Kenney Would ‘Roll Back the Clock’, Cost Albertans More by Cancelling Solar, Wind Subsidies
United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s pledge to phase out subsidies for solar- and wind-powered electricity would “roll back the clock” and could cost Alberta more in the long run, according to Warren Mabee, director of the Queen’s University Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy.
Late last month, Kenney held a campaign readiness event where he released a handful of campaign promises for the upcoming provincial election. “We have no intention of retroactively cancelling good faith contracts,” he told media the next day. “My commitment last night was for a future United Conservative government to no longer provide subsidies to uneconomic wind and solar power generation, because every additional kilowatt-hour of higher uneconomic wind and solar generated power raises the rates for Albertans.”
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But CBC notes that the last three rounds of renewable energy contracts announced by the province’s NDP government have come in between 3.7 and 4.0¢ per kilowatt-hour. As recently as 2016, a procurement in Ontario produced a price of 8.5¢/kWh—higher than today’s energy efficiency costs in the province, but still competitive with the nuclear rebuild the province’s Conservative government is pursuing.
“He’s talking about cutting subsidies to wind and solar, which he is considering to be expensive forms of energy,” Mabee said of Kenney. “The actual experience with wind in Alberta has been quite the opposite.”
In 2017, after Alberta unveiled plans to add 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 3030, the Canadian Wind Energy Association estimated the technology could bring the province C$8.3 billion in economic activity and 15,000 job-years of employment over that time span. Most recently, Alberta announced three new subsidy-free solar farms in which a Métis community will receive a 50% stake.
“For a potential premier to say that, you know, we’re just going to end any support for this sort of an industry I think you’re really trying to roll back the clock,” Mabee said. “You’re trying to go back to the glory days of the fossil fuel industry where there’s a cheaper alternative in front of you.”
And making that move could end up costing Alberta taxpayers more money.
“We’ve seen governments do that in the past where they basically stopped investment to try to save the taxpayers a few bucks, and in the end, it ends up costing,” he said. “You end up not only with deferred maintenance, you end up with plants that no longer can really operate efficiently. And a lot of money has to be spent all at once to replace that infrastructure.”
Evan Wilson, the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s prairie regional director, told CBC that wind in Alberta is an entrepreneurial pursuit that supplies about 10% of the province’s electricity. “All of these generators are going to the market, and they’re selling their electricity as part of the auctions on the market,” he said. “What we’re seeing here is a system that is designed to provide a stable level of revenues from the market that does provide a top-up from time to time.”