Alternative investments

The potential of alternate energy sources in Alberta is as uncertain as the weather — because the provincial government has failed to expand its vision by providing concrete support for new initiatives.

The potential of alternate energy sources in Alberta is as uncertain as the weather — because the provincial government has failed to expand its vision by providing concrete support for new initiatives.

In fact, some uncertainty seems to be a function of the business of generating and delivering electricity — particularly in Alberta.

Part of that is the result of the infrastructure we have come to rely on, and part is the result of a provincial government that has been sluggish in its ability or willingness to invest in alternate sources of power.

The government has fixated on establishing massive new transmission lines to deliver electricity to markets, based on a generating system that seems married to traditional methods.

Smaller, non-traditional generating facilities closer to large power users could significantly reduce the need for massive, intrusive new power lines.

Alberta remains the only province in the nation that does not provide subsidies for wind-generating initiatives. Our green energy strategy is based more on platitudes than action.

Almost a year ago, premier Stelmach told a Red Deer audience that his government is dedicated to developing resources (both conventional and alternatives like wind, biomass, solar and geothermal power). He trumpeted that Alberta was the leading wind generating province at the time.

Critics suggest otherwise. Since the end of 2008, Alberta has lost ground to Ontario as a wind-generating centre, according to David Huggill of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, and more ground will be lost without far more aggressive initiatives here. The Quebec government, for example, is bearing 60 per cent of the cost of any new wind farm projects.

Electricity is a finicky commodity. It is dependent on other fuel sources for its generation; difficult and expensive to transmit; and impossible to store in any significant amounts.

In addition, power generation in Alberta contributes significantly to our carbon footprint.

Of the total 12,834-megawatt capacity of the generating system in the province, 5,692 megawatts come from coal, 5,189 megawatts come from natural gas, 900 megawatts are the product of hydro electric turbines, 657 comes from wind, 323 is generated through biomass, 63 comes from waste heat and 10 megawatts are generated by fuel oil.

An overwhelming 85 per cent of Alberta’s electricity capacity is generated from non-renewable sources, and contributes mightily to our carbon dioxide emissions.

A total of 59 projects using renewable energy sources have been proposed, according to the province, and they will have the capacity to generate 9,277 megawatts of power. That would represent 72 per cent of our current capacity.

Among those are wind turbines for Central Alberta, and the Plasco project that intends to convert waste into gas to fuel electric generators.

Wind energy carries uncertainties: it is costly to establish and it is subject to the variances in the weather.

So, too, does solar generation carry a caveat: the sun must shine. In each case, a backup system must be in place.

But Alberta still needs to invest both in the existing alternatives like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and gasification and to start pushing into new areas.

“We are moving towards being the most diversified province in Canada,” Stelmach said almost a year ago.

It’s time to power up that promise with money and action.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

With a ban on sit-in dining once again in place, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up an outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Stewart Cink watches his drive down the second fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

The Official UEFA Champions League match balls are on display ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) motions to the crowd during a break to mark his passing Gordie Howe for most NHL games played in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Most Read