Opinion: Economically environment friendly pathways for a clear electrical energy transition

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In pursuing a cleaner and sustainable vitality future, the Canadian authorities has set forth bold objectives underneath the Clear Electrical energy Regulation (CER), difficult all provinces, together with Alberta, to transition to scrub and carbon-neutral electrical energy by 2035. Nevertheless, a current announcement by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO) sparked controversy concerning the reliability and prices related to this transition, estimating a staggering $118-billion improve in wholesale vitality prices by 2035. Whereas these considerations are legitimate, analyzing different pathways might provide extra economically environment friendly options to attain our clear vitality objectives.

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The challenges on the trail to scrub electrical energy are multi-faceted. Probably the most urgent points are offering agency energy within the face of a excessive proportion of intermittent renewable vitality sources, and constructing system flexibility to accommodate fluctuating renewables and rising demand from electrical automobiles (EVs), house heating and industrial hundreds, with out resorting to building of high-priced new electrical infrastructure.

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Addressing these challenges requires a complete method. First is enabling and facilitating clear electrical energy applied sciences. Some of the promising avenues for guaranteeing year-round agency electrical energy provide is the event of unpolluted electrical energy applied sciences that may present sustained energy.

Alberta’s distinctive geography, with its proximity to the Rockies and considerable pure lakes, positions it favourably for growth of pumped hydro storage amenities. Not like giant hydro developments, pumped hydro storage has restricted environmental impact and doesn’t contain main dam building. Latest research, such because the one performed by Stantec for WaterPower Canada, affirm pumped hydro storage shouldn’t be solely a dependable different to fuel era, however economically aggressive as evidenced by two such tasks at present underneath growth.

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Second is the necessity to facilitate interprovincial commerce. Increasing the British Columbia-Alberta transmission line to its rated capability can considerably improve Alberta’s vitality reliability and decrease prices. This enlargement can facilitate the import of comparatively low-cost inexperienced (hydro-based) electrical energy, offering a beneficial supply of energy that enhances Alberta’s clear vitality initiatives.

Third is the necessity for reform of the electrical energy market design — one other important side of our transition to scrub electrical energy. Enhancing incentives for ahead contracting by suppliers of agency energy may embody varied clear vitality sources (together with decarbonized fuel era), mitigate funding danger and guarantee a extra secure vitality provide. This method, much like measures adopted in Australia, may help alleviate considerations about reliability and prices.

Fourth is enabling growth of vitality storage options. Reliability is paramount, however so is flexibility and resilience. Pumped hydro storage is rising as a cheap resolution for large-scale, long-duration vitality storage, providing excessive flexibility throughout emergencies. Compressed Air Vitality Storage (CAES) is one other aggressive and versatile choice for mid-sized purposes, whereas lithium-ion batteries present fast response, although could also be costlier per megawatt. To allow vitality storage to supply agency service, together with intermittent renewables comparable to wind, the AESO’s transmission tariffs for vitality storage should be competitively priced to compete within the vitality market.

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Fifth is optimization of Demand Response (DR). To additional optimize the effectivity of Alberta’s grid, we are able to draw inspiration from profitable initiatives comparable to ERCOT in Texas, which successfully employs DR throughout system emergencies. DR empowers clients to scale back their vitality consumption throughout peak durations and obtain compensation for his or her efforts. DR will also be expanded to take part actively within the vitality market, performing as a counterbalance towards potential opportunistic worth gouging by vitality era and storage facility house owners in periods of provide shortage. Nevertheless, enabling broad-based DR necessitates grid modernization for seamless communication and integration between DR members and the AESO.

In sum, Alberta’s deregulated era market, mixed with carbon pricing, is effectively and uniquely positioned to shift our vitality era sources towards cleaner and extra sustainable choices via market-driven incentives. Albertans are in a superb place to grab this chance to navigate towards a dependable, cleaner and sustainable vitality future that doesn’t impose an undue monetary burden on our residents.

By embracing these economically environment friendly pathways, we are able to construct a brighter and cleaner future for generations to return.

Raj Retnanandan is a Calgary advisor within the utility/vitality enterprise

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