Energy – the Driver of Calgary Economics

Photo by Dennis Jarvis
Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Calgary has benefitted from international energy investment from its early days. Today, the energy sector plays the most important role in Calgary’s thriving economy and influences various economic sectors.

Calgary, home of large energy companies

The largest concentration of electric power generation companies producing natural gas, biomass, wind, hydro, solar, and nuclear energy are located in Calgary. The majority of Canada’s oil and gas production companies, major pipeline operators, oilfield service and drilling companies, and energy-related engineering and consulting firms have their home in Calgary. The city is headquarters to major North American pipeline and energy distribution companies, such as TransCanada Corporation, Enbridge, Terasen Pipelines, and Alliance Pipeline, and to institutions like the National Energy Board (Canada’s national energy regulator), The Alberta Energy Resources Energy Board, and Alberta Utilities Commission. This makes Calgary a global leader in all aspects of energy: project design, exploration, production, finance, processing, transportation, marketing, and management. You can find the total list of all 1368 energy companies in Calgary here.


The University of Calgary has 18 faculties with over 100 academic programs and more than 30 research institutes and centres. It ranks among Canada’s top seven research universities. The University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE) undertakes world-class interdisciplinary research, innovation, and education. SAIT Polytechnic, known for its quality technical education and hands-on training, offers education and first-class training to more than 65,000 learners beginning and enhancing their careers each year. There are also Bow Valley College, DeVry Institute of Technology, and Mount Royal College preparing students to work in energy sector.

Job opportunities

Engineering Jobs as of all Jobs
Engineering Jobs as % of all Jobs

Calgary boasts the highest concentration of engineering workers in Canada, with one of the highest concentrations of engineers in the world, according to a report by Calgary Economic Development. Over the previous decade, Calgary’s engineering labour force has increased by 17,000 workers, which shows over 100% growth. We also expect growth in engineers and engineering technicians to remain strong, as the industry serves large investments in Alberta’s energy sector. 4.6% of Calgary’s total employment is represented by Engineer jobs, almost 40% up from the previous decade. The share and growth is bigger than in Alberta or in Canada as a whole.

Housing demand

“The positive investments we are seeing in the energy sector and our economy will begin to translate into improved job prospects and growth for Calgary. This will help contribute to a stronger demand for housing and a stable real estate market,” says Sano Stante, Calgary Real Estate Board president. Improvements in energy translate into growth in employment and net-migration. Migrants have to quickly find a place to live, so they improve the housing demand and bring improvements to family income — one of most significant factors influencing the housing market.

Energy sector a source of economic optimism

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and its 107,000 small business owners from BC to St. John’s use the Business Barometer Index (BBI) to calculate the level of future economic growth. Index levels range between 65 and 75 when the economy is growing. Alberta reached the highest level of all provinces, with 71.6 BBI.

Business Barometer Index for Selected Provinces
Business Barometer Index
for Selected Provinces

“Sitting on the second-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world next to Saudi Arabia with an estimated 171.3 billion barrels—enough to meet Canada’s current oil demand for almost 400 year—is an obvious cause for economic optimism,” explained Business Review Canada.

Oil prices are expected to average US$81.45 per barrel in 2010-11, rising to US$95.75 by 2013-14, according to Economic Outlook, released by Finance Alberta. “On the back of these strong oil prices, investment has rebounded in Alberta in both oil sands and conventional oil,” it says. Robust investment and increasing oil exports will probably drive Alberta’s economic growth through the next years. Natural gas is fairly weak due to competition from shale gas deposits located near major US markets, but prices are expected to cover current losses. The strong energy sector will remain a top economic force and will positively affect Calgary’s economic performance.

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