Dawn Farrell, president and CEO of TransAlta, believes people today should pay the same as in the past for electricity. But due to today’s environmental regulations and market realities, she says it will be harder to accomplish.

“I have a very, very, strong belief that my daughter should be able to raise her four children with the same kind of costs that it cost me to raise my two children.”

From writer to business

Farrell did not initially aspire to be in business. In fact, she wanted to be a writer. But after working for a newspaper in Grand Prairie, she realized it was not for her and went back to school. The advisor at the regional college asked her what she would want to do if she could have any position at the paper.

“I said, ‘Oh that’s really easy, I’d want to be the boss because if I were the boss I’d change everything about the way they’re doing things.’ And she said, ‘We’ll put you into business.’”

After school, Farrell got a job at TransAlta, where she gained more experience and was able to move up in the company. Farrell now has power in the company to promote her vision of having equal electricity costs from generation to generation as a goal for TransAlta to strive towards.

“You want the same kind of lifestyle, you want a nice house, you want electricity, and our company’s job is to make sure that we can find a way to keep prices low,” she explains.

 Allocating costs

Today, the world is faced with the environmental consequences of burning coal to produce energy. During the burning process, pollutants are released into the atmosphere, resulting in global warming

According to NASA’s Climate Change and Global Warming report,  long-living gasses that remain in the atmosphere which don’t respond to the changes in the temperature are forcing climate change. There are several different producers of greenhouse gasses, but one, stated on the site, is formed by fossil fuels.

With the removal of coal by 2030 in Alberta, companies like TransAlta are working hard to figure out how to replace it according to Farrell.

“We may make some small investments in newer natural gas, but we will have to see if we really think carbon prices are going to go up dramatically,” Farrell explains.“Then we’d have less natural gas in the mix and more renewables.”

 The future

Farrell says there is a high possibility of the unemployment rate increasing from the loss of jobs in the mines once they close. But she believes there will be jobs available in the building of renewables.

According to Farrell, technology is taking over more and more jobs which is creating a dispensable environment for employees. Her fear for future generations stems from the fast and cheap development of technology.

“If there are fewer jobs and lots of people, then they have to be very high-end jobs, they have to be jobs that have a lot of output to the system,” says Farrell. 

From her 30 years of work experience, Farrell knows what advice to give to future generations. She realizes the fast advancements of technology within society and understands the reality of the workplace.

“Ninety per cent of what you’re going to be doing you won’t be trained for,” she explains.

“You’ll have to learn on the job, you’ll have to have the ability to not get frustrated, to dig deep, to figure things out.”

mgellner@cjournal.ca

The editor for this article is Mary Yohannes, myohannes@cjournal.ca