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May 19, 2024 May 19, 2024

Renewables only part of solution for Alberta’s power grid: MLA Hunter

Posted on March 21, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Trevor Busch
Southern Alberta Newspapers

The critical emergency alert for Alberta’s power grid issued during the January cold snap in the province illustrated some critical deficiencies, argues Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, chief among which is a need for more baseload capacity.

“What it shows is that we need to have a good, solid base,” said Hunter. “And unfortunately, because of some of the stuff that’s going on with the federal government, it is scaring the companies from actually wanting to bring on effective baseload, which is natural gas. Natural gas and coal is the only thing you can use to base baseload. I guess if we had more hydro, we could choose that. But we don’t have very much hydro, we don’t have capacity for hydro. The other option is nuclear, and that can be baseload as well. But renewables is not baseload, it’s not baseload anywhere. So we have to fix that or we’re going to continue to have that problem. So the premier was in Ottawa talking specifically about this issue, making sure that Steven Guilbeault and the Prime Minister recognize that in Alberta, we just don’t have the capabilities for hydro that they have in Ontario, Quebec and in other provinces. So, if we’re going to fix this thing, we’re going to make sure that we don’t have that sort of thing happen again. We have to make sure that we have proper base. So we have to get the Feds on board on this thing.”

In terms of electricity, baseload capacity is defined as the minimum amount of electric power delivered or required over a given period of time at a steady rate.

Draconian federal environmental legislation, says Hunter, is threatening Alberta’s ability to effectively address our current energy needs.

“So the federal government said that it is a criminal offence if you bring natural gas on after a certain period of time. And so all these things take time to deal with, actually build out and plan and to organize. And so these companies that we have in Canada, Alberta, are saying, ‘well, we just don’t want to do that because we don’t want to go to jail’.”

Alberta will be adding more electrical generation capacity, but with current population growth and interprovincial migration Hunter questions if enough is being planned or brought on line in a timely fashion.  

“We’re going to obviously (be) adding more capacity, and this is normal. But when you have a growing economy like ours, 200,000 people moving in a year? Yes, you’re going to need to have more, and we’ve got an economy firing on all cylinders – we’re going to need more. But in terms of did we need more when the crunch came when it was really cold, we did actually more in terms of the baseload. And so that’s really, I think, where we need to fix.”

While acknowledging Alberta’s success story in terms of more and more renewable energy investment, Hunter pointed out it won’t be a panacea for all of the province’s future energy needs.

“We’ve got a lot of wind and solar that are coming on. We had 75 per cent of Canada’s build-out last year, with 35 per cent of the wind and solar build-out in Canada happening right here in Alberta. We’re building a lot, we were building a lot. But that didn’t fix our problem, they didn’t actually make it so we have more capacity to deal with this. So our biggest issue is we need to make sure we have reliable baseload.”

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