With Rachel Notley’s NDP announcing the provincial election for April 16, 2019, many are speculating what will happen to the renewable energy industry. There is a looming fear that what happened in Ontario will be mirrored in Alberta if the UCP is voted in. The Ontario liberals introduced the Green Energy Act in 2009 and the conservatives scrapped that program after canceling 758 renewable energy contracts earlier last summer. The idea is that it will reduce electricity prices and provide more choice to municipalities as to what projects are installed. Naturally, we are hoping the same does not happen in Alberta, but whether the next government is the United Conservative Party or the New Democratic Party, we have reason to believe both solar and wind are here to stay.
First, the renewable energy industry has a lot of steam in Alberta as we’ve seen significant investment in the last decade. Alberta is currently at 10% renewable energy and the province has been shooting for 30% by 2030 for the past 4 years. This has created a lot of momentum in the renewable energy economy and it is seen in the many organizations training people to work in renewable energy such as Iron and Earth, the Lethbridge College wind technician program, SAIT’s solar installation and the NAIT Alternative Energy Program which has a 93% employment rate upon graduation. Alberta now has thousands of Albertans trained to work in a more sustainable, less volatile industry and, just as the government currently has to listen to unemployed oil workers, a hit to the renewable energy industry would result in thousands of job losses. Whether it’s the UCP, NDP or any of the others that get in for the next election, there is now a significant portion of the population that is personally invested in a future for the renewable energy industry and the new provincial government will have to consider these people.
Second, Alberta has set records for the lowest renewable energy prices in Canada for both wind and solar. Last year, round one of the renewable electricity program had a weighted average of 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for wind and just a month ago the Alberta government signed a contract to purchase 55% of their electricity from solar for a price of 4.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. In 2018, the wholesale price for electricity was 5.0 cents per kilowatt-hour and Ontario’s lowest renewable energy procurement price in 2016 was 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Clearly, renewable energy is becoming the most cost-competitive option in Alberta and, although residential and municipal programs are subsidized by the revenue-neutral carbon tax, the utility-scale investments are not dependant on government involvement and are simply good economics.
Garnet Borch, E.I.T