Alberta highlights “reckless” federal power proposal
A technical submission filed November 3 by Alberta commenting on the federal government’s proposed Clean Electricity Regulation (CER) highlights the “reckless” nature of rules Ottawa wants to impose to ensure a carbon neutral power grid by 2035.
Alberta’s response, based on expert analysis and industry consultations, outlines the technical problems associated with the regulations, and calls on Ottawa to scrap them entirely.
“These regulations are irresponsible and reckless, setting unrealistic targets and even banking on technologies that don’t exist,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said. “They will result in Albertans shouldering an unbearable cost for an electricity system that will no longer deliver the safety, reliability and affordability upon which our lives depend. We will not permit these dangerous and unconstitutional regulations to be imposed upon our province.”
Setting aside constitutional provisions that clearly put the development and regulation of electricity systems under provincial jurisdiction, Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz said the standards and enforcement proposed by Ottawa in the CER would jeopardise the safe, reliable and competitive energy market in Alberta.
“We cannot allow the reliability of our electricity to be compromised and risk public safety during the coldest months of the year, when people need the power most,” she said. “We urge Ottawa to abandon these regulations and work with us on a realistic path that aligns with our own emissions-reduction goals.”
The unrealistic targets of the CER, Alberta’s submission notes, are the result of flawed modelling that fails to account for Alberta’s energy-only market, in which power suppliers are paid only for the energy they generate, and the province’s large share of gas-fired cogeneration, which provides about 40% of the generating capacity available to the grid.
“Cogeneration in Alberta is driven by the demand for industrial heat, the demand for which will remain regardless of the implementation of the CER,” the submissions says. “Should the CER be enforced on cogeneration as drafted, there is a real possibility that industry will opt to replace their cogeneration units with conventional boilers, resulting in poorer emissions performance.”
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), which runs the power grid in the province, says the removal of 1,600 MW of industrial generation from the grid would leave about 830,000 MWh of unserved load in the province in 2038.
Much of the rest of Alberta’s power grid is supplied by natural gas generating units, the submission notes, which helps maintain reliability in the face of the intermittent nature of renewable sources like wind and solar.
“Considering the seasonality of renewable resources, Alberta anticipates the need for efficient high-capacity abated natural gas units for decades to come,” the government says. But the regulations as proposed “are so rigid and strict” that it would be economically unviable for new gas-fired generating facilities – even those whose emissions are captured through carbon capture and storage technologies – to ever be built.