Canada.
A growing market opportunity is the replacement of diesel school buses with propane buses. More schools/transportation companies are choosing propane because of its reliability and high performance in our cold climates and its reduced cost to operate and maintain, which means more money for classrooms and students. We have been challenged, however, by the federal government’s significant funding for purchasing electric buses. We are hopeful that Bluebird’s new electric repower program that allows propane buses to convert to electric at a future time will be a bridging solution.
Another area that we find intriguing is the marine sector, replacing diesel engines with propane to power water transportation. Canada’s AltaGas is currently using propane to power its Very Large Gas Carrier that transports propane from our west coast to Asia.
We also see an opportunity to chart out the propane industry’s pathway to even lower emissions through renewable propane, similar to what is happening in Europe and the U.S. We know that for propane to remain in Canada’s energy mix over the long term, carbon emissions must continually be reduced. By demonstrating the viability of propane as a renewable energy source, it makes sense for the government to continue investing in traditional propane now as a low-emission energy that can easily be replaced by renewable propane, a ‘drop-in fuel’, with very little investment/required change in equipment and infrastructure.
The Voice: Membership of WLPGA enables dialogue with fellow associations around the world, what do you learn from these exchanges, and how important to you is the association’s network?
Shannon Watt: We feel fortunate to be working with WLPGA and our fellow associations around the world. We see commonalities that link us all as we fight to stay relevant in an increasingly ideological and anti-fossil environment. The sharing of research and development as well as watching how others handle obstacles like the banning of natural gas and government incentives for only all things electric provides us with examples of how propane can be part of the solution today and the solution for tomorrow.