Albertans need to be kept informed about electricity system

Lethbridge Herald
23 Jul 2017

It is good to see that The Herald has undertaken a review of Alberta’s electricity supply system (“Power demand not taxing system,” by Dave Mabell, on July 14.)

Mr. Mabell provides some useful generating capacity statistics from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and concludes our existing electrical system is able to maintain an adequate supply cushion. Indeed, generating capacity from coal and gas totalling 13,631 MW provides a nice margin of security well beyond our maximum demand of 11.4 MW. Thankfully, Alberta’s coal and natural gas plants can jointly provide for the reliable electricity we now depend on. Renewable sources such as wind and solar are often not available when needed.

However, Alberta’s government has decreed the phase-out of all generation by coal over the next 13 years, removing 6,283MW from the present 13,631MW. A major expansion of natural gas capability, either through the building of new gas plants or the conversion of coal plants, will be essential to maintain Alberta’s electricity needs.

Our government has also announced that 5,000 MW of wind capacity will be added to the system by 2030. They will contribute little to nothing on lowwind and windless days. Significant storage of windgenerated energy, possibly through interaction with our modest hydropower capability, is barely on the agenda.

The AESO is charged with establishing and maintaining the generating capacity needed to provide a reliable system and has just embarked on a study involving participants from the electric power industry. The essential goal is to revise the electricity marketing system to encourage the building of sufficient capacity to ensure reliability. Five working groups totalling some 70 members have been chosen to establish the design of a so-called capacity market over the next three years.

Implementation of the muchmodified system will have a profound effect on the provision and cost of the electrical energy Albertans depend on. I’m hoping The Herald will continue to take the initiative to keep us informed on the status of our developing electricity system.

Duane Pendergast

Energy Collegium Lethbridge