Electricity in Alberta
Avg. price: 10.1¢/kWh (4th-lowest among provinces)
2010 capacity: 12,596 MW
2020 forecast capacity: 16,651 MW
Peak use (winter 2011 forecast): 10,600 MW
Cross-border trade: Imports 445 gWh (costs $16 million)
GHG intensity rank: 2nd-highest
GHG emissions goal: 20% cut by 2020
Alberta is by far Canada's worst greenhouse-gas culprit, spawning a third of the country's emissions from 13 per cent of the population. But it is also one of the few provinces with greenhouse gas (GHG) limits. To be sure, though, Alberta's caps are intensity-based, meaning power plants and oil sands refineries only have to reduce their emissions per unit of output, and not necessarily overall. Alberta boasts that its caps have cut 17 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent releases into the air since 2007.
Do you want to know how much you'll be paying for electricity in 2020? Try the provincial cost calculator.
Even as it trumpets its GHG restrictions, Alberta is the only province still building coal power plants. The Genesee 3 station fired up in 2005 — the first new coal plant in Canada in a decade — and the Keephills 3 station is due to come online this year. Energy-hungry oilsands refineries need the juice and are driving the province's torrid pace of power-plant construction; the only province with more ambitious expansion plans for its generating fleet is Newfoundland and Labrador, which is breaking ground on an eventual 3,000 MW of hydroelectric development on the Lower Churchill River.
Alberta has joined Saskatchewan in the pursuit of carbon capture and storage, and is investing in $2 billion worth of projects that aim to sequester millions of tonnes of CO2 per year starting in 2015. The Keephills 3 plant, one of the target sites, has received $779 million in federal and provincial funding.
And not to be totally maligned, Alberta is also pursuing wind-power development. It's currently tied with Quebec for the second-highest highest wind-generating capacity in the country (Ontario is tops) and plans to nearly triple that by 2020.
Though the average price for electricity in Alberta sits around 10.1 cents kWh — the fourth lowest in the country — an analysis by Canaccord Genuity predicts things are about to change. Alberta's power consumption is expected to rise by an estimated 4 per cent, putting pressure on the amount of power currently available in the grid, and driving prices up.
The cost of wholesale electricty has surged, according to the Canaccord analysis, more than doubling in January and February compared to last year and is expected to rise in 2012.