Alberta sets 30% renewable energy goal by 2030

When the center-Left New Democratic Party (NDP) won provincial elections in Alberta in May, it was both a major upset and seen as an opening for more progressive energy and environmental policies.

And it turns out the wind turbines on the Alberta NDP’s platform page weren’t just for show. On Sunday the new government released sweeping energy and climate goals, including a target for Alberta to get 30% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030, and to phase out coal entirely during this time.

According to an overview of the plan on the provincial government site two-thirds of coal-fired generation capacity will be replaced by renewables, and another third by natural gas.

”This is the day we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure, and a strong, environmentally-responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future,” stated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in a speech during the plan’s roll-out.

The plan also mentions that incentives will be offered, and Premier Notley mentioned the use of auctions in her speech. ”We will keep the costs of renewables as low as possible by using market mechanisms, such as auctioning,” declared Notley.

"The time is right for solar energy to play a key role in supporting Alberta to achieve these policy objectives," said Canadian Solar Industries Association President & CEO John Gorman.

"Firstly, Alberta has the greatest solar energy resource in Canada, receiving an amount of solar energy daily that is equivalent to the province’s remaining established conventional oil reserves. Secondly, the cost of solar electricity has decreased by more than fifty percent in the last five years. Combine these two factors, and Alberta will be able to achieve the lowest cost solar electricity experienced in Canada to date."

Additionally, the government plans to join Quebec and British Columbia in imposing a carbon price, starting at $20 per ton in 2017 and growing to $30 per ton in 2018. Some of the revenue from this program will be put into measures to “help finance the transition to renewable energy”, as well as supporting energy efficiency and clean energy research and development.

This is big news not only for Alberta, but for all of Canada. Generally the nation has limited renewable energy policies, and Ontario is the only province that has seen a significant solar market after passing a European-style feed-in tariff in 2009.