November 29th, 2021

City Notebook: It’s pretty complex, being green…

By COLLIN GALLANT on November 19, 2021.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

The News used up a lot of trees this week reporting on changes proposed to bring more battery storage to Alberta’s power grid – part of a plan to modernize the utility sector with new technology and draw big investments.

That’s the real goal of the government, which has walked a tight-rope pretty successfully to not showing too much support for renewable energy projects, while reaping in a bumper crop of new private sector power plants.

Storage could lead to a much vaunted “net zero” power grid, though Alberta’s plans would give an even playing field to natural gas plants alongside solar and wind facilities.

It was part of a raft of environmental measures announced this week, including a trough of new grant funding to industry from the province’s heavy emitter’s fund (Alberta’s version of the carbon tax on industry).

They came, curiously, a week after the United Conservatives maligned the Glasgow Climate conference endlessly, and the province didn’t bother sending delegates.

So why are green-energy company’s flocking to Alberta?

Alberta and Texas are the only jurisdictions in North America that rely on a bidding system from private-sector generators to keep supply aligned with demand, but the system can lead to steep price increases when there is a shortage.

Storage would likely lead to producers holding power back during low price periods – such as wind-power in the overnight period – then putting it on the system when prices rise.

The glut of new production might depress prices overall, which is the exact opposite of the commonly held belief.

Floods

A lot of talk this week about whether flooding in B.C. can be attributed to climate change, with most saying it’s a no brainer, while others say it’s just another storm.

Either way it highlights the need for governments to rethink how they engineer their highways, bridges and flood protections.

People may recall that the flooding in Medicine Hat in 2013 was caused by “one storm” though, sure, it’s been relatively dry ever since.

It was a doozey that swept past here and Taber before it got stuck up against upper airflow and the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary.

It dumped rain there for days, and, as the initial reporting at the time noted, “what comes down eventually comes east.”

“One storm” was also to blame for the overland flood in Cypress County in May 2010 that saw rain melt snow in the Cypress Hills and run all over saturated land all the way to Irvine.

Hop on the hydrogen

Greater Edmonton was the first so-called “Hydrogen Hub” in Alberta and Medicine Hat has been working since last fall to become the second with a set plan to draw in investment and get in the horse race that is the new climate-friendly economy.

But it’s clearly going to become a crowded field pretty quickly.

For example, new Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston told his hometown paper, the Red Deer Advocate, he’d already booked meetings with industry officials after attending a symposium on the hydrogen economy at this week’s Alberta Municipalities conference.

“Ive said a few times – Do we dare to dream of another Nova?” he asked referring the plastics facility in Joffre, north of his city. “Look what the Nova plant has done, in terms of transforming the central Alberta corridor.”

It sounds suspiciously similar to what Hatters have been saying about a Methanex expansion or perhaps a third big plant complex in the Gas City.

Recycling

Speaking of the above mentioned AUMA conference – it was more than a pet peeve of former Coun. Brian Varga that plastic packaging companies built the cost of recycling into their pricing, but cities in Alberta had now way of recouping that money because of inaction by the province.

A system of Extended Producer Liability will now move ahead, potentially reducing local recycling fees, after an announcement this week by the Environment Ministry, not to mention several years of Varga stumping on the issue.

Varga, who sat on the AUMA’s sustainability committee during his time in city government, also was a gallery attendee of this week’s city council meeting.

It was the first open to the general public after a largely invite-only swearing in earlier this month.

Also in the gallery was fellow council alum Kris Samraj, who was a rare bird in Medicine Hat before he was elected in 2019, someone who attended city meetings without being paid.

A look ahead

City council’s committees on public and corporate services will hold their first meetings of the new council terms this week.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com

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