Billions expected to be spent on green energy in Alberta, Saskatchewan

With up to $50 billion to be spent on renewable energy projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan over the next 14 years, suppliers want details on how the money will be spent and which projects they can bid on.

Suppliers want details as Alberta promises to unveil massive renewable-energy plan by fall

Alberta and Saskatchewan are investing heavily in renewable energy to meet their 2030 targets. (Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

With up to $50 billion to be spent on renewable energy projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan over the next 14 years, suppliers want details on how the money will be spent and which projects they can bid on.

The estimate came Thursday from David Hickey, of Siemens Canada's wind and renewables division, speaking at a panel in Calgary.

More than 400 renewable energy business leaders and bankers are in the city trying to figure how to get some of the billions governments will soon spend on renewable energy.

This is a complicated file, and we will take the time to get it right.- Shannon Phillips

Alberta will unveil its program in the fall and begin accepting bids from the private sector by end of the year. It's currently reviewing a report by the Alberta Electricity System Operator (AESO) about how to have a competitive procurement process for renewables.

"In my office we actually have a saying around this, which is 'first pants, then shoes.' For some, we have been moving too quickly. For others, we haven't moved fast enough," said Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.

The government's goal is to rely on renewables for 30 per cent of electricity consumption by 2030.

"Continuing to do nothing is a dead end for our economy," said Phillips. "Inaction on climate change will only result in more boom-bust, fewer opportunities for access to markets, and more risk to our resiliency as a province."

Shannon Phillips isn't surprised the private sector has questions and concerns about how Alberta will increase renewable energy generation.

6 years ago
Duration 0:42
Alberta's environment minister says the province will unveil how it will invest billions of dollars into renewable energy projects by the end of the year.

Companies taking part in this week's Alberta and Saskatchewan Renewable Energy Finance Summit include Enbridge and GE.

"There is a terrific opportunity here. I think we are going to get more renewables built in [Alberta]. It's a question of what shape do they come in," said Robert Nicolson, with the energy and power group at RBC Capital Markets.

In Saskatchewan, the provincial government has a 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2030.

Already, 25 per cent of Saskatchewan's electricity generation is from renewable sources (20 per cent hydro and five per cent wind). Three new wind power projects are expected to nearly double the province's wind generation by 2020.

In addition, SaskPower will invest in a utility-scale solar power generation project, with a competitive procurement this year.

'Complicated file'

The Alberta government is introducing a price on carbon, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2017, predicted to raise $9.6 billion over five years, which will help finance renewables such as large scale solar and wind as well as microgeneration at homes and businesses.

On Jan. 1, large emitters will pay a carbon price of $20 per tonne for emissions that exceed their target. The price then rises to $30 a tonne on Jan. 1, 2018. Over the next five years, the government estimates it will spend $3.4 billion from the carbon tax toward large-scale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology.

"This is a complicated file and we will take the time to get it right," said Phillips. "That might be a bit of an unsatisfactory answer for many of you here today, but I would submit to you that a methodical and deliberate approach to this matter will yield the right results."

Developers and lenders raised several concerns to AESO such as the uncertainty with Alberta's electricity market, a lack of clarity about the renewable development targets, the complexity of regulatory approvals and uncertainty about when coal-fired power plants will actually be decommissioned.

In addition, electricity prices are currently at near 20-year lows in the province.

"I have not been surprised by the concerns that have been raised by developers," said Phillips to reporters. "There are always challenges when you are doing something new."

She described the Alberta government working with renewable energy developers as a "transformational opportunity" to make the province greener and cleaner.

The summit wraps up Friday with discussions about financing wind and solar energy and the business outlook for new projects.

AESO expects the first Alberta government funded renewable energy projects to be in service by 2019.

With files from Dan McGarvey


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