By Michelle Stirling, Communications Manager @May 2015 in consultation with power generation industry experts
Pembina Institute recently blogged that:
“The challenge for renewable energy projects is not securing the fuel, the sun and wind are free. [Bold added]…”
Pembina goes on to explain that the Alberta Climate Leadership plans says:
“two-thirds of Alberta’s [existing coal-fired power] generating capacity will be replaced by renewable energy, one-third will be replaced by natural gas.”
Stop right there. That might be what the Climate Leadership plan says, but practically speaking Alberta’s existing coal-fired capacity will have to be replaced 100% by natural gas, because wind and solar are intermittent forms of power generation. Sometimes wind and solar can generate 100% power – and sometimes nothing at all. But consumers expect on-demand power 100% of the time – with no power quality issues like surges, drops or brown-outs.
Pembina makes a point of saying:
“By 2030, renewable sources like wind and solar will account for up to 30 per cent of electricity generation.” That’s what Alberta’s Climate Leadership plan says. “
That ‘free’ wind and solar will end up costing YOU billions.
Why? The Pembina blog outlines how low the current power prices are in Alberta. The only way for wind and solar companies to make it in this market is to have government subsidies in the form of “Renewable Energy Certificates.”
Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) are subsidies – tradeable certificates of value – rather like printing paper money in return for power generation from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass or other deemed ‘renewable’ source that is not directly from hydrocarbons.
We asked industry experts about what this would mean in real dollars from Alberta taxpayers’ pockets. Here’s an example.
If the REC value was set at $35/MWh and the Government of Alberta wants to replace 4,500 MWs of existing coal output with 2/3rds renewables, that means 3,000 MWs equivalent.
So 3,000 MWs subsidized at $35/MWh = approx. $900 million a year in cost subsidies paid by the Government of Alberta – you, the taxpayer.
Based on this very rough calculation, it seems this amount could be over and above the costs included in the Alberta budget released in the spring of 2016. If so, the deficit forecasts would increase by almost another $1 billion per year.
And for what? Power that is not clean, green or free. Why would we want to go to power generation systems that increase costs and risks and reduce reliability?
Activists call coal and natural gas ‘dirty and polluting’ sources of electricity. They forget to mention to you that wind and solar need 100% back-up from conventional generation. And remember that every wind or solar device consumes masses of materials and fossil fuel energy, just to make and install each turbine or panel.