Alberta Rides ‘Green Rush’ to Its First Clean Power Auction
As signs of life return fitfully to Alberta’s tar sands/oil sands, there’s a “rush” going on in the province’s clean sector as it prepares for the first of a planned series of annual auctions for renewable electricity supply.
“A renewables rush is in high gear in Alberta,” the Globe and Mail reports, “as the province better known for oil and natural gas resources formally pushes to up its wind, solar, and hydro power capacity.”
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The Alberta government has set a goal of doubling the province’s renewable energy capacity, to 5,000 megawatts, by 2030. It will hold an auction this year for the first 400 MW of power—about enough to serve half the homes in Edmonton.
The auction has caught the industry’s attention. “The biggest opportunity in Canada for renewables,” said Gordon Potts, whose Toronto-based Northland Power Inc. is one of the companies developing bids, “is what’s going on in Alberta.”
“We have some of the best onshore wind resources in the world,” added wind developer Dan Balaban, CEO of Calgary’s Greengate Power. “This is not something that is that well-known. But Alberta truly is an energy-rich province. It’s energy-rich in terms of our fossil fuels. But it’s also energy-rich in terms of our renewable energy.”
Successful bidders must bring their projects online by the end of 2019, but will then enjoy “fixed, market-insulated prices for two decades,” the Globe states. Any subsidies needed will come from the province’s carbon tax on large emitters.
The province previously earmarked $36 million to support the installation of solar panels on as many as 10,000 homes over three years. However, observers have noted that the New Democrat government’s planned budget for post-carbon initiatives relies heavily on a still-pending increase in world oil prices that may be anything but predictable or permanent.
Nonetheless, “the government estimates that construction of the new renewable projects will create at least 7,200 new jobs” for Albertans, the Globe notes.
Those jobs will depend on more than one auction, though. “Helmut Herold, of Germany’s Senvion S.A., a top global wind turbine supplier, said manufacturers tend to look for local suppliers for key [windmill] components, including the steel towers, which are large and bulky to transport but relatively uncomplicated to manufacture.” However, the German executive added, investors and potential bidders are looking beyond a one-time interest, and want to see “a steady, multi-year procurement program so local companies can gear up to provide content to the projects.”
“We need to see consistency, not just one year of this current tender for megawatts,” Herold told the Globe. “If you are able to create a three- to five-year program with consistency, then you will see people settle down and use this advantage.”