Alberta Government Subsidies to Wind and Solar Will Cost YOU Billion$

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.

solar wind nrg



  1. renewableguy

    Wind has a return on energy invested of 18 which makes it economical to build and use.

    Hydro has EROEI of 100. It is spot on a great way to obtain energy with the least energy invested into it.

    Coal has EROEI of 80. But is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel there is. The pollution is now unaccepetable from it on a world level. This is showing up as multiple failures of coal companies.

    Oil has a decreasing EROEI that is now coming below wind. Soon it won’t be long when it comes down to the level of tar sands.

    Tar sands is between 1 and 5 depending upon the method to produce it. This is the unsustainable area energy wise to run an economy on. A 1 energy input in to get a 1 energy output should never be practiced.

  2. Ken Gregory

    Typo, “If the REC value was set at $35 MWh ” should be “$35/MWh”

  3. 4TimesAYear

    Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.

  4. Jeffery Green

    Only fossil fuels and nuclear fuels have the ability to power megacities in 2050, when over half of the then 9B people will live in them.

    Hawaii’s governor is an electrical engineer. They think they will reach 100% by 2040. New York wants to build extensive offshore wind to help power their state. Plus utility grade storage is being developed all over the world.

    As the more severe predictions of climate change over the last 25 years are simply not happening, it makes no sense to deploy the more costly options for renewable energy.

    Bloomberg shows the economics of renewable energy beating coal in the wind area and solar is hot on the tail of coal now.

    Abandoned infrastructure projects (such as derelict wind and solar farms in the Mojave desert) remain to have their progenitors mocked for decades.

    Hmmmmmm this does’t sound impartial. The whole world is investing in the 300 to 400 billion dollar range. I don’t think they are listening to this article.

  5. dryscottdale

    Renewableguy quotes wikipedia article to support his delusion… we all know that Wikipedia integrity has been compromised with respect to alt-renew energy and climate change……….anyone can add and modify Wikipedia articles quickly……as i have done…..However it is the xtreme greens on Wikipedia staff that continue to have the upperhand.

  6. Mike

    Man were you guys off. It’s amazing how the power of technology and the crashing price of solar and wind have made your article look ridiculous.

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