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Alberta government to support feasibility study for Edmonton-Calgary hyperloop under new agreement –



Canadian hyperloop company TransPod has signed an agreement with the Alberta government that will see the province support the firm’s early efforts to advance development of an ultra-high-speed transportation line between Calgary and Edmonton.

Though the concept may still sound like science fiction, the company’s ultimate goal is to have Albertans shuttling between Calgary and Edmonton in train-like pods — at speeds up to 1,000 kilometres an hour — through magnetic tubes by 2030.

On Tuesday, Toronto-based TransPod took a step forward by announcing it’s inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the province that will support the company in further studying the feasibility of the technology in Alberta, share transportation data and identify suitable land for a test track.

Alberta Transportation will also take part in discussions with potential large institutional investors “where suitable,” according to the company.

The government hasn’t made any financial commitments or endorsements.

Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO of Transpod, says the new agreement signed with the Alberta government is a “huge” step. (Tony Seskus/CBC)

TransPod’s chief executive said in an interview he sees the MOU as key. The announcement comes less than year after the company urged the UCP government to climb aboard the idea.

It’s actually the first, I would say, official support from the government of a province which belongs to a G7 country,” said CEO Sebastien Gendron, “which is kind of a huge step to confirm the path to commercialization.”

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said he’s hopeful that TransPod’s work will lead to the development of new technology that’s put into practice in Alberta, creating new opportunities for job creation.

“I am excited about the possibilities,” McIver said in an interview. TransPod [wants] a chance to prove what they can do and I think Alberta is the place where we should let them prove it.”

McIver said there’s no commitment to provide government money, but he added that if TransPod proves the technology, they will “certainly help them tell their story.

“We’re going to try to be facilitators for them,” he said.

If privately held TransPod realizes its vision, its hyperloop system could move passengers or cargo between Calgary and Edmonton in about half an hour. The cost of a one-way ticket would range between $40 to $60, Gendron said.

To build the full line, however, would cost between $6 billion and $10 billion, he said. The company’s goal is to attract private investment by showing that it’s economically viable, Gendron added.

An artist’s rendering of the TransPod hyperloop against the Calgary skyline. (TransPod)

TransPod aims to demonstrate to large institutional investors that there’s enough ridership for passengers, as well as goods.

“The second aspect is to do a really detailed cost analysis of the infrastructure,” Gendron said. 

“That will confirm the amount of investment we need to build the full line, which includes not only the infrastructure, but also the stations and the land acquisition.”

Should things progress, TransPod would like to begin construction of a $500-million test track in Alberta in 2022. The final step would be to start construction of the full line, currently targeted to begin in 2025.

The former NDP government had allocated 10 kilometres of land between Calgary and Edmonton to TransPod to build a test track. Gendron said they’re looking at using the same area but would need to confirm once the feasibility study is complete.

Gendron said the company is also in the design and development phase for a testing facility in France.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said he’s hopeful that TransPod’s work will lead to the development of new technology that’s put into practice in Alberta, spurring further job creation. The company estimates the project would create 38,000 jobs over the next 10 years. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Unlike trains, hyperloop systems don’t use rails. Instead, they propel vehicles through a vacuum in sealed tubes at high speeds made possible by the extremely low friction inside the tube.

Tesla founder Elon Musk first outlined his vision for the hyperloop concept in 2013. Since then, its also attracted the attention of billionaire Richard Branson, founding chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One.

Virgin Hyperloop’s goal is to launch commercial routes by 2029.

Transpod and Spain’s Zeleros are also competing to upend traditional passenger and freight networks with technology they say will slash travel times and congestion.

The discussion around hyperloop technology has been received with both excitement and skepticism over the years.

A Boeing executive last year rejected the suggestion hyperloop travel could threaten aviation within his lifetime. The cost, complexity, regulation and safety of hyperloop systems have also been identified as challenges.

