Alberta reveals plans to build 5 GW of renewables

The Alberta authorities will start by facilitating the development of up to 400 MW of renewables under the first round of a competitive procurement process known as the Renewable Electricity Program (REP).

“This process will be competitive and transparent and will provide renewable electricity we need at the lowest possible price,” said Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy in the Alberta Cabinet.

The government has not yet revealed precisely how much solar capacity will be built under the program. In October, it unveiled plans to back the construction of the province’s first utility-scale PV project.

“The program will also complement the coal phase-out to ensure system reliability is maintained at all times," said McCuaig-Boyd.

The provincial government expects the REP to attract at least C$10.5 billion ($7.8 billion) of private investment in new projects.

The program will utilize a mechanism — similar to the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme in the U.K. — that has been dubbed the “indexed renewable energy certificate.”

The first round of the REP will be technology-neutral. Lessons learned from the initial phase will shape the design of subsequent procurement rounds, with the potential for "carve-outs" and “set-asides" in the future.

The Alberta authorities are preparing to pass the Renewable Electricity Act to provide the legislative framework that will underpin the REP, with approved projects to be financially backed by reinvesting a portion of revenues generated by large industrial emitters of carbon.

The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) will administer the competitive process under the province’s Climate Leadership Plan.

David Erickson, president and chief executive of the AESO, described the 5GW target as a “complex” challenge.

“But we are confident we can reliably integrate this much renewable energy into the electricity system in a cost-effective manner by accessing the benefits of robust competition,” he added.

The AESO will start speaking to industry representatives late next week, with the first round of bids to be held at some point in 2017.

“The technology and expertise for reliable system integration has never been more readily available,” said John Gorman, president and CEO of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA).

“Legislating this target proves that 30% by 2030 is not just a goal that may be achieved, it is a goal that Alberta will achieve.”

Earlier this week, the Alberta government introduced legislation designed to cap the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the province’s environmentally controversial Athabasca oil sands deposits.

In May 2015, current Alberta Premier Rachel Notley formed the first New Democratic Party (NDP) government in the history of the province.

The NDP partly won on a wave of support for its opposition to the climate change policies of the former Progressive Conservative government, which favoured development of the oil sands.