The Alberta government is committing to a plan that will mean wind, hydro and solar will provide 30 per cent of Alberta's electricity by 2030.

The NDP said in a written statement on Wednesday that hitting that target using cleaner sources will make the province more energy efficient and stimulate the economy.

"Growing our renewables sector is a transformational opportunity for Alberta to become a more energy-efficient, lower-carbon province," said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips in a news release.

A year ago when the Notley government announced its Climate Change Plan , it included phasing out coal-fired electricity to rely more on renewables such as wind energy. 

Wednesday's announcement ties itself to the set target of 30 per cent, rather than the previously stated "up to 30 per cent" said Patrick Bateman, spokesperson with the Canadian Solar Industries Association. 

"The announcement today means they're confident that 30 per cent by 2030 is achievable and is the level of ambition that's going to get us to the climate change objectives we're seeking here in the province," Bateman said.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips, Alberta's environment minister, says the 30 per cent target will stimulate the economy and create thousands of jobs. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC)

"These targets provide clarity for Albertans, industry, Indigenous communities, municipalities and all stakeholders, and will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow our economy," Phillips said.

The NDP government estimates that new investment to the tune of up to $10.5 billion will be generated into the provincial economy by 2030. As projects are built, it will create up to 7,200 jobs for Albertans, the government said.

"At the end of the day, our approach will encourage a more diversified electricity system while creating new, green jobs for Albertans," said Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd in the release.

Generation projects will be bid on auction-style.

 "It will very competitive — it's going to be very low cost and the cost to the province will be very low," said Bateman.

But given the current economic downturn, there isn't a rush to invest in renewables, he added. 

"Right now in Alberta we've got a situation where investment in any generation technology is a very challenging prospect."

To achieve that policies will need to be more specific and investors will need to be assured a certain level of revenue, he said. 

"The key thing for the renewable sector is to achieve a certain level of revenue certainty to be able to cover the risk they're willing to accept," said Bateman. 

Stimulate investment

The province plans to stimulate investment in Alberta's electricity system through the Renewable Electricity Program to meet its objective — on budget  — and without affecting the grid's reliability.

The program will be run through the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

Projects must meet eligibility requirements under the Renewable Electricity Program and adhere to the following rules:

  • Be Alberta based

  • Be new or expanded

  • Be five megawatts or greater in size

  • Meet the Natural Resources Canada definition of renewable sources

More details are expected to come later this year.

Meanwhile, the NDP says it is also working with key stakeholders to improve the province's rules on smaller-scale electricity generation, which includes micro-generation. One of the plans is to make it easier for individuals and communities to create their own renewable energy.

The Alberta Liberal and Wildrose Party leaders reacted to the "30 by 2030" announcement, saying it was the right idea, but questioned the lack of specifics about the plan.

"We aren't told how they plan to encourage investment, what incentives they will offer new projects or, most importantly, what it will cost government and electricity rate-payers to achieve such a bold target," said Liberal Leader David Swann.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean also questioned the timing in the current economy.

 "Continuing to attract investment for natural gas and renewables is the right idea, but creating legal battles with power companies, shutting down newer coal plants and creating a massive taxpayer funded subsidy program will just make things worse for struggling Alberta families."