Wind turbines in southern Alberta. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer.

 

A report by think tank Public Policy Forum entitled Project of the Century: A Blueprint for Growing Canada’s Clean Electricity Supply – and Fast, released July 19, drew sharp criticism from Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and one of her ministers, particularly regarding the cost and practicality of a net zero power grid.

Authored by Janet Annesley, David Campbell, Arash Golshan & Edward Greenspon, the report is a comprehensive overview of the issues and challenges of seeking a net zero greenhouse gas emissions power grid by 2035 and net zero economy of 2050. It talks of more than doubling the electrical grid, but doing so in a regulatory and interprovincial rivalry environment that made projects like Energy East and Northern Gateway impossible, and Churchill Falls still a major sticking point. It also tackles shortages of critical minerals and labour. It is, by far, the most comprehensive discussion of these issues, which Pipeline Online has spent considerable efforts covering, to date.  It can be found at https://ppforum.ca/publications/net-zero-electricity-canada-capacity/

The report also concludes much of the cost of this energy transition to electrification across the Canadian economy to be $1.7 trillion dollars – not billion, but trillion. And it concludes much of this needs to be borne by the taxpayers.

The resistance to federal efforts to move Canada to a net-zero power grid is growing among provincial premiers, particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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On any given day when the wind doesn’t blow, Alberta relies on natural gas (and a bit of coal) for up to 90 per cent of its power production (like July 16). In Saskatchewan, that number is often up to 84 per cent, closely split between natural gas and coal.

On July 19, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith tweeted in response to the report, “BREAKING To achieve a net zero power grid, Canadians will be on the hook for at least $1.7 trillion dollars. Not a typo. And Ottawa wants this done by 2035… Imagine your home or business power bill increasing by 200% – 500% or even more over the next decade. I can’t afford that. Can you? Let’s bring some logic and reason to this conversation and modernize our grid in an affordable and environmentally responsible manner.”

She included a link to a statement from the Government of Alberta, Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf. Neudorf issued the following statement on the Public Policy Forum report release Project of the Century:

“The message in the Public Policy Forum report is clear and reconfirms what we already know and have been saying – the federal government’s goal of a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 faces considerable regulatory, technical and supply chain challenges. This plan also risks imposing exponential costs on consumers in Alberta and Canada.

“We are at a critical point in history where the global energy market is changing and energy supply needs to be addressed. Demands for reliable, sustainable energy are higher than ever, and we need our system to evolve to meet these demands in a responsible way.

“According to this report, the cost to Canadians of a net-zero grid by 2035 is well over one trillion dollars. Alberta’s share of that will be much higher than our proportion of the Canadian population since we won’t be able to onboard stable base load renewables in such a short period of time.

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“Additionally, the Conference Board of Canada has put the cost of the federal government’s expedited clean electricity transformation at $1.7 trillion, almost the size of the entire Canadian economy in 2023. To put this into perspective, the country would need to grow its annual electricity investments by 2.5 times and devote more than half of Canada’s current annual infrastructure investment to electricity alone every year over the next quarter-century. Accelerating toward net-zero by 2035 would also cause massive immediate increases to the power bills of individual consumers.

“As Minister of Affordability and Utilities, I am focused on ensuring we can provide affordable and reliable electricity for generations to come. The federal government’s plan for net-zero by 2035 would require billions of dollars of investment with the costs borne by ratepayers across Canada, but most especially in Alberta. This is one more example of the federal government increasing costs on Alberta families when they can least afford it.

“Alberta’s government believes that carbon-neutrality by 2050 is achievable, and would position Alberta among global leaders and provide the best opportunity to transition our grid in a manner that considers regulatory approvals, supply chain challenges and the human, financial and physical resources to take on a project of this magnitude.

“Our priority is to make well-considered, long-term decisions that adapt Alberta’s electricity system to meet our energy needs well into the future.”

 

Pipeline Online will be doing considerable coverage of this paper in the coming days and weeks ahead.

 

https://twitter.com/ReliableAB/status/1680556526266712064?s=20

 

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