For the first time in over four decades, Alberta elected a new government on May 5 – bringing into power the New Democratic Party (NDP) for the first time in the province's history. This change in power also brings greater potential for clean energy opportunities in the province, as Alberta looks to lower its emissions and improve its environmental public image.
Although wind energy has grown in Alberta to just over 1,400 MW, the vast majority of these projects have had out-of-market support that has unlocked investment and financing. Without some degree of revenue predictability, the capital intensive nature of renewable energy projects, such as wind, will remain at a market disadvantage in Alberta, in spite of wind energy now being one of the lowest-cost options for new electricity supply.
Several market forecasts have found the current market will lead to gas becoming the overwhelming electricity supply in Alberta. This challenge was recognized in Alberta almost a decade ago and a renewable and alternative framework has been discussed to overcome some of these challenges since 2007 – yet nothing ever became of it.
The NDP platform promised to ‘phase out coal-fired electricity generation to reduce smog and greenhouse-gas emissions and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar and more industrial co-generation in the oil sands,’ as well as to develop a renewable energy strategy as one of its first measures to take a leadership position on climate change. Taken together, these promises offer a new opportunity for renewables in the province that continues to enjoy very high levels of support amongst Albertans. A poll taken after the election found that a large ‘majority (67%) would like to see the government carry through with the 'development of renewable energy projects in the province,' while only 12 percent would like to see that promise abandoned and 22 percent have no strong views.’
There is no shortage of renewable resources in Alberta – in fact, there is enough energy in the winds that blow across the province each year to power every single province from British Columbia to Ontario. Taking full advantage of this resource will require new and strategic ways of thinking. With the election of a new government, Albertans have indicated that they are ready for new ideas. The renewable energy industry is looking forward to working with Alberta's new leadership to make this a reality.
Author's note:Â Tim Weis is policy director at CanWEA. He can be reached at email@example.com.