May 25th, 2020

SEEDS speaker says power costs can fall with phase-out

By Tim Kalinowski on March 4, 2017.

Jen Bader (left), manager at Community Futures, and Elizabeth Blair with APEX and the regional innovation network co-ordinator at Community Futures, take part in the Southeast Energy Diversification Symposium (SEEDS) at Medicine Hat College on Thursday. The conference wraps up today.--NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT

The SE Alberta Energy Diversification Symposium (SEEDS) concluded with a jam-packed day on Friday.

SEEDS welcomed keynote speaker Sara Hastings-Simon from the Pembina Institute in the morning session, and finished the day with panel discussions and keynote speaker Anouk Kendall, president of Decentralized Energy Canada.

Hastings-Simon’s talk entitled “The Alberta Electricity Sector— changes and opportunities for sustainable energy development” was listened to with particular interest by SEEDS delegates.

In her talk, Hastings-Simon attempted to layout and justify Alberta’s move toward green energy, saying it would actually bring down electricity bills across the province as lower efficiency energy producers, (like low efficiency natural gas and coal generators), were pushed out of the marketplace, bringing the average price AESO (Alberta Electric System Operator) is paying for energy generation in Alberta down. She went on to offer the premise that new jobs created by such a green energy shift would more than offset job losses in coal plants as they get shut down by 2030.

She also suggested it might be time for Alberta to move away from an electricity economy that pays only for active energy generation into one that pays generators for their capacity to generate.

The idea is, even if a generator isn’t actively making power because AESO doesn’t need it at the moment, the company should still be paid for its ability to generate, for being on call as it were. This would, of course, benefit new energy start-ups in Alberta looking for certain cost and price guarantees, mostly in the renewable energy sector.

This idea was met with some skepticism by audience members in the question and answer session after Hastings-Simon’s talk.

“Since we have such an overcapacity,” said one questioner in the audience, “we have an overstacking on over almost a quarter on our entire market beyond what we could ever use. What’s the logic in adding an entire (new level of renewable energy generation capacity) here? To me, it just looks like an extra cost when we have already so much overstacking on power we have sitting waiting to be used.”

“It’s more about the longer term, when you start to phase out coal,” answered Hastings-Simon, “so you have enough generation that is coming in… The devil is in the details, and if you design (this capacity market) very well you can avoid it being an extra cost. And if you don’t, then it will be more costly. It is possible to avoid that challenge and still have the benefit of a capacity market giving you a certain amount of reliability.”

During the conference, SEEDS organizers also released the Southeast Alberta Energy Diversification Report, highlighting the great potential southeast Alberta has to take advantage of the emerging renewable energy economy.

“While the potential is here,” the report reads, “developing solar and wind energy industries will not happen overnight. Based on estimates from Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) and Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), over the next two decades these local projects could result in:

— $7.8 billion in investment;

— 10,875 temporary construction jobs;

— 397 permanent operations and maintenance jobs;

— $580 million in lease payments to landowners;

— $765 million in property tax revenue for municipalities in Southeast Alberta.

“To capitalize on these opportunities, increasing awareness of renewable technologies and their impact is essential,” the report concludes.

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