We’ve recently reached a remarkable inflection point in Alberta’s electricity generation industry. There are only three coal power plants still in operation — Genesee 1, 2 and 3 — all of which are currently being repurposed to natural gas by Edmonton-based Capital Power.
Coal was the backbone of Alberta’s electricity generation for the majority of its history, accounting for 81 per cent of generation in 2001. That is down to roughly 20 per cent today and soon that will be reduced to zero. This transformation has occurred on the backdrop of retrofitting old coal plants to natural gas, as well as a proliferation of renewable energy generation, primarily from wind and solar power.
According to Rystad Energy, a European analytics firm, Alberta’s renewable capacity was 0.1 gigawatt (GW) of solar in 2020 and is expected to grow to 1.8GW by 2025. That’s over 10 per cent of the roughly 16GW of total generating capacity installed today. Felix Tan, an analyst at Rystad Energy, forecasts that Alberta will have the largest combined total of utility-scale wind and solar capacity in the country by the middle of the decade.
Kelly points out, “It is hard to get your head around megawatts, gigawatts, kilowatt-hours and so on. . . But for the average person, they see the benefit on their utility bill and their savings.
It will be the cost savings that get people adopting solar energy and electric vehicles in Alberta. With all the solar projects currently underway, the potential for future investment in the industry — and the economic benefits in terms of jobs and lower costs to consumers — solar energy is just starting to boom. What better time to re-invest oil and gas revenues into what is fast becoming Alberta’s green energy future?
Donald MacCallum is a spokesman for Eco-Elders for Climate Action.