September 25th, 2021

City Notebook: Evidence is mounting about what renewable energy could mean for southeast AB

By COLLIN GALLANT on August 28, 2021.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

As someone who could say I told you so, let me just mention here that the evidence is mounting about what renewable energy development could mean for southeast Alberta.

This week Greengate Power announced it would like to build a pair of solar projects in the region that will add about $3 million per year in local tax revenue.

The County of 40 Mile has three major wind farms on the go. The Brooks solar plant, which folks still believe doesn’t work, got approval to double in size this week, and that power will likely be sold on contract to Cenovus.

The Globe and Mail’s whiz-bang Alberta business reporter Emma Graney reported this month that Vulcan County might get half its tax revenue from two green power plants in two years time.

So, is there any doubt at this point that the province is waiting for green power projects to pick up the slack in rural tax assessment that’s on shaky ground from unprofitable shallow gas wells?

Last summer, the province kicked the issue down the road a few years, offering a new drilling tax credit in lieu of rewriting tax assessment policy that junior and senior petroleum producers argue is utterly unfair in a low-price environment.

Prices are better now. There are more stable, albeit fewer, exploration companies that can apparently pay their tax bills as the system sits now.

Still, though, how long before that basic question of fairness crops up again?

How long, before green power companies start making the same arguments?

Quick ones

– Comings and goings, Food Bank executive director Celina Symmonds accepted a new position with the Chamber of Commerce on Friday, resigning from food bank to become manager of member relations. Cam Jacques, chair of the food bank board thanked Symmonds for six years of service, during which she helped bring along the community food hub project. That facility is set to open in the former Maple Avenue fire hall this autumn.

“This new opportunity… will allow me to give back in a different way,” said Symmonds in a release.

– The power prices that spiked to a recent high in August will fall back when new rates are announced for Sept. 1 this week, likely at about 10.4-cents per kilowatts hour in the Hat, compared to the provincial average of above 12-cents in August.

In case you’re wondering, the city financial statements that include spiking summer power prices are typically released in early October each year.

– Also mark on your calendar a space around the third week in September for the year end results of Aurora Cannabis. The company that doesn’t advertise set dates for such events far in advance and is currently advertising the Aurora Sun facility in Medicine Hat for sale or lease. The site is now clear of construction supplies and equipment, and there may be an update then, hypothetically.

Bluearth Renewables has introduced sheep grazing at its Yellow Lake power plant, and this week Greengate Power said sheep may have the run of 23 sections of planned solar array in the region by 2025. Isn’t it time for Alberta’s lamb producers to come up with a catchy campaign for development in the sector. Solar Fleece? Green chops?

Holidays

The Province of Alberta won’t adopt a national holiday on Sept. 30 as suggested in the Truth and Reconciliation report, but it’s not the only tussle over stat days in the province.

For the past couple years the United Conservative government has made a habit of highlighting Sept. 1 as Alberta’s birthday (she became a province on Sept. 1, 1905), at a time when their opponents in the New Democrats are highlighting the Labour Day observance. So expect more of that as August turns into September.

A look ahead

School starts on Monday, which is and isn’t surprising, considering the weather skipped August entirely. Still, be aware on your drive to and from work.

100 years ago

The City of Medicine Hat renewed its push to block piping natural gas from the Redcliff field to Calgary with a new United Farmers cabinet in Edmonton, the News reported in late August 1921.

The issue, before a utility commission hearing, was posed as one of a potential shortage for local industry, while a report stated the “great abundance” of local fields made it ill-advised that Calgary residential users suffer shortages.

Ottawa made $19 million in loans available to ranchers in the west to address bad drought conditions. A local “Grow Rye” movement was supported by the Chamber of Commerce as a move toward diversification, with the business group vowing to secure seed for any farmer who wanted it.

In a high society wedding, Jessie Cousins, the daughter of Wm. Cousins, was married at her father’s First Street home to William Elliot.

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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