EDMONTON—Expanding Alberta’s solar generation capacity would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and diversify the province’s electricity supply, according to a new paper published a national industry association.
Published by the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), the paper argues that Alberta will need as much as 7,000 megawatts of new power generation as it retires its coal-fired plants from service.
Turning to solar in coal’s wake would not only further reduce emissions, but also improve Alberta’s social licence, one that has wavered as its oil and gas production has increased.
In 2012, according to the association, 64 per cent of the province’s electricity was generated from coal.
According to the paper, the electricity sector was responsible for approximately 21 per cent of Alberta’s GHG emissions in 2012.
While coal has been the main source of electricity in the province for many years, natural gas is expected to be the fastest growing source of generation in Alberta, exposing it to price volatility moving forward.
Solar generation, on the other hand, is a renewable resource, and has even seen installation price drop as its popularity increases.
The average installed system price in Canada is expected to see a massive decrease in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, dropping from $15/watt to less than $2.5/watt.
“Alberta has before it a great opportunity to embrace the huge benefits of solar,” CanSIA president and chief executive John Gorman said in a release accompanying the paper.
“The sun shines in Alberta more than in any other province, and Albertans understand the value of a strong energy resource. We’ve been talking about it for years, (and) it’s now time to move forward.”
If the Alberta government was to introduce a renewable policy that called for 1.5 per cent of the province’s electricity demand to be met by solar in 2022, 625,000 tonnes of GHG emissions would be displaced annually, the paper claims, while 1.25 terawatt hours of electricity would be produced each year.
Turning to a feed-in tariff (FIT) model would creating more than 24,000 direct jobs, according to the paper, while generating more than $3.2 billion in private sector investment in construction and installation costs.
The paper does note, however, some challenges posed by the province’s deregulated electricity market, and calls for updated regulatory framework that integrates the FIT concept into existing policy uses existing funding for electricity procurement and emissions reductions.
“This is a ‘Made in Alberta’ blueprint designed to round out the provinces’ electricity system,” Gorman said. “Alberta is clearly a leader in oil and gas; these recommendations pave the way to making it a leader in renewable energy as well.”