Alberta ponders renewable energy strategy

Clean Electricity Standard could come in 2014

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal May 4, 2013

EDMONTON – The Redford government is crafting a renewable and alternative energy framework that will govern wind, solar and geothermal electricity generation in Alberta starting next year.

An Alberta Energy presentation at the National Renewable Energy Forum last month shows the province plans to consult Albertans and draft a policy framework in 2013, then “commence implementation” in 2014.

Susan Carlisle, Alberta’s director of alternative energy, delivered the presentation to industry representatives in Toronto on April 2.

Lethbridge College professor Kris Hodgson chaired the panel that followed Carlisle’s presentation, during which four key players in Alberta’s wind and solar industries discussed the province’s nascent plan.

“A lot of people have been waiting for this for probably 20 years,” said Hodgson, who sits on the board of the Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance and advocates for wind power

. “It has been really frustrating because there hasn’t been any movement on this policy piece for some time. They’ve done a lot of great work with bioenergy, but nothing on wind and solar.”

Hodgson said discussions with senior bureaucrats suggest the centrepiece of the new policy may be a “clean electricity standard,” an intensity-based plan for limiting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector.

He said Alberta could help its international reputation by pressing ahead with a renewable energy strategy.

“This is supposed to be the year, and I think that because of all the pressure they’ve been facing with Keystone it’s strange the province hasn’t adopted renewable energy. … It would offset the incredible public relations issue they are facing with the oilsands,” Hodgson said.

The presentation shows coal and natural gas currently account for 89 per cent of Alberta’s electricity, while wind accounts for four per cent, followed by hydro and biofuels at three per cent each. The final one per cent is categorized as “other.”

Pembina Institute renewable energy director Tim Wies said the province is considering several other options, including a strategy that would require Alberta producers to generate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources.

The province is also looking at Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff Program, which allows homeowners, businesses and private developers to generate renewable energy and sell it to the province at a guaranteed price. Production incentives are also under consideration.

“They are still at a pretty early stage of exploring which of these options would fit in the Alberta market,” Weis said. “The clean electricity standard is one that people talk about more, because it really does fit better into the Alberta market. … It is market-based and more congruent with the way Alberta produces electricity.”

While no formal timelines have been set, Weis said he has been told the framework could to go to cabinet this fall. Pembina will meet with Alberta Energy and other stakeholders to discuss the plans on May 21.

Wildrose environment critic Joe Anglin said the province is undermining renewable energy producers by building new power lines in central Alberta that will be direct current (DC) lines.

Anglin said alternative energy producers “cannot connect to DC (lines) without hundreds of millions in AC/DC converters, and that’s not going to happen. … That just boggles my mind.”

The province remained tight-lipped about renewable energy Friday.

Energy Minister Ken Hughes against said in a statement that “it would be premature to speculate on the implementation of a renewable energy framework.” Department spokesman Mike Feenstra said department officials “won’t have more to say than what’s been said.”

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