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Danielle Smith doubles down on $87 billion net-zero claim

United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith rejected issuing a correction in a claim the party made on Wednesday regarding $87 billion in estimated costs for the province’s electric grid to go net-zero by 2035.

Speaking at a media event in Calgary on Thursday, the former premier flatly rejected the premise of correcting the party’s claims about the plans and costs imposed by election rivals, the Alberta NDP.

“We don’t need to issue a correction,” she said.

Smith claimed that they had Navius Research issue a clarification on Wednesday, because as she said, the firm was under the impression that the UCP had based the entire $87 billion value on the report they had produced for the United Conservative Party Caucus.

“We were not. We were quoting two different reports,” Smith said.

“One report was the direct costs that the Alberta Electric System Operator said it would cost to get to net-zero by 2035… and then the Navius report was talking about the knock-on effect, the opportunity cost that would be in addition to that, because of the direction and that investment.”

Smith said that the two numbers, the AESO value of $52 billion, and the Navius value of $35 billion are how they arrived at the total value.

Navius had hours earlier rejected that interpretation of their report that had been widely quoted by media organizations, including LWC, following the UCP announcement.

“This $35 billion already accounts for, and is not additive to, the investment estimated in the AESO report,” the firm stated.

“The cost to Alberta’s economy reported in the media today is more than double what our model suggests it will be.”

Sam Harrison, a researcher with Navius in response to comments made by UCalgary economics professor Blake Shaffer, said that there were limitations to what they were asked to do for the report prepared for the UCP Caucus.

“We were asked to assess the impact of the AESO’s analysis on the cost of net zero by 2035, not to provide an opinion disputing the AESO.”

Some walk-back before doubling down

The UCP’s campaign, also known as the UCP War Room, had previously issued a walk-back from the $87 billion dollar number during Wednesday evening before Smith’s statements Thursday.

“Navius Research has asked us to describe the issue this way: spending $52B (2022CAD) as AESO identifies to decarbonize the electricity sector between now and 2040 results in a cumulative reduction in Alberta’s GDP of about $35B in 2015 CAD real dollars.”

However, as of Thursday morning, attack ads using the numbers derived by the UCP have remained on social media from both the party and from candidates.

Smith said that a joint statement from the UCP and Navius Research would be forthcoming on both websites.

As of Thursday afternoon, no such statement was yet available on the Navius website, and the United Conservative Party Caucus website which originally hosted the Navius Report was password protected to prevent access.

NDP responds to claims about net-zero plans

Speaking to the press on May 4, Alberta NDP Rachel Notley rejected the idea that the costs outlined by the UCP were accurate.

“The AESO report that preceded the one the UCP was talking about yesterday, we were aware of it six months ago,” Notley said.

“It’s interesting, it’s flawed, it overestimates the price of renewable energy by about 100 per cent. It underestimates what most economists say. The opportunities and the impact will be from technological innovation.”

She said that the UCP was relying on flawed reports and that the commitment to going net-zero by 2035 was actually an investment in economic growth.

“It’s a net gain in terms of economic growth for two reasons. The amount of capital that is attracted to engage in that in that work is significant—that creates jobs, that creates economic activity,” Notley said.

“Secondly, it supports our oil and gas industry. Because what it allows us to do, as a world-leading oil and gas producer, is to follow the demand of international markets and firmly establish ourselves as the most sustainable responsible producer of oil and gas in the world.”