High voltage transmission lines crossing highway 1 near Medicine Hat. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

EDMONTON – On Nov. 27, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith invoked her province’s Sovereignty Act, essentially to tell the federal government where to go and how to get there when it comes to generating electrical power.

The Liberal federal government is seeking to create a “Net-Zero by 2035” power grid across the entire country, meaning that greenhouse gases will not be emitted for power production. This, despite the fact that Alberta on any given day needs natural gas, and its remaining coal, to provide up to 94 per cent of power generated in that province. Saskatchewan similarly sees up to 87 per cent of its power generation come from natural gas and coal on any given day.

The federal ministers leading the charge for the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations are Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson. They released a joint statement later on Monday in a tweet by Guilbeault. In it, they noted, “We all agree that electricity grids in every province and territory need to be reliable, affordable and that they also need to become non emitting.”

Those same Clean Electricity Regulations expect that the Canadian electrical grid will need to grow by a factor of 2.5x by 2050, in large part to accommodate the adoption of electrification of everything from vehicular transportation to home heating. Natural gas generation, which provides the overwhelming majority of Alberta’s power generation, would only be allowed to operate up to 450 hours per year, per unit, unless the federal minister allows an emergency exemption. Conventional coal would be gone by 2030 in Saskatchewan, as Alberta will shut down its last conventional coal plants within months. Natural gas and coal would be allowed if they employed carbon capture, but the standards proposed are so stringent, they are nearly five times the design spec of the SaskPower Boundary Dam Unit 3 Carbon Capture and Storage Project. And that design spec has yet to be reached on an annual basis.

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So not only would all of Canada be expected to more than double its electrical grid, including generation, transmission and distribution in 26 years, but Alberta would also need to shut down and replace up to 94 per cent of its generation, and Saskatchewan 87 per cent, within 11 years, one month and two days.

Every wire, every pylon and power pole seen here would effectively need to be doubled, actually increased 2.5x, by 2050, according to the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations. This is near Medicine Hat on Nov. 27. Photo by Brian Zinchuk.

Last week Saskatchewan and SaskPower released their response to these proposed regulations, saying they were impossible to follow within that timeframe.

Alberta’s response includes not only rejecting the Clean Electricity Regulations, but even floats the idea of creating a lesser version of SaskPower, for Alberta, to do so, by creating a Crown corporation that will figure heavily into Alberta’s electrical grid.

Here is the broadcast of Smith’s response:

And here is the Alberta government press, verbatim:

Alberta’s government will not put Albertans and their businesses at risk of freezing in the dark at -30 C due to the federal government’s proposed unaffordable, unreliable and unconstitutional Clean Electricity Regulations (CERs).

The federal government has been clear it is unwilling to align its electricity regulations with Alberta’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan as the province works to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Instead, the federal government has continued to indicate it will move ahead with its plan to implement unrealistic requirements for a net-zero electricity grid by 2035, regardless of the costs and risks to Albertans.

To protect Albertans from future brownouts, blackouts and soaring costs, Alberta’s government has introduced the first Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act resolution. This resolution asks the legislative assembly of Alberta for approval to take strong, effective action over the coming months and years to counteract the harms and risks to Albertans posed by the federal CERs.

“We have tried to work with Ottawa to align their emissions-reduction efforts with our provincial plan to achieve a carbon-neutral power grid by 2050. Unfortunately, after months of meetings, they continue to reject this opportunity and remain committed to an absurdly unrealistic and unattainable goal of a net-zero power grid by 2035. We are left with no choice but to create a shield to protect Albertans from Ottawa’s dangerous and unconstitutional electricity regulations. They may be willing to expose Albertans to high costs, blackouts and brownouts, but we are not, and we will continue to ensure Albertans are protected from these destructive and unconstitutional federal policies.”

  • Danielle Smith, Premier

The CERs propose unrealistic rules with Criminal Code violations to achieve net-zero electricity by 2035. Alberta’s grid needs more baseload power from natural gas, but these regulations have created uncertainty and are driving away investment. This threatens the reliability and economic well-being of Alberta’s homes and businesses.

Alberta does not have enough applications for new natural gas power plants to provide the substantial new generation of power the province needs, primarily due to the investor uncertainty caused by the federal government’s extreme policies.

“The courts are on our side, science and logic are on our side, the Constitution is on our side – electricity generation is the jurisdiction of the provinces, not the federal government. It is our responsibility to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to all Albertans without interference from Ottawa. This is what we are doing and will continue to do.”

  • Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities

 

“The federal regulations will hurt grid reliability for families and businesses while sending costs soaring. Everything we have seen from Ottawa suggests they simply don’t care how these rules will hurt Albertans. We will not put families at risk of rationing power during the coldest days of the year.”

  • Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

If passed, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act resolution will help protect Alberta’s electricity grid and ensure that homes and businesses across the province can access reliable, affordable power for decades to come.

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The resolution asks Alberta’s cabinet to order all provincial entities not to recognize the constitutional validity of, enforce, nor cooperate in the implementation of the CERs in any manner, to the extent legally permissible. This order would not apply to private companies or individuals. The resolution also asks Alberta’s government to work with the Alberta Electric System Operator, Alberta Utilities Commission and others to implement various reforms to Alberta’s electrical system to ensure grid affordability and reliability.

