The demise of coal-fired power plants in Alberta has been well documented in recent years, but it’s happening a lot quicker than anticipated.
However, the transition from coal to renewable energy sources is going somewhat unnoticed. According to the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), 14% of all electricity generated in the province in 2020 came from renewable energy sources, such as wind, hydro, and solar. The province’s current total renewable energy capacity is 23%, and the percentage will continue to rise in the coming years – aided by greater investment in clean energy projects.
By 2023, the Canada Energy Regulator predicts that renewable energy sources will have a total capacity of 26%. In the same year, it anticipates that Alberta will add “considerable” solar capacity or 1,200 megawatts.
The provincial government’s Renewable Electricity Act establishes a statutory goal of generating 30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This year’s interim objective is 15%.
Why is Alberta a desirable location for green energy development?
Alberta has world-class wind and solar resources, as well as ample space to construct projects. Southern Alberta receives 2,500 hours of sunshine each year, which is equivalent to Germany and comparable to Florida in terms of solar potential. The wind resources of Southern Alberta are among the most powerful in the world.
Alberta has long relied on coal for power, but the rate of coal retirement is outpacing expectations. The government’s legislated target for a coal-powered generation phase-out by 2030 is eight years away, but because of natural gas conversions and the falling capital costs of renewables, it is anticipated that coal will be removed from the Alberta grid by 2023.
Government aid and initiatives have helped to increase capacity. In 2017-18, AESO launched a competitive program to encourage the development of big-scale renewable facilities, with 1,363MW of renewables contracts awarded. Other government initiatives, such as those for municipalities, communities, indigenous groups, farms, and homesites, have also aided development.
Cost of renewables
As in other areas, renewable energy’s capital expenses continue to drop, competing with natural gas-powered plants without the need for government support.
Alberta has a carbon price (that is getting more severe) and an active carbon offset credit market. Large industrial producers must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under provincial carbon legislation and can do so by purchasing and using offset credits from renewable power and other projects. Many large emitters are funding renewable projects to create offset credits that they can retire to fulfill environmental regulations.
Green energy in Alberta 2022
It is anticipated that Alberta’s electrical sector will have another year of growth in 2022. With the introduction of Alberta’s Recovery Plan in Q3 2020, as well as the release of the 2021 Federal Budget, which commits a significant amount of money to the net-zero transition. With attention on innovation and a push for clean technology, it is expected that Alberta’s electricity sector will continue to go green in 2022.
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