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Global banks hit by new corruption allegations. Why authorities are unlikely to act this time – MarketWatch



Shares of European banks fell sharply on Monday, after the release by BuzzFeed and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists of thousands of documents seemingly showing that some $2,000 billion worth of illicit funds were moved and laundered through the U.S. financial system over two decades.

– The papers show that five global banks — JPMorgan
 HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank
and Bank of New York Mellon — kept doing business with “oligarchs, criminals and terrorists” even after being fined by U.S. authorities for earlier failures to clamp down on dirty money. The banks themselves said they could not comment on specific transactions due to bank secrecy laws. Their statements can be found here.

– The reports are based on leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the U.S. Department of Treasury.

– Shares in British-Asian giant lender HSBC

 and the U.K.’s Standard Chartered

 fell 6% and 5%, respectively, marking 20-year lows in London mid trading. HSBC said in a statement that “all of the information provided (…) is historical.”

The outlook: The report, based mostly on past behavior already fined and sanctioned by U.S. authorities, is unlikely to trigger new punishments by governments or regulators. Especially not in a moment in the deepest of the coronavirus recession, when authorities are trying to convince and subsidize banks so they can keep lending to businesses and households. And even if legal grounds did exist in a few cases for authorities to act, regulators everywhere are likely to decide that punishment by markets is enough for now.

Read: U.K. edges closer to second national lockdown to help contain second coronavirus wave

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HSBC shares plunge to 25-year low on banks report, China fears –



HSBC Holdings Plc slumped below its financial crisis low set more than a decade ago as pressures mount on several fronts including a potential threat to its expansion plans in China.

The London-based bank’s Hong Kong shares on Monday slid below their closing low for March 2009, hitting as low as HK$29.60, as they extended this year’s plunge to about 50%. Echoing a decline in London on Friday, its Hong Kong shares are trading at the lowest since 1995.

Europe’s largest bank is a possible candidate for China’s “unreliable entity list” that aims to punish firms, organizations or individuals that damage national security, the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper reported Saturday. A day later, HSBC was among global banks named in a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on lenders that “kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players” in the past two decades even after the U.S. imposed penalties on the institutions.

“If the company is listed as a unreliable company by China, which looks certain since it’s a Global Times article, the bank will be facing lots of difficulties to do business in China,” Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment Corp., said by phone Monday. “They may have trouble expanding the mainland business, after investing so much there over the past few years.”

The bank has rankled China over its participation in the American investigation of Huawei Technologies Co. Penalties include restrictions on trade, investments and visas on companies, countries, groups or persons that appear on the list.

HSBC declined to comment on the Global Times article. In a statement Monday in response to the ICIJ report it said that “starting in 2012, HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime across more than 60 jurisdictions. HSBC is a much safer institution than it was in 2012.”


Standard Chartered Plc, which was also mentioned in the ICIJ report, declined as much as 3.8% in Hong Kong. “We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs,” the bank said Monday in a statement.

HSBC now risks being caught in deepening turmoil after a swirl of trouble over the past year amid political unrest and an economic slump in its biggest market, Hong Kong. It also faces difficulties in navigating low interest rates and surging loan losses sparked by the global pandemic.

HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn, who took over as the bank’s permanent head in March, last month issued a stark warning about tough times ahead while reporting that first-half profit halved and predicting loan losses could swell to $13 billion this year. Quinn said the bank would attempt to hasten a shakeup of its global operations, accelerating a further pivot into Asia as its European operations lose money.

Struggling to boost returns, the lender has come under fire both in the West and in China as it attempts to steer through political tension. HSBC was lambasted in the U.S. and the U.K. over its support for China’s new security legislation on Hong Kong.

A jump in income from its markets business has failed to make up for broader shortcomings, unlike at some Wall Street and European competitors. HSBC stock has fallen more steeply than most big rivals this year, with Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. posting declines of 44% and 29%, respectively.

To make matters worse, HSBC sparked anger in Hong Kong earlier this year, alienating some of its most loyal investors, after scrapping its dividend in response to the pandemic. The bank is the worst performer on the benchmark Hang Seng index so far this year.

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Alberta could lead Canada in wind and solar power by 2025 –



Growth in Alberta’s renewable energy sector should continue its upward trend, experts say, with one forecast anticipating a surge of projects that could have the province poised to be the Canadian leader in utility-scale wind and solar capacity as soon as 2025.

Rystad Energy tracks utility-scale wind and solar assets with at least one MWac (megawatt alternating current) in capacity. It forecasts that 83 percent of the combined, utility-scale wind and solar capacity built in Canada over the next five years will be in Alberta. That wouldn’t include smaller renewable development, like residential rooftop solar.

With the forecast growth, Rystad analyst Felix Tan expects Alberta will have the largest combined total of utility-scale wind and solar capacity in the country by the middle of the decade, overtaking Ontario.

“Alberta is sort of playing catch up,” Tan said in an interview from New York.

“We have seen a lot of capacity build out over the past two, three, four years in places like Ontario, in B.C. and Quebec.”

According to the data Rystad tracks, Alberta’s current renewable capacity includes 0.1 gigawatt (GW) of solar and 1.8 GW of wind. By 2025, it expects that to grow to 1.8 GW of solar and 6.5 GW of wind. 

Rystad forecasts Ontario will have about 1.8 GW solar, 5.8 GW wind in 2025.   

Tan said Alberta’s commitment to stop burning coal to generate electricity by 2030 “opens the door” for wind and solar to play a larger role. 

In this file photo, a solar field can be seen situated directly adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway near Brooks. Alberta is said to have some of the best sunlight in the country for solar electricity. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

He also said the province’s deregulated electricity market creates a favourable environment for solar and wind development.

The market allows corporate buyers to enter into contracts with wind and solar generators directly — something a growing number of companies are expected to seek as they look to green their operations.

Blake Shaffer, an assistant professor in the department of economics and school of public policy at the University of Calgary, isn’t anticipating as much growth as Rystad projects, but he agrees with the forecast’s direction.

“We’re going to continue to add renewables in this province,” said Shaffer, whose work focuses on electricity markets, climate policy and energy transitions.

“Whether or not we surpass Ontario in that timeframe, I can’t say definitively right now. But certainly it’s going to grow. And it’s simply a function that the cost of building renewables has just gotten so cheap.”

Like Tan, he also sees the benefit of Alberta’s competitive market structure for electricity. 

Shaffer said Texas, a place with a long history in oil and gas, has become a growth centre for renewables in the United States. He believes Alberta will also become a growth leader in renewable energy.

“That’s not because of an intrinsic love for renewables,” he said. 

“It’s simply that we have the best resource in terms of what we call capacity factor — so the frequency with which the wind blows here is high, which makes the unit cost low.”

He said Alberta’s solar resources are second only to Saskatchewan.

A number of multimillion-dollar wind and solar projects are planned for Alberta in the next few years.

Edmonton International Airport and Alpin Sun announced this summer they are working on an agreement that will see the company develop Airport City Solar, a 254-hectare solar farm on the west side of the airport lands.

The massive Travers Solar project in Vulcan County is also in works.

The $750-million project, led by Calgary’s Greengate Power, will consist of 1.5 million solar panels and generate about 800 million kWh a year, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

CEO Dan Balaban said if things go to plan, they hope to begin construction later this year.

“It’ll be by far the largest [solar project] in Canada,” he said.  “And I think there’s certainly the potential for more mega renewable energy projects in this country and in this province as time goes on.”

Balaban said the discussion around energy shouldn’t be framed as oil and gas versus renewable energy.

“I think we should be developing our oil and gas resources and our renewable energy resources,” he said. “We have a phenomenal opportunity in this province if we can all work together.”

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