In addition, the resolution instructs the government to work with industry, regulators and other groups to study the feasibility of establishing a provincial Crown corporation for the purpose of bringing and maintaining more reliable and affordable electricity onto the grid in the event that private generators find it too risky to do so under the CERs.

This Alberta Crown corporation would be a provincial entity and would not recognize the CERs as constitutionally valid. If needed, the Crown corporation would work with industry and other stakeholders to bring on needed electricity onto the grid, either through building new generation or purchasing existing generation assets (i.e. natural gas power plants) that private industry would otherwise not build or shut down due to the uncertainty and penalties established by the CERs. It could also be used as a means of assisting and partnering with industry to de-risk investments in nuclear power and other emerging green generation if needed.

Alberta must be prepared should the CERs lead to divestment in natural gas generation and power plants being turned off in 2035. This initiative would be an important first step towards protecting Albertans’ continued access to reliable and affordable electricity should this occur.

The resolution also urges the government to use all legal means necessary to oppose the federal electricity regulation, including legal challenges.

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New Democratic Party Leader Rachel Notley, currently Leader of the Opposition, was the premier who brought in a carbon tax for Alberta and pushed the rapid conversion or shut down of Alberta’s coal-fired power plants. Her statement issued the same day on social media read as follows:

Albertans want to move forward, but Danielle Smith and the UCP are holding us back with the so-called Sovereignty Act. The UCP is invoking a dishonest and illegal stunt that jeopardizes investment certainty, breaches treaty rights across the country, weakens national unity, and embarrasses Albertans on the global stage.

Energy experts, investors, and forward-looking Albertans all believe we can and should achieve net zero much sooner than 2050, which would attract billions in investment and create thousands of jobs. Instead, Danielle Smith and the UCP are leaving trillions of dollars in potential investment on the table and risking all the jobs that could come with it.

Soon, Alberta will have the opportunity to tell its story at COP, and instead of attracting international investors in clean energy, the Premier is going to tell them that she doesn’t understand the rule of law or science and that not only does she not take the threat of climate change seriously – that our government isn’t interested in bringing Albertans good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy.

Danielle Smith and the UCP are putting their own extremist politics ahead of economic common sense. There is $40 billion in federal money available to expand electrification in Canada. The UCP should be negotiating to get billions in investment from the federal government and moving to reduce emissions – something all major players in the Alberta oilsands are already moving to do.

This damaging motion also comes on the heels of a move by the UCP to ban renewables projects, costing Alberta up to $24 billion in new investment and 33,000-good-paying jobs.

This is a distraction from Albertans’ priorities. It is incompetent, and backward, and does nothing to secure Alberta’s economic future.

Late in the evening of Nov. 22, Alberta’s 44 wind farms, with a nameplate capacity of 4,420 megawatts, produced 14 megawatts. The low wind conditions persisted for 18 hours, with wind producing less than 100 megawatts, and often around 30, for nearly all of that time. At the same time, Alberta’s 1,470 megawatts of solar power was producing 10 per cent of their capacity at noon on Nov. 23. Also at the same time, Alberta’s seven grid scale batteries provided a total of 62 minutes of power between them, on Nov. 23, when wind conditions were low and solar output was minimal.

Every wire, every pylon and power pole seen here would effectively need to be doubled, actually increased 2.5x, by 2050, according to the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations. This is near Medicine Hat. Photo by Brian Zinchuk.

 

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For the record, here’s Guilbeault and Wilkinson’s tweeted response, verbatim:

 

Statement by Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources

Premier Smith is choosing to create fear and uncertainty over collaboration and positive results for Albertans.

Over the past several months, the federal government has been engaging in good faith with the Alberta government on clean electricity investments and draft regulations, very much including through the Canada-Alberta working group. The Canada-Alberta working group was requested by the Alberta government as an alternative to the regional tables that are up and running in almost every other province and territory. The working group was established with the express intent to discuss these issues collaboratively and respectfully.

The working group between our two levels of government has held several highly productive meetings thus far, most of which were focused on the draft clean electricity regulations. At no point in time did the Alberta government, including representatives from the Premier’s office, raise the Premier’s intent to introduce this Sovereignty Act motion on the draft regulations during these meetings.

The Premier has instead chosen to spend millions of hard-earned Albertan taxpayer dollars on a national anti-clean electricity advertisement campaign that has no basis in fact. Today’s decision by the Premier is thus unnecessary and appears to be entirely politically driven.

We all agree that electricity grids in every province and territory need to be reliable, affordable and that they also need to become non emitting. Thoughtful observers understand that collaborating on building a clean electricity grid over the next few decades is a massive economic opportunity for Alberta that will underpin a sustainable and prosperous future for everyone. Albertans are already leaders in building clean electricity in Canada, despite the Premier’s reckless moratorium on renewable electricity, which put a halt to $33 bill on in planned investments and thousands of jobs. Through Budget 2023 the federal government allocated an historic $40 billion to support clean electricity.

Canada stands ready to continue to make substantial investments in Alberta’s electricity infrastructure and to collaborate with as many partners as possible to seize the opportunities and benefits of a clean grid.

 

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Alberta now has 44 wind farms, and Wednesday night they collectively produced next to no power

On Thursday, Alberta wind power had a hangover and the sun didn’t come out to play