It’s time to go solar in Alberta.
That’s the thrust of a new policy paper just released from the Canadian Solar Industries Association, which urges Alberta’s provincial government to tap into its solar power potential.
The CanSIA paper, “From Proven Reserve to Developed Resource: Realizing the True Value of Solar Energy in Alberta,” calls on the province to set a target of meeting 1.5 percent of its entire electricity demand with solar photovoltaics by 2022.
The association predicts that achieving this target would result in solar playing a significant role in Alberta’s electricity sector by leading to the creation of more than 1 gigawatt of solar facilities, 1.25 terawatt-hours of solar electricity annually; 625,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions displaced annually and a deployment rate of 235.3 watts per capita. From an economic standpoint, it would generate more than 24,000 direct and 9,500 indirect jobs and more than $3.2 billion of private sector investment in project construction and installation, with approximately $1.8 billion spent locally.
CanSIA cites several reasons as to why it is the perfect time for Alberta to migrate to renewable energy sources, particularly solar PV. For starters, demand for electricity is rapidly rising, while coal-fired plants are being mothballed, as has been done in Ontario in the wake of that province’s great solar success.
And then there’s the cost of solar power itself: The report’s introduction, by CanSIA president John Gorman, noted that the viability and market penetration of solar PV for electricity generation has changed significantly since 2008 when Alberta’s Provincial Energy Strategy indicated that solar and renewable energy are “growing off a very small base, but their viability is improving and innovation is percolating. As such, they have the potential to become a significant part of the global energy mix this century, but based on demand here in Alberta and globally, they cannot entirely replace fossil fuels any time soon.”
From 2005 to 2015, Gorman writes, the average installed system price in Canada is expected to have decreased six-fold from $15/W to less than $2.5/W. Between 2008 and 2013, a capacity equivalent to 6.5 times Alberta’s current total installed electricity generation capacity of 85 GW was installed globally.
The Alberta government is slated to release its “Renewable and Alternative Energy Framework” later this year as part of its ongoing energy policy development and climate change policy renewal, and the CanSIA policy paper noted this comes at a time when the province will require 7,000 megawatts of new power generation by 2022, with 5,000 MW of that demand due to the retirement of coal-fueled power plants.
According to CanSIA, upping the amount of solar power in Alberta’s electricity mix would address three pressing issues for the province. First, it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, since Alberta’s electricity sector accounted for 21 percent of the province’s emissions in 2012. Second, it would diversify supply, as 85 percent of Alberta’s electricity was generated by coal (64 percent) and natural gas (21 percent), and given that the latter is anticipated to be the province’s fastest growing generation source, it would leave Alberta susceptible to the volatility of natural gas pricing. Finally, the policy paper cites the need to “maintain a social license” by demonstrating more visible leadership on improving the environmental performance of the Alberta’s energy production and consumption to maintain its position as a global energy superpower.
The CanSIA paper recommends that in order for Alberta maximize success of any policy mechanism it needs to integrate within the existing policy and market framework, enable Albertans to realize a fair value for the solar electricity they generate, and use existing funding sources for electricity procurement and emissions reductions.
The complete policy paper with CanSIA’s detailed recommendations can be downloaded from CanSIA’s website.