NA Edition: Thursday 14th June 2018
Why is Alberta the most exciting wind market in Canada?
By Frances Salter
The province of Alberta in western Canada is not known for its adoption of renewables: although it currently has 1,471 MW of installed wind capacity, this represents only 8% of electricity demand, and 87% of Alberta’s electricity is still being provided by fossil fuels.
We recently spoke to Dan Balaban, founder of Alberta-based renewable energy developer Greengate Power Corporation, for our North American Power List. He set up Greengate in 2007 because of his desire to remedy some of Alberta’s environmental issues.
Since then, the firm has developed the two largest wind farms in Alberta, and has a 450MW portfolio in the state. While the company has favoured wind projects so far, it is increasingly involved with solar now that the two technologies are cost-competitive: “Alberta’s become a real bright star in the renewable energy world,” says Balaban. “We’re phasing out all of our coal-fired electricity by 2030 and replacing it with 5,000MW of renewables.”
This refers to Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, published in 2015, which lays out plans to replace fossil fuels with renewables by 2030. Greengate intends to contribute by delivering C$1bn ($770m) of renewables by 2023. Balaban says that the plan has also attracted more corporations to sign power purchase agreements in the province. By 2030, wind is expected to represent 30% of the energy mix and attract billions of dollars in investment.
All this means that Alberta is a hot ticket for those working in wind. But what can be done to ensure that the state makes the most of the economic potential of this transition?
The Canadian Wind Energy Association has recently published a study – titled ‘Alberta Wind Energy Supply Chain Study’ – that makes recommendations on exactly this topic. These include investing in opportunities for industry and academia to work together to provide specialised training relating to wind energy manufacturing, operations and maintenance.
This would help develop the state’s growing wind sector workforce. The report estimates that, if the predicted 4.5GW of wind capacity is developed in the province then that would lead to $8.3bn in investments by developers, creating around 15,000 jobs by 2030.
The report also recommends that investment by the provincial government in wind energy-related innovation and research – particularly in transport, project construction, and grid integration – would help Alberta build its workforce and reach its export potential.
The emerging regulatory framework in the province will also be essential. Unlike the US, Canada doesn’t have federal support for energy development, such as the production tax credit. This means that state government policy is especially important in supporting the expansion of renewables.
On top of this, Canada’s national government has been reticent about giving support to the wind industry, which has in the past pushed Canadian wind developers and investors to look for opportunities internationally.
But, as Alberta becomes an ever-more enticing prospect for wind companies, this could lead to more Canadian firms increasingly looking to build back home. And, in the coming years, Alberta is set to be at the forefront of that move.
To read our complete interview with Dan Balaban, and to find out more about the North American wind market, download the North American Power